Rail passengers travelling to and from the South of England are set to experience significant disruption to services this Christmas, as trains to London stations are cancelled, cutting off major routes across the UK.
Engineering works taking place during the festive period, from 22 December to 2 January, will bring chaos to commuters causing delays, diversion and cancellations to a number of routes.
Which routes will be affected?
Network Rail has warned some routes will have "significant changes to normal services", and urged passengers to plan their journeys as early as possible.
Trains out of London’s Paddington station will be severely affected, with no services running between 23 and 26 December. Southern rail routes from London Victoria will be disrupted from 22 December to 2 January, with buses replacing the local link to Clapham Junction.
Gatwick Express services to and from Victoria will not run at all, with passengers set to be diverted to services from London Bridge and Blackfriars.
East London will also be affected due to works between Liverpool Street and Stratford, impacting on passengers using services from Greater Anglia, Stanstead Express, c2c, and Tfl Rail.
London Euston will face a reduction in its services, with timetable changes to the overground Watford line and Virgin trains to Scotland and the Midlands, and limited trains to Tring, Milton Keynes and Northampton.
There will be no Heathrow Express services from 23 to 25 December, as well as 30 December. Great Western Railway trains will terminate at Slough or Reading.
Essex will see an amended service on c2c routes, with no services running to or from London Liverpool Street, instead going to and from London Fenchurch Street,
Replacement buses will be available on Greater Anglia routes from Billericay and Southend.
In Cambridge, Greater Anglia services will stop at 9pm on Christmas Eve.
Engineering works are also taking place at various points around Manchester Victoria, closing lines during Christmas and New Year, while track improvements between Bedford and Kettering as part of the Midland Main Line Upgrade will also affect timetables from 24 December 24 to 1 January.
There will be no rail services running at all across the UK on Christmas Day.
An attempt to avoid commuter misery
Many train operators are still yet to confirm which routes will face disruption, but Blackpool, Leicester, Nottingham and Warrington will be among the affected stations.
Despite the mass disruption, the festive period was considered as the best time to carry out the improvement works as there is typically a reduction in the number of people commuting over Christmas and New Year.
Andy Thomas, managing director of strategic operations at Network Rail, told The Metro: “This Christmas and New Year, thousands of rail workers will be working round the clock to deliver crucial upgrades to the rail network as part of the £50 billion railway upgrade plan.
"This huge investment programme will deliver more reliable infrastructure, improved facilities and services for passengers when they return to work.
"We know that our railway is up to 50% quieter than usual during the festive period so taking on and delivering these huge transformational schemes at this time of year minimises our impact on passengers who, research shows, understand the need for such activity.
"While most of the network is open for business as usual, some routes are heavily affected and so we strongly advise passengers to plan ahead."