I wonder how many of you can remember the rail piece we posted in September 2020 regarding changing rail travel patterns in the UK.

Network Rail has now reacted to changing travel trends and will trial midweek daytime engineering work.

It’s a revolution for UK rail, which has traditionally scheduled engineering work at weekends.

The latter may have been wise decades ago when fewer people travelled at weekends (remember the time when retail outlets were closed on a Sunday) but since then weekend travel has become busier, especially since the pandemic.

In mainland Europe it’s normal for engineering work to be carried out during the week so that mainline schedules at weekends can almost resemble those between Monday and Friday.

Back in the late 1960s, when I visited Cologne as a student, I marvelled at how Deutsche Bahn operated such a frequent Sunday service, especially as UK rail had sparse schedules on that day.

Initially Network Rail will trial midweek engineering work on the busy East Coast Mainline (ECML) which has seen growth in weekend travel.

GBRTT (Great British Railways Transition Team) conducted research in February which showed that weekend rail journeys were 21 per cent higher than in the pre-pandemic period.

Recent data from main ECML operator LNER shows that Fridays and Sundays are now proving to be the most popular days for travel.

Engineering work will take place on Tuesday May 16 and Wednesday May 17 between Grantham and Doncaster.

There will be improvements to the tracks as well as to overhead line equipment.

Readers must check with the operators for full details of schedule amendments over these two days, but briefly:

  • LNER will be running a reduced service with extended journey times and coach replacement services between certain stations
  • Hull Trains will be running a reduced service with extended journey times and some stations will not be served
  • Grand Central will operate a reduced service with longer journey times
  • Lumo will operate between Edinburgh and Newcastle only. Unlike the above operators it has no bi-mode (electric and diesel) trains so cannot run over the (non-electrified) diversionary routes

A spokesperson on behalf of the ECML operators said:

“We are always looking a new ways we can improve the experience for our passengers and this trial is just one way our industry has worked together to do something to respond to new trends and keep people moving.”

I know from readers’ Forum posts that a number of you travel on a Sunday as well as on a Friday. So let’s hope this trial is extended in the future.