HomeElectrificationChristmas Works 2023
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In the closing days of 2023, Network Rail and the rail supply chain delivered a substantial and complex programme of works valued at £127 million.

With decreased demand for rail travel, and the closure of the network on Christmas Day and Boxing Day, the festive period is an ideal time for extensive work, with minimal disruption for passengers. All those involved used the time wisely, taking on challenging works that will keep the country moving in the years ahead.

Within the work bank, there were 32 individual projects delivering complex infrastructure renewals or enhancements identified as RED through the Delivering Work Within Possessions (DWWP) assurance process.

Unfortunately, we don’t have the space to comment on all the completed works, but the next few pages will give you a taste of the highlights.

Eastern Region

Beaulieu Park station. This project involves the construction of a new station and supporting infrastructure upgrades between Chelmsford and Hatfield Peverel, on the Great Eastern Mainline to support the new housing development in the Beaulieu Park area of Chelmsford.

Works completed during the holidays included: (i) OLE – stage 0.4 modification of both London and Country End Overlaps to the new loop and DN main; (ii) Permanent Way – the connection of a new Down Main and Loop line into the Down/Up main lines and installation of eight S&C ends; (iii) Signalling – test support for changeover of Cross Rail & Chelmsford North Feeders and modification works for introduction of new lines; and (iv) Electrification & Plant – Feeder changeover at PSP Chelmsford, supported by signalling.

Issues encountered included below expected performance of PEM and LEM machinery during track installation.

Stratford rewire. Originally part of the Great Eastern renewals, this work has missed delivery on previous attempts due to lack of access opportunities. The rewire will see improved reliability with the installation of new OLE equipment, replacing equipment that was installed in the 1960’s and has reached the end of its working life.

During the festive period, new small part steel (SPS) was installed throughout wire run, 1,100 metres of redundant contact, auxiliary, and catenary wires were removed, and 1,100 metres of new contact and catenary wires for the B92 wire run were installed. New OLE tensioning devices were also installed at two locations.

Stratford rewire.

All works were completed with no accidents or incidents.

West Hampstead recontrol. The West Hampstead Power Signal box covers from St. Pancras buffer stops to Bedford North. Commissioned in 1979, its NX panels had approached the end of their useful life and had become increasingly unreliable. These works saw the successful recommissioning of the signal box from an NX Panel to WestCad workstations, ensuring afford safe and reliable railway performance for years to come.

The project experienced significant issues post handback on the morning of the 27 December, ultimately traced to issues with the signalling data and design. This regrettably caused significant disruption on the Midland Main Line, Thameslink Core, and other neighbouring routes throughout the day incurring 4,929 delay minutes and 344 full or partial service cancellations.

Kentish Town Road Bridge. Work continued to strengthen this railway bridge which runs over the Midland Main Line. Kentish Town Road at its junction with Leighton Road was closed from Christmas Eve to Wednesday 27 December as engineers completed repairs to concrete and steel elements of the bridge, used high-pressure water to clean existing steel components, and applied a protective coating system to various parts of the steel structure.

On the top of the bridge, two 25 tonne excavators demolished the parapet wall and a 350-tonne crane lifted out the old girders and installed new girders and precast concrete brick faced parapets.

TRU Hope Valley Capacity Improvement Project. The Hope Valley Project successfully delivered the replacement deck for TJC1/35 Bridge on the Sheffield side of Dore and Totley Station. There were some delays on site, due to unplanned shielding of a protected species (crayfish).

The permanent way was renewed and tamped and opened back up to line speed with temporary joints, before the welding, stressing and follow up tamp is delivered in a 15-hour possession in week 40 of the project.

All works were delivered, with nothing being curtailed.

North West & Central Region

Bolton Le Sands Plain Line Track Renewal. This saw the renewal of 391 yards of the 125 mph Up Main on the West Coast Main Line between Lancaster and Carlisle. The work comprised of a mix of Cat 14 (complete renewal excavating to 400mm) and Cat 12 (reusing existing sleepers) renewals.

This piece of track was classified as life expired, and the immediate benefits of the track renewal is a large reduction in maintenance requirements for this previously problematic area. It will also provide smoother, more reliable journeys for passengers.

All track works were completed on time and handed back to scope. During the course of the work, the drainage associated with a local level crossing was damaged by a dozer. Repairs were subsequently made allowing the crossing to reopen a week later.

Ardwick Signal Structures Renewal. Structural renewal and signalling works were carried out across nine signals in the Manchester Piccadilly and Ardwick areas, including the conversion of signal heads to LEDs.

Following the work there will be increased reliability of infrastructure, resulting in fewer infrastructure failures and fewer delays to passengers. The new assets also require less maintenance, allowing for a reduced maintenance workload.

Lichfield Trent Valley Platform 3.

Lichfield Trent Valley Platform 3. This involved the replacement of the Platform 3 high level platform where the Birmingham Cross-City line crosses the West Coast Mainline. The previous structure was in very poor condition and had to undergo emergency works in May 2022. Platform 3 was then removed in July 2023. The platform has been upgraded to a compliant width and comprises of GRP elements, which should result in less onerous and regular maintenance.

Work completed over the holiday period involved the installation of new steel/FRP platform, M&E, Comms & SISS. The programme fell behind during the core possession due to issues lining and levelling the platform once the sections had been lifted into position. The project had to curtail some activities to handback both lines on time on 27 December. Some of the remaining activities (CCTV, lighting etc) were completed under the Cross-City line blocks so the platform could open with contingent measures for the first train on 30 December.

Oxenholme Plain Line Track Renewal. This was the first of three core shifts for the site which totals 653 yards. The New Year bank holiday was utilised to allow the whole of the platform length to be delivered at once to prevent gauging issues and minimise future disruption to passengers and freight. The new track assets installed will reduce ongoing maintenance requirements and provide a more reliable section of railway through Oxenholme station.

Works were delivered to plan, though the possession overran by 77 minutes, with 35 delay minutes incurred, due to RRV breakdowns, equipment failures and logistical issues on site.

There was one incident where an RRV came into contact with the OLE in the platform area while loading sleepers onto train. The Carlisle OHLE team inspected the asset and found no damage.

Southern Region

Voltaire Road Junction. Voltaire Road Junction is located on the five track DC electrified section of track between Wandsworth Road and Clapham High Street stations, approximately two miles from Victoria. Works completed included the complete renewal of the S&C layout including 13 switches and 1x fixed diamond.

Associated with the S&C renewal was 1,000 metres of plain line and conductor rail. Five new location cases to facilitate the new points operating equipment were also installed.

The site was handed back at line speed. A substation circuit breaker failure during section proving activities delayed the hand back process.

Wales and Western Region

North Row Bridge & FNS2 Track Renewals. These planned works involved strengthening the bridge at FNS2 with extended permanent way works either side of the bridge to improve track quality.

Works completed included the installation of new rail bearer top flange angles throughout the extent of the bridge, new cross bracings, main girder strengthening plates, a new timber deck, and 170-yard relay with new components and EG47 sleepers. The ballast depth across the bridge was increased from 50mm to 200mm.

No significant issues were encountered during delivery and all works were delivered to plan.

OLE works at Old Oak Common.

HS2 Old Oak Common drainage installation. This work saw the installation of three cross drains and 100 metres Linear Drainage in the Old Oak Common area. The work was required to facilitate the Conventional Station at Old Oak Common that will serve as an interchange with HS2. In total the project will deliver approximately 8,500m drainage both on and off track over the next four years.

One person sustained an injury but returned to work on their next shift. All staff were briefed on appropriate manual handling. The team worked well to mitigate unknown buried services with no risk to handback.

Kennet Loop S&C Renewal. Life expired points and operating equipment were renewed – replaced with modern equivalents. All works were completed as planned, though there were challenges around getting line blockages for unloading the tilting wagons, and the passing of trains from other works delayed on site progress, requiring activities to be revised. An OTM breakdown slowed progress and additional time for welding required was required.


Greenhill Signalling Resilience Project. This project involved the renewal of life expired assets and replacing the existing Greenhill GEC Geographical Interlocking with a full trackside Computer Based Interlocking. This was achieved by installing a new WESTLOCK  with Westrace Trackside System (WTS) and by extending the existing Larbert WESTLOCK which will interface to the IECC scalable control system. 

Greenhill is located at a critical junction on the main Edinburgh to Glasgow key route; the works were planned to incorporate the delivery of an associated enhancement at Carmuirs West, renewal of train detection equipment on the Stepps lines, and support the integrated delivery of the remodelling of Greenhill Upper Junction.

Weather related challenges slowed progress and impacted cable insulation testing.

Greenhill Upper Junction. Works completed included the renewal of 11 point ends and 992 yards of Cat 11/16 plain line renewal during an eight-day possession. OLE was also commissioned on thecore routes to allow for remodelling of Greenhill Upper Junction and an upgrade to the Distribution Network Operator’s supply to accommodate new points heating.

An operational incident occurred when an RRV passed a recently tested insulated block joint, which in turn closed Greenhill Lower Junction. The investigation is ongoing.

Craigentinny Plain Line Track Renewal. The Scotland Rail System Alliance undertook the renewal of life-expired plain line track assets at Craigentinny Junction South. Work included renewing rail, sleepers and ballast over 2062 yards on the ECM8 Down East Coast Main Line.

New track laid at Greenhill Junction.

The renewal will reduce the risk of future speed restrictions being imposed which would result in increased passenger journey times. Improved track quality will further reduce heavy maintenance over this section resulting in a smoother ride for passengers.

Issues for the works over Christmas relate primarily to obtaining key staff (Machine Controllers).

This was due to the volume of work taking place across the region over the period, however all works were completed as programmed.

Dundee Station ‘444 Points’. This is a critical set of points that allows trains to commence/terminate in Platform 1. This is a frequently used set of S&C which had come to the end of its service life and required heavy refurbishment. Due to the deteriorating condition of the asset, Works Delivery Scotland was engaged to design, procure, and install new S&C panels including points operating equipment, along with renewing the ballast via a full dig and replenishing with fresh top stone.

The renewal of ballast down to formation has also improved the drainage at a location where flooding has been prevalent in the past.

Performance and handbacks

Of the planned 1,714 network wide possessions that took place between 23 December and 2 January, there were eight service impacting possession overrun incidents, two of which were linked to the delivery of a major ‘red ranked’ scheme.

The most significant possession overrun occurred in the Orpington area, where during the course of S&C maintenance activities, the team encountered difficulties when installing new closure rails during the final stages of work. This incurred 1,586 delay minutes on the morning of 27 December to passengers using Southeastern services in the area.

The two possession overruns linked to the delivery of ‘red ranked’ schemes occurred at Oxenholme (NW&C), where 35 delay minutes were incurred following an RRV failure and equipment breakdowns during the course of the work, and at Barking (Eastern) where 34 delay minutes were incurred following a 21-minute possession overrun resulting from complications during the possession handback process.

Given that the total number of possession overrun delay minutes incurred was 1,751 minutes across 8 incidents and the total number of booked possessions across the wider business was 1,714, this represents a successful possession hand back rate of 99.5% – a moderate improvement on previous years.

It must be noted, however, that whilst work to recontrol West Hampstead Power Signal Box (Eastern) was handed back on time, an unidentified signalling data design issue resulted in an inability to signal trains on part of the new West Hampstead workstation, causing notable and widespread disruption across the Midland Main Line and Thameslink groups of services and incurring approximately 5,000 delay minutes.

Christmas work at Barking, Essex.

While the fault was subsequently identified and rectified, work is underway with Network Rail, Siemens and Linbrooke teams (delivery partners for the scheme), led by the Rail Investment Centre of Excellence, to fully understand the nature of the issue, the events that led to the fault, and key learning points.


In total, over the Christmas and New Year period, there were two reported accidents, zero reported environmental incidents, and four reported general incidents/close calls.

The first reported accident took place within the TRU Hope Valley Capacity Improvement Project worksite where a Network Rail member of staff tripped on ballast and broke their arm. The colleague was taken to hospital and a care plan agreed.

The second accident took place on the Old Oak Common drainage worksite where a manual handling injury occurred. This was deemed to be a minor injury and, following appropriate treatment, the injured person returned to work on their next shift. The teams were re-briefed on manual handling techniques following the event.

Thank you

Rail Engineer would like to thank everyone involved in these works for devoting their time and energy over the holiday period.

Your commitment to making the network safer and more reliable for all is a credit to the whole industry.

Image credit: Network Rail


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