East Coast main line: Eight months of disruption about to begin for train passengers

Simon Calder
·2-min read
Work station: Network Rail crew at the Gasworks Tunnel, just outside King's Cross station in London  (Network Rail)
Work station: Network Rail crew at the Gasworks Tunnel, just outside King's Cross station in London (Network Rail)

Travellers on the UK’s flagship railway line face eight months of disruption because of a major project to increase capacity.

The work on the East Coast main line between London King's Cross and Edinburgh Waverley will disrupt travel over many weekends up to and including 6 June 2021.

In particular, there will be some stretches in which no trains will run in or out of King's Cross – one of the UK’s busiest stations – starting on 17 and 18 October.

That weekend, the quiet Cambridgeshire town of St Neot’s will become the southern terminus of the East Coast main line, which runs to Yorkshire, northeast England and Scotland.

Passengers arriving there from the north will be taken by bus to Bedford to continue their journey south to London St Pancras, adjacent to King's Cross.

Alternatively, they can travel via Sheffield and the East Midlands line to St Pancras. But between York and London, the usual journey time will be almost doubled to 3 hours, 30 minutes.

A longer complete or partial shutdown will take place over Christmas and New Year, between 22 December and 5 January.

The work is partly to re-open a tunnel just outside the London terminus that was closed almost half-a-century ago, when the railways were in long-term decline.

The £1.2bn upgrade is the biggest investment on the East Coast main line since electrification was completed in 1991.

Network Rail says: “The track layout has reached the end of its design life and become harder to maintain.

“While the station itself was modernised in 2012, the existing track and signalling was installed over 40 years ago and is nearing the end of its operational life.”

As part of the project, the number of train “paths” each hour between London King's Cross and Doncaster will increase from six to eight – adding around 10,000 extra seats each day.

A spokesperson for LNER said: “Journeys into and out of London King’s Cross will be more reliable with fewer trains getting in each other’s way; and with straighter tracks allowing for quicker acceleration and deceleration alongside the benefits of a major timetable change being developed for the East Coast main line.”

The increase is due to take effect from the December 2021 timetable change, though it remains to be seen how much demand from travellers will return.

The LNER spokesperson said: “Passenger numbers are showing encouraging signs of continuing to return to rail compared with March and April.”

During the King's Cross project, trains operated by Grand Central, Hull Trains and Thameslink will also be affected.

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