The East Coast Upgrade Project

The East Coast Main Line is one of the UK’s vital rail routes. Carrying more than 20 million passengers a year, it connects East and West Yorkshire, the North of England and Scotland with London and the South East.

The £1.2 billion East Coast Upgrade investment programme includes upgrading and expanding the rail infrastructure on the approaches to London King’s Cross station, as well as major projects at other key parts of the route. The work will mean more trains will be able to run between London, the North of England and Scotland.

To deliver this we need to undertake major works, including at London King’s Cross station, where tracks and other infrastructure, which is more than 40 years old, will be upgraded to increase the network’s resilience and improve reliability for passengers.

The engineering work to improve the line has already been going on at night and over weekends for many months, but in the coming months we will be at the stage where we cannot complete the upgrades at King’s Cross and elsewhere on the line without carrying out some major work during weekdays too.

Network Rail is upgrading the tracks, overhead wires and signalling on the approach to London King’s Cross station.

In addition, the track is being re-laid in a new layout which will improve journeys in and out of the station. A disused tunnel is being reopened, providing six tracks into the station instead of the current four. This will increase reliability and enable trains to arrive and leave more rapidly, helping to keep trains on time.

At Werrington, just north of Peterborough, we’re building a tunnel and a new section of railway so slower freight trains can dive under the busy East Coast Main Line instead of having to cut across it. Once finished, it will free up space for extra passenger services.

We’re also boosting the power supply along the East Coast Main Line to enable additional faster, quieter and cleaner electric trains to run by carrying out work at a total of 46 sites along the whole route.

You can find more details of our work at Newark and Stevenage on our Programme page.

Our work so far on the Power Supply Upgrade has already paved the way for the introduction of LNER’s new Azuma trains and Hull Trains’ new Paragon fleet.

The signalling system from King’s Cross to Peterborough is being transferred from the King’s Cross Signal Box to the Railway Operation Centre in York. This will allow for the signal box at King’s Cross to be demolished, opening up the space for the new tracks into the re-opened tunnel.

In addition, a great deal of preparation work has taken place to enable the major improvements to the tracks and overhead line equipment to take place over the coming months.

In January 2021 we successfully pushed an 11,000 tonne, 155 metre long tunnel beneath the East Coast Main Line at Werrington, north of Peterborough. Once complete, this will enable long, slower-moving freight trains to dive under the main line, instead of crossing over it. This will create capacity for extra passenger services.

The East Coast Upgrade programme is made up of several different major projects along the route, which together will deliver the full benefits once all are complete.  The extra lines and improved track layout at King’s Cross will increase reliability of trains from Summer 2021, whilst further improvements will be delivered by different elements of the programme, such as the Power Supply Upgrade, and will add benefits from future timetable changes.

We’ll keep you informed as work progresses on the East Coast Upgrade.

Projects work best when the industry works together to look after our customers.

We’re using the lessons learned from many other successful projects, including the Brighton Main Line improvement, the Waterloo & South West upgrade, the Bath Spa station improvement, Nottingham station re-modelling, as well as the Birmingham New Street and Liverpool Lime Street station projects.

In addition, we’re working closely with Transport Focus, the independent transport user watchdog, who are conducting regular customer surveys to monitor the effectiveness of our communications.

Travelling during the East Coast Upgrade

Current and future dates when work will take place can be found in our Planned Closures section.

The East Coast Upgrade will need the temporary closure of individual tracks and platforms at King’s Cross every day, including weekdays, for three months between Monday 1 March and Friday 4 June 2021.

There will be a slightly reduced weekday peak-time service, but off peak services will be less impacted. This will mean changes to LNER, Great Northern, Thameslink, Hull Trains and Grand Central services.

Closures are also taking place on the weekends of February 26-28; April 23-25, and June 4-6, when limited or no trains will be able to run into King’s Cross. On some occasions, alternative services will be provided, such as buses and coaches, or trains on alternative routes.

We appreciate that this will unfortunately cause significant disruption for passengers, but this minimises ongoing longer-term disruption and delivers passenger benefits as quickly as possible.

Customers are advised to plan and check before travelling. The biggest impact will be on people travelling at busier times, so passengers will be advised to travel outside of these times where possible

Businesses are encouraged to support their employees using the route during these major improvement works, including potentially encouraging people to stagger their start and finish times where they can, or to work from home.

Network Rail, GTR, LNER, Grand Central and Hull Trains continue to work closely together to develop dedicated timetables to support customers during this period. This will also reflect ongoing changes to travel demand due to COVID-19.

Further details and information on alternative arrangements will be available in the coming months. through National Rail Enquiries, the Train Operating Companies’ websites and here on our Travel Advice page.

Yes – the scale and complexity of some of the key parts of the Upgrade means that they will take longer to carry out than the time available to us on a Saturday and Sunday.

As a result, there will be no trains in or out of King’s Cross on Friday 26 February, Friday 23 April and most of Friday 4 June 2021.

We will be working closely with organisers of planned major events to make them aware of the impact to rail travellers and the alternative travel options available for them.  We strongly recommend that event-goers use check before they travel if they are planning on using the East Coast Main Line when traveling to a major event while the work is happening.

We are in touch with major employers and the business community, asking them to encourage employees to work from home or to avoid travelling at busy times.

COVID-19 and the East Coast Upgrade

The safety and wellbeing of passengers is our priority. Currently, we expect passenger numbers to be lower than pre-COVID-19 levels. We are developing our passenger handling plans on the understanding that social distancing measures will be in place when we carry out the work.

We will be monitoring passenger numbers in the run-up to and during the planned work, as well as running a significant passenger awareness campaign in the coming months advising customers to plan and check before travelling. The biggest impact will be on customers travelling at busier times, so passengers will be advised to travel outside of these times where possible. People will also be encouraged to work from home where possible.

This work is being delivered at a time when passenger numbers are expected to be reduced by the effect of COVID-19 on travel demand.

LNER require all passengers to have a booked seat reservation to ensure adequate social distancing but some trains will still be busier than others. They’ve developed this handy tool to show you which long distance trains are likely to be quieter and help you avoid busy times.

The initial pausing of work, and the subsequent restrictions to working methods, during the first five months of the COVID-19 outbreak had an impact on our progress. This meant that the industry’s goal of starting the main work at King’s Cross station in late 2020 was not achievable.

However, due to the good progress that had already been made on preparation works, and the efforts of teams of planners and engineers from train operating companies, Network Rail and contractors working together, a new schedule is now in place to deliver improvements for passengers as soon as possible.

The East Coast Main Line is one of the UK’s most vital rail routes, carrying more than 20 million passengers a year. That’s why we’re investing £1.2 billion in this crucial upgrade so more trains can run and ensure that journeys are reliable for the millions of passengers who travel on the route.

A lot of work has already been done at London King’s Cross but there is more to do to upgrade it. We know the railway is important in getting the country moving, and the sooner this vital work is completed, the quicker we will be able to improve journeys.

This vital upgrade is also about making sure that the network serves the interests of passengers now. It will improve reliability and will also enable us to develop the infrastructure so it is better able to meet future demand.

Tickets and Fares

In line with the normal arrangements in place with the Department for Transport, compensation is not available for days affected by planned line closures. This is because customers are provided with a range of alternatives to complete their journeys.

Providing additional compensation would significantly increase the cost of the East Coast Upgrade, considerably reducing the amount of money available to fund further improvements to the rail network.

Delay Repay for unplanned disruption to individual journeys will apply as normal. Further information can be found on your Train Operating Company’s website.

The East Coast Upgrade is a £1.2 billion investment in infrastructure being made by the UK Government. Decisions on fares are made separately. Fares will not be rising because of this vital upgrade work.

King’s Cross Station

The station concourse at King’s Cross was totally revamped in 2012. However, the track and signalling layout has not been upgraded since it was installed over 40 years ago.

This work will upgrade and expand King’s Cross to improve the reliability of train services now and meet future passenger demands.

It simply isn’t feasible to close both the station building and the tracks at the same time, as it would prevent any passengers travelling in and out of King’s Cross.

By using a phased approach to the work, Network Rail and train operators can keep passengers moving in and out of King’s Cross.

Benefits to the East Coast Main Line

This investment is needed now to upgrade the infrastructure at King’s Cross. Once the work is complete, passengers will see increased reliability and trains will be able to arrive and leave more rapidly, helping to keep trains on time.

Passengers have already been able to benefit from the introduction of new Azuma and Paragon trains on the East Coast Main Line and will ultimately benefit from improved reliability.