The £46m project work to replace the entire overhead wiring system and structures on the railway between Southend Victoria and Shenfield is expected to finish sooner than originally planned, as Greater Anglia and Network Rail respond to customer feedback.
The new plan sees a reduction of 11 weeks of midweek night works and six weekend works compared to previous plans. This will enable the majority of the work in the project to finish two months early in March 2020, instead of May 2020.
This has been made possible by deploying additional resources and agreeing a nine-day closure of the branch line between Wickford and Southend Victoria at the end of May 2019 that will help get more upgrade work done in less time.
The overhead wires and supporting structures which power Greater Anglia’s trains are over 60 years old. The wires can sag in hot weather leading to speed restrictions being imposed. By installing a new auto tension system, this will help keep the wires at the correct tension in the hot weather and avoid the need to impose speed restrictions.
Rail passengers, who have seen their trains replaced with buses during late night, mid-weeks and at weekends, have complained about the length of time the project is taking and the inconvenience it has caused.
Over the last few months, Greater Anglia and Network Rail have looked at what can be done to speed up the works and for them to be carried out at times which are less inconvenient for customers.
Working together, Greater Anglia and Network Rail have confirmed a revised plan which includes:
Jamie Burles, Greater Anglia managing director said: “We are pleased that we have been able to work with Network Rail to speed up completion of this project, as we know how unhappy our customers are about the disruption it has caused.
“We know customers would rather stay on the train for the whole of their journey, but I’d like to reassure passengers that we will have plenty of rail replacement buses and extra staff to make sure that they can complete their journeys at weekends and during the remaining mid-week works.
“However, we are advising customers to make alternative arrangements during the May half term works, especially on the four working days. We are sorry for this inconvenience, but listening to customer feedback, we believe this is the right decision as the project will be finished sooner with fewer mid-week works.
“We and Network Rail are investing heavily in the railway in the Southend area so that it will be more reliable and served by modern state of the art trains.”
Meliha Duymaz, Network Rail’s route managing director for Anglia, said: “I know that passengers on the Southend line have been disrupted a lot over the past few years and having listened to their concerns, we’ve worked to revise our plans to reduce the impact on their journeys while we carry out the upgrade.
“This work is vital to supporting the growing number of passengers using this line, making journeys more reliable and allowing for new trains to run, as part of our Railway Upgrade Plan.
“I’d like to once again thank passengers for their continued patience.”
For more information visit www.networkrailmediacentre.co.uk