A RAIL boss says it is 'absolutely vital' that London Kings Cross shuts for almost a week after Christmas, despite a clash with the temporary easing of coronavirus restrictions.

The Press reported earlier this week that any York residents hoping to meet up with their families in London over Christmas may struggle if they are planning to travel there by train.

Three households will be allowed to mix in a festive bubble from December 23 to 27 but Kings Cross will be closed from Christmas Day until December 30 to allow for the latest phase of a £1.2 billion upgrade of the East Coast Mainline, and so people won't be able to travel back to York until long after the restrictions have been reimposed.

But Ed Akers, principal programme sponsor for Network Rail, said the Kings Cross work had been planned meticulously and for months in advance.

"We need six days to carry out this stage of the £1.2billion project and this work cannot be shortened," he said.

“The work is taking place over Christmas as this is when fewer people travel. If the work was to be postponed, it would have to take place when the railway is busier, meaning higher levels of disruption for passengers.

"It’s absolutely vital that this work goes ahead to make sure that passengers can benefit from better connections between the North and London, improved journeys and a more reliable railway as quickly as possible.

“The Government recently announced information around household mixing over Christmas and the work at King’s Cross will be ongoing when that period ends.

"During this time, services between London and York will largely start from St Pancras station, with passengers advised to change at Peterborough.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has brought many challenges this year, with train travel being no exception. We encourage all passengers who need to travel to plan their journeys in plenty of time, as travellers will need a reservation. Passengers can see how they may be impacted by visiting eastcoastupgrade.co.uk or speaking to their train operator.”

A spokesman for LNER, which operates the majority of York-London services, said earlier this week that it fully recognised that disruption caused by the upgrade would cause disappointment for some of its customers this Christmas.

"Network Rail requires extensive access to the railway in order to deliver this incredibly complex programme to upgrade and improve services on the East Coast route," he said.

“The East Coast Upgrade involves many periods of planned disruption, which began in summer 2019 and will continue through the Christmas period, followed by multiple periods of reduced services in 2021.Unfortunately, the pandemic severely constrained available opportunities for when this essential work could be carried out.

“To support our customers this Christmas, we are increasing services from early December up until the planned disruption begins on 24 December and are continuing to operate reservation only services to prevent overcrowding. We urge customers to plan ahead this Christmas to avoid disappointment.

“We understand the disruption this may cause to Christmas plans and apologise in advance for any inconvenience. Once complete, this upgrade will allow us to deliver significantly improved journeys for all our customers.”

He added that services ahead of Christmas Eve were expected to sell out quickly and were likely be very busy from December 31 until January 3.