SOUTH Western Railway (SWR) passengers have been urged to plan ahead this Christmas as Network Rail carries out important upgrade work as part of a nationwide investment of more than £148m.

Network Rail’s ‘Team Orange’ will be working throughout the festive period to deliver this investment in the railway network, helping provide a better, more reliable train service.

The works being planned over the Christmas and new-year period include:

* Waterloo station: Replacement of old switches and crossings, the movable sections of track that guide trains from one track to another, from December 23-28 (inclusive). Around half of normal services will be operating during this time.

* Vauxhall station: Work will take place between December 23 and December 27 as part of £4m project to strengthen and improve the Upper Kennington Lane bridge. Platforms five to eight at Vauxhall will be shut for this work.

* Guildford station: Brick repairs and preparatory work for the refurbishing and strengthening of the railway bridge on Farnham Road will be carried out from December 25-30 (inclusive).

* Westbury area: Track renewals at Westbury North Junction and work to improve platforms at Westbury station will take place between December 23 and January 3 (inclusive), meaning no SWR services between Salisbury, Westbury and Bristol.

With Victoria and Paddington stations both closed for part of the festive period for their own engineering work, both Waterloo and Clapham Junction stations could be busier than normal at this time of year.

These upgrades are part of Network Rail’s five-year railway upgrade plan – a multi-billion pound investment in the rail network which will improve passenger journeys in the months and years ahead.

Becky Lumlock, Wessex route managing director for Network Rail, said: “Our Team Orange engineers will be working around the clock throughout the festive period, delivering vital work to provide a better, more reliable railway for our passengers.

“The network is around 50 per cent less busy over the festive period, so while there’s never a good time to cause disruption, this means fewer people will have their journeys affected.

“We’re working closely with SWR to make sure passengers can get to where they need to be over the festive period, but it’s important to check if your journey is affected before you travel.”

Alan Penlington, customer experience director for SWR, said: “We’re doing all we can to reduce the impact of Network Rail’s vital engineering work on our customers, including putting on rail replacement services to keep our passengers on the move.

“We recommend you look online for further journey information and check other train companies’ publicity too as works elsewhere may affect your journey.”

News of expected Christmas disruption comes as SWR’s first fully refurbished and reconfigured Class 444 train entered passenger service, offering additional seating capacity and high-quality improvements to passenger accommodation.

The refurbishment and reconfiguration of the train is part of SWR’s £50m Desiro interior upgrade programme.

The project is being delivered by the trains’ manufacturer, Siemens Mobility Limited, and is designed to increase much-needed seating capacity in standard class, and bring the interior accommodation up to date, with features including enhanced wi-fi, inductive charging tables and at-seat power, as well as a full refurbishment of passenger accommodation using quality materials.

Neil Drury, SWR’s engineering director, said: “Our customers have been enjoying the benefits of refurbished accommodation on our Class 450 trains, and this train marks the start of phase two of the programme which offers additional seats as well.

“All 172 of our Desiro class trains will have new, high-quality interiors.”