Rail passengers in the West Midlands could face major disruption when improvement work on the West Coast Main Line starts next year.

The £81 million improvement scheme covering a section of track near Watford begins in May 2014 and will continue over 16 days during the summer.

Further work is also scheduled to take place over Christmas 2014 and in February and April 2015 on the busiest link between the region and London.

The line between the West Midlands and the capital is used by operators Virgin and London Midland.

During the project, passenger trains will be unable to use a 12-mile section of the West Coast Main Line around Watford Junction station. Train operators will be making alternative arrangements to help passengers complete their journeys during the line closure.

London Midland’s operations director Tom Joyner said, “We first alerted passengers to the major improvement works back in August, but we’re eager to reinforce that message at a time when people may be beginning to plan their summer holidays and annual leave for next year”.

“The simple message is that there will be no mainline trains running south of Watford Junction on the West Coast Mainline during the improvement works programme, so we would urge passengers to avoid travel where possible.”

The dates that work will take place, announced by Network Rail, are:

2014:

04.30 Saturday May 3 to 10.30 Monday May 5 (Bank Holiday)

04.30 Saturday August 9 to 12.00 Monday August 25

23.00 Wednesday December 24 to 04.00 Monday December 29.

2015:

02.00 Saturday February 14 through to 06.00 Monday February 23

02.10 Friday April 3 to 06.00 Tuesday April 7.

All train operating companies who run services on the West Coast Mainline to London Euston are now working hard to develop alternative plans for passengers.

The work involves:

Three junctions will be renewed to the north, south and in Watford Junction station itself to improve the track layout and make it more reliable.

More than nine miles (15km) of track to renew

Upgrades to the overhead line equipment in the area to make it more reliable.

Renewing crossovers to facilitate future maintenance of the main line while keeping train services running.

The signalling along 12 miles of railway between Kings Langley, Watford Junction and Bushey will be completely renewed to improve reliability and provide more flexibility. This work includes 11 new gantries, 39 signal posts and approximately 120km of cabling.

The signalling power supply system will also be upgraded.

London Overground services between Watford Junction and London Euston will continue to run throughout the closure’s listed above.            

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