Passengers have been warned of more than a week of disruption while a major upgrade is carried out of the railway around Newcastle Central Station.
Network Rail will begin nine days of engineering work, costing £8.6million, this weekend as part of the Great North Rail Project.
It will take place between Saturday, January 6, and Sunday, January 14, with services returning to normal on Monday, January 15.
Nineteen sets of ‘switches and crossings’ – more commonly known as points – will be upgraded, meaning extra reliability for the eight million passengers who use Newcastle station every year.
Switches and crossings are movable pieces of track which guide trains from one route to another, and have a limited lifespan due to the heavy wear they receive.
The units at Newcastle were installed in the 1980s, and although regular maintenance has kept them in good working order for many years, they now need replacing, having failed 15 times between January and October 2017.
The meticulously-planned upgrade means disruption to services to and from Newcastle while engineers carry out nine days of work.
Almost 2,000 passenger services and 260 freight trains which cross the city’s King Edward Bridge will be unable to run as normal. Platforms 9-12 will also be out of use for the duration of the work.
A revised timetable will be in operation, with some services starting and/or terminating at York, Durham and the MetroCentre.
Buses will be used to help move passengers between some stations, and trains to and from Newcastle will be extremely busy, so passengers are advised to check before they travel.
Rob McIntosh, managing director for Network Rail’s London North Eastern and East Midlands route, said: “There is never a good time to carry out railway work which disrupts passengers, but this upgrade is absolutely essentia,l and we have worked extremely closely with our train operating partners to keep disruption to a minimum and make passenger information as clear as possible.
"Newcastle is a critical part of our network, and by keeping the infrastructure safe and reliable we are meeting the needs of the economies and communities our railway serves for both the short and long term.”
A spokesman for the Rail Delivery Group, which brings together train companies and Network Rail to enable a better railway, said: “Rail companies are working together with a long-term plan to deliver major improvements to the railway which will boost the economy, better connect communities and improve journeys for customers, now and for the long term.
"Nationwide, our plan to change and improve the railway will mean 6,400 extra train services a week by 2021, over 5,700 new carriages and more rail jobs in towns and cities across the country."
Virgin Trains, which manages Newcastle station, said it would provide extra staff and signage to help customers during the engineering works.
They will run a full timetable on weekdays, although southbound services from Edinburgh will run 15 minutes earlier until they reach Newcastle. They will then run as scheduled. Its northbound services will be extended by up to 15 minutes.
From 12.15pm on Saturday January 13 to 1pm on Sunday, January 14, Virgin Trains will run an hourly service between London King’s Cross and Newcastle and Scotland. It will take a diversionary route between York and Newcastle, with journey times extended by approximately 60 minutes, while some services will terminate at Darlington.
The majority of TransPennine Express services on the Liverpool Lime Street to Newcastle and Manchester Airport to Newcastle routes will not run between York and Newcastle.
As a result, Thirsk, Northallerton, Darlington, Durham and Chester-le-Street stations will have a greatly reduced service. Passengers are advised to check before they travel via National Rail inquiries.