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Taking the train home for Christmas or New Year? Here’s when to travel by rail

Travellers will find rail journeys again disrupted in late December and early January as Network Rail closes lines and stations for engineering work.

The organisation says: “Work will take place from Sunday 24 December 2023 to Tuesday 2 January 2024. The vital improvements and routine maintenance around Britain will give you a better and more reliable railway for the long term.”

In addition, work by HS2 will close the Great Western main line from 24 to 27 December.

“Most of the railway will stay open for business as usual,” Network Rail says.

These are the key rail engineering works over the festive season and the last dates before Christmas you need to travel on to ensure you make it home for the holidays by train.

LNER/East Coast main line

Travel to/from London no later than 23 December if you want to be home by Christmas. The East Coast main line, connecting London King’s Cross with Yorkshire, northeast England and Scotland, will be closed at its southern terminus on 24 December.

No trains will run to or from King’s Cross on Christmas Eve. LNER trains will start from or terminate at Peterborough or St Neots. The latter will be served by a bus link to Bedford, for onward travel to London on Thameslink. Hull Trains will be diverted to start/terminate at London St Pancras International.

Greater Anglia (London-Essex-Suffolk-Norfolk)

Travel before mid-evening on Christmas Eve, as all trains will end by 10pm – except on the Stansted Express. The last train leaves the Essex airport at 11.59pm, making it the latest departure anywhere in the UK.

Passengers on the line from London to Colchester, Ipswich and Norwich have become wearily accustomed to festive closures, and 2023 is no exception. Work will take place between Shenfield and Witham in Essex, blocking the route from 27 December-1 January.

The Stansted Airport-Cambridge link is also closed 27 December-1 January

Southeastern (London-Kent)

Travel from London Victoria no later than 22 December. From 23 December to 1 January inclusive, the hub in the capital will be closed, along with Brixton station. Trains will divert to and from Blackfriars, Cannon Street and Charing Cross.

Southern (London-Gatwick-Sussex coast)

Complete journeys by 9pm on Christmas Eve, when all services will cease.

South Western Railway (London-Southampton/Bournemouth/Portsmouth)

Travel on any journey that covers the Southampton Airport-Southampton-Bournemouth stretch by 23 December. From Christmas Eve South Western Railway – and CrossCountry passengers – will be hit by the closure from 24 to 29 December of the main Southampton Airport-Southampton-Bournemouth line. From 30 December to 1 January, attention switches to the London-Portsmouth line – which will be closed between Guildford and Petersfield.

Great Western Railway (London-South Wales/West of England)

Travel to/from London no later than 23 December. Work on the new HS2 station at Old Oak Common in west London will close the Great Western main line from 24 to 27 December. No Great Western Railway (GWR) trains will run between the capital and Cardiff, Bristol, the Cotswolds, Devon and Cornwall during the four-day spell.

Transport for Wales

Business as usual, with no significant rail engineering work planned – though no connections will be available to/from London at Newport, Cardiff and Swansea due to the Paddington station closure 24-27 December. No trains will run on Christmas Day and Boxing Day.

Chiltern (London-Oxford/Birmingham)

Expect crowds on Christmas Eve and 27 December due to the Paddington station closure. The train operator says:“Services between London Marylebone and Oxford are expected to be busy as they will be the only direct services between London and Oxford”.

Avanti West Coast/West Coast main line

The main December disruption will take place in the run up to New Year from the evening of 30 December because of work between London Euston and Rugby, with a reduced service and slower journeys. New Year’s Day will be severely disrupted, with no trains between Milton Keynes Central and Rugby nor between Preston and Carlisle.

East Midlands Railway (London St Pancras-Leicester/Derby/Nottingham/Sheffield)

The key disruption is on 27 December, when the main line from is closed between Kettering and Leicester.

Northern (local services in the North of England)

The main disruption will take place 30 December-1 January, with the following lines closed:

  • Manchester Victoria-Dewsbury-Leeds
  • Manchester-Bolton
  • Doncaster-Hull-Goole (30 and 31 December only)

TransPennine Express (intercity services in the North of England/southern Scotland)

Complete journeys involving York-Darlington early on Christmas Eve. All day on 24 December Leeds-York journeys will be diverted with extended journey times and some cancellations.

The main disruption will take place 30-31 December, with Manchester-Preston and Huddersfield-Leeds closed to TPE trains.

On New Year’s Day, the lines from Preston to Carlisle and onward to Edinburgh are closed.

ScotRail

Travel to/from Glasgow Queen Street no later than early evening on 24 December; the station closes at 8pm.

From then until 31 December there will be significant work on lines linking Glasgow Queen Street with Perth, Stirling, Aberdeen and Inverness. Journeys are likely to involve changes of train and extended times.

No ScotRail trains will run on New Year’s Day.

Northern Ireland

Work between Lagan Junction and Yorkgate Station in North Belfast will close lines from Christmas Day to 3 January, disrupting lines between the capital, Larne and Derry/Londonderry.

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