RAIL passengers are being warned of significant disruption from this weekend as major work starts to upgrade the line.

Network Rail is to begin an £8.6 million upgrade of the line around Newcastle station on Saturday at the start of nine days of engineering work.

Almost 2,000 passenger trains and 260 freight trains which normally use the station will be unable to run and four of the station’s platforms will be closed for the duration of work.

Engineers will replace 19 sets of switches and crossings, more commonly known as points, which the company says bring long-term reliability benefits for the eight million passengers who use Newcastle station every year.

A revised timetable will be in operation, with some services starting or terminating at York, Durham and the Metro Centre.

Buses will also be used to help move passengers between some stations, but trains to and from Newcastle will be extremely busy.

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 essential 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”.

Virgin Trains, which manages Newcastle station, said it would provide extra staff and signs to help customers during the works.

They will run a full timetable on weekdays, although with some changes to timetables.

On the weekend of January 13 and 14, Virgin Trains will run an hourly service between London King’s Cross and Newcastle and Scotland, with diversions between York and Newcastle adding an hour to journey times and some services terminating at Darlington.

The majority of TransPennine Express services to Liverpool and Manchester Airport 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 enquiries.