The largest Christmas upgrade in Network Rail history is due to begin on December 24 running through to January 2, 2017.
Across the Great Western mainline, stretching from Cardiff to London Paddington and through to Shenfield in east London, £85 million worth of investment will be underway, with hundreds of Network Rail employees giving up their Christmas to make sure all the work is completed on time.
One such worker is 33-year-old Haris Mirza. As a Muslim who doesn’t celebrate Christmas, Mirza has volunteered to work on Christmas Day and Boxing Day, so colleagues don’t have to and can spend time with their families.
Mirza, a project manager for Network Rail said: ‘If I wasn’t working I wouldn’t be doing anything special anyway because I don’t celebrate Christmas, so I was happy to volunteer to cover during Christmas as there are not many people who are looking to work away from their families.’
Mirza will be working on the on the Royal Wootton Bassett A3102 Bath Road bridge, which is scheduled to see demolition works take place over Christmas because the railway will be closed.
He continued: ‘I am working during Christmas and Boxing Day nights to mainly assist with reporting of the progress of the works and making sure everything is carried out in a safe manner.
‘I have worked for a lot of different industries and Network Rail is a very forward thinking company. The people are fantastic and it’s a great working environment – always pushing me to learn more, to contribute more. I have had some really good mentors in the past and we’re a really good team. If I wasn’t working I wouldn’t be doing much – it would be like a normal weekend I suppose and I am just pleased I can help out my colleagues.’
Mirza’s manager Dave Kidd, will also be working over Christmas as he is overseeing the project, but says that volunteers who are happy and willing to work Christmas, make his job a lot easier. He said: ‘It’s very important that we do have that commitment from staff – as sometimes it’s hard to fill the shifts with the right quality personnel – especially the night-time shift.
‘However it is important we work over Christmas, mainly because the tracks are shut. The trains are not running so if we do the work during this particular period then there’s less disruption to the public, and we don’t have to block the lines at some other time and cause more inconvenience,’ he said.
Kidd, 60, will be managing 35 people who will be working over Christmas Day and Boxing Day – just one of many Network Rail teams giving up their Christmas to make sure the work gets done.
He added: ‘I will start on site at 6:00am on Christmas Day through to around 3:00pm and it will be the same on Boxing Day. I will be managing the project and making sure that everything runs as smoothly as possible.
‘It obviously does have an impact. I’m lucky that most of my children have left home now but I’ve got a couple of young kids at home and we will delay our Christmas Day basically until I get home in the late afternoon and we’ll take it from there.’
Photo shows Dave Kidd with Haris Mirza