Network Rail gives just 24 hours notice of major weekend train disruption
PUBLISHED: 09:46 24 January 2020 | UPDATED: 15:33 24 January 2020
The rail line to London will be closed most weekends until after Easter - and Network Rail has given passengers less than 24 hours notice of the problems to come.
Track is to be replaced at Maryland station, next to Stratford in east London, over nine weekends. The first track closure is tomorrow and Sunday with the work carrying on until the weekend after Easter.
A bus replacement service will operate between Ingatestone and Newbury Park.
There are four weekends during that period when trains will be able to get through - at the start of February and during the Easter holidays.
The shock announcement comes after Network Rail proudly told passengers it had finished the overhead line work between Stratford and Shenfield, ending years of weekend disruption during autumn and winter periods.
But it is the lack of notice that will leave many passengers fuming. Normally engineering work is flagged up weeks in advance so travellers can make plans before booking tickets.
These works were scheduled between eight and 12 weeks ago and passengers buying advance purchase tickets would have been told about them - but Network Rail had given the work little publicity so people turning up at stations after making a last-minute decision to head to the capital will get a nasty shock.
Rail planning officials at Greater Anglia knew about the changes to arrange buses between Ingatestone and Newbury Park tube station. Posters showing where engineering work was taking place were put up at stations and there were details on the "service alterations" section of the Greater Anglia website - but it was not flagged up on their home page and there was no announcement through media outlets which is standard practice when there is major work.
East Anglian MPs who met Network Rail and Greater Anglia bosses on Thursday knew nothing about the proposed closure - even though the issue of weekend engineering work was raised.
Ipswich MP Tom Hunt said: "I raised the issue of the problems faced by people travelling on Sunday, but this wasn't mentioned at all. It is completely, completely unacceptable - particularly the late notice we have received."
Ellie Burrows, Network Rail's route director for Anglia, said: "This is a very busy section of the network which sees hundreds of trains every day that our passengers rely on. This work will help us to maintain a safer and more reliable railway for passengers by reducing the number of train services affected by delays and cancellations."
She added: "Notice of these works has been available in advance via the standard channels including station posters, on mobile apps and on travel planning websites. I recognise that we could have done more to publicise the work more widely, and for that I am sorry."
Jamie Burles, Greater Anglia managing director said: "We are very sorry about the inconvenience these works cause to passengers. We will make sure that all customers can complete their journey, even if part of it is by bus. This work is essential so that, together with Network Rail, we can improve punctuality and reliability on our railway."
A rail replacement service will run while the work takes place between Ingatestone and Newbury Park for the Central line on the following weekends:
- 25 - 26 January
- 15 - 16 February
- 22 - 23 February
- 29 February - 1 March
- 7 - 8 March
- 14 - 15 March
- 21 - 22 March
- 28 - 29 March
- 18 - 19 April