RAIL passengers from Yorkshire travelling to London on the flagship East Coast Main Line face months of disruption as planned development works mean their trains will terminate short of the capital, The Yorkshire Post can reveal.
Essential remodelling work worth around £250m at King’s Cross Station, the main entry point for trains arriving from most of Yorkshire, could see the entire station closed for whole weekends at a time in March, June, August and October.
We are in the early stages of delivering a project that will increase the number of long distance trains at King’s Cross and facilitate future improvements to journey times.Rob McIntosh, Network Rail’s route managing director
The station is also likely to be part-closed between Christmas 2019 and March 2020, with temporary closures of platforms for two weeks at a time anticipated between March and May 2019, as part of the project to cut journey times and increase the number of long-distance trains.
The Yorkshire Post understands that during each closure, some or all of the services run by London North Eastern Railway (LNER) and other operators such as Govia Thameslink will need to terminate at alternative stations.
Network Rail, which is responsible for the nation’s rail infrastructure, has pledged to minimise disruption as part of the work to upgrade the track layout but says some parts of the station will have to close “for a short period of time”. The agency said dates for closures had yet to be agreed.
Rail officials expect say the work at King’s Cross will allow the benefits of the East Coast Main Line enhancement project to be delivered, with improvements such as reducing journey times between London and Leeds to two hours.
But a Yorkshire peer has suggested the disruption, which could mean London-bound trains stopping at Peterborough, may overshadow the introduction of the state-of-the-art electro-diesel Azuma trains on the East Coast Main Line from the end of this year.
Rob McIntosh, Network Rail’s route managing director, said: “Earlier this year the Prime Minister announced significant investment for the East Coast Main Line and our plans at King’s Cross are integral to the benefits this investment will bring for passengers.
“The track layout and signalling at King’s Cross is approaching the end of its design life and restricts the number of trains that we can run in and out of the station.
“We are in the early stages of delivering a project that will increase the number of long distance trains at King’s Cross and facilitate future improvements to journey times.
“We cannot deliver around £250m investment in a confined space such as King’s Cross without some planned disruption. We will make sure passengers have good notice of any service changes to plan their journeys.
“We are also acutely aware of the difficulties passengers have faced across all of our network this year and therefore looking again at the timing and nature of the planned disruption to ensure that the passenger experience is forefront in our decision making.”
Baroness McIntosh of Pickering, a former Yorkshire MP and Conservative shadow transport minister, said: “Travellers by rail whether for business or pleasure need certainty, which is why the uncertainty over services on the east coast mainline route has been of concern.
“I am delighted that the Government is taking an interest, helping to bring LNER and Network Rail together in the planning process for these works.
“The fact that the works will overshadow the introduction of the new trains is unfortunate, especially if they initially stop at Peterborough and do not go all the way to London.
“I will inevitably be involved in the delays and disruption as a regular user of the East Coast Mainline and, as a member of the House of Lords, this is a matter on which I will keep a close eye.”
A spokeswoman for the Department for Transport said: “These works are part of a £780m investment being made on the East Coast Main Line to deliver enhancements that passengers deserve including more seats, more services and reduced journey times.”