UK rail passengers face Christmas disruption due to engineering work

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Rail passengers can expect more disruption next month with one union poised to announce more strike dates on Tuesday and Network Rail revealing it will carry out 300 engineering projects around Christmas.

The RMT said train operating companies and Network Rail had failed to come up with promised written offers at the end of a fortnight of talks after the union suspended strikes scheduled for the beginning of November.

It said it was highly likely that more industrial action would be called when its national executive meets on Tuesday morning.

The union’s general secretary, Mick Lynch, said on Monday: “After a fortnight of talks, the [operating companies] had committed to making a firm offer in writing for the first time today.

“They cancelled the meeting at an hour’s notice, and we can sense the hand of the Tory government in this as we believe that they are not allowing an offer to be made. This is on top of Network Rail failing to make a new proposal at the end of last week.”

Lynch said the union remained available for “meaningful negotiations”.

A spokesperson for the Rail Delivery Group, which represents train companies, said: “We have made real progress over the last fortnight and for the first time in months we can see the outline of a credible deal.

“Any strikes will only cause further misery for customers and struggling businesses in the run up to Christmas and beyond. The RMT leadership should now remove any uncertainty around Christmas and commit to protecting everyone’s first festive period post Covid from any strike disruption.”

A fresh ballot of RMT members last week reaffirmed its strike mandate for another six months in the long-running dispute over pay, jobs and conditions.

Some rail travellers will also have journeys between Christmas and the new year cancelled or disrupted by engineering works. Network Rail said more than 95% of the network would be open, with a smaller schedule of works than in recent years, but it urged travellers to plan their journeys in advance.

London Liverpool Street will be closed between Christmas Day and 2 January for work including bridge reconstruction and track maintenance. This will affect Greater Anglia, Stansted Express and c2c services.

There will be no Southern or Gatwick Express services to or from London Victoria over the same period. This will allow signalling and track work to take place at Clapham Junction and Balham. Most trains will be diverted to London Bridge.

Avanti West Coast trains running between London Euston and Glasgow Central will run to a reduced timetable between Christmas Eve and 30 December. Avanti had planned more frequent services in December, but the number of trains will be similar to current levels.

Signal and track renewals in Lewisham, south-east London mean Cannon Street station will be closed on Christmas Eve.

There will be a reduced service for short-distance trains from London Waterloo between 27 December and New Year’s Day because of bridge strengthening work in Battersea, south London. The projects will cost a total of £120m.

The Network Rail chief executive, Andrew Haines, said: “Christmas is an important time for the railway as it gives us the opportunity to get a lot of work done to improve the railway when trains aren’t running, and therefore keep disruption for our passengers at a minimum.

“We’ve worked closely with our train operators to ensure the vast majority of the network is open for business over the festive period … However, some of these key upgrade projects will have an impact on services, so we’re asking passengers to plan their journeys before travelling.”

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