Travel Updates


Engineering Works

Why engineering works sometimes overrun and cause delays - and what the industry is doing to reduce them

Engineering works are larger scale improvements to the infrastructure, such as track and bridge replacement, while maintenance work refers to day-to-day upkeep of tracks, signals, power supplies and other infrastructure.

The railway network comprises over 20,000 miles of track, 40,000 bridges and tunnels and almost 6,000 level crossings. It is in use 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, with freight trains continuing long after passenger services have stopped.

It is a requirement by law to close a line to traffic before starting engineering work. To minimise disruption to passengers, work is generally done overnight, at weekends and over public holidays.

Occasionally work overruns. The causes range from bad weather to machinery failure or unexpected complications discovered while the work is in progress.

Trains cannot run until any work is completed.

What the industry is doing to prevent delays

  • Engineering works are carefully planned, often up to two years in advance
  • When a problem occurs, everything is done to assess the situation and complete the work quickly
  • On the rare occasions when a project overruns, Network Rail and the Train Operators work together so they can provide the best possible level of service to passengers
  • Continually looking at ways to improve the planning and implementation of engineering work
  • Investigating ways to recover a situation and improve the ways information is communicated to passengers when things do go wrong
  • Engineering projects improve the network; some allow more trains to run, others allow increased train speeds or improve the reliability of the network, reducing future delays
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Last updated:   16 January 2017