PASSENGERS travelling into London by rail after Christmas will be faced with a red signal after Network Rail announced Paddington Station will close for four days.

Trains will still run between Swindon and the capital to an amended timetable, but will instead take passengers to either Marylebone or Waterloo – making journey times longer.

The closure comes as Network Rail carries out a four day programme of work at the station, taking advantage of the two-day shut down of the railway on Christmas Day and Boxing Day, with work running into December 27 and 28.

GWR will be running a revised timetable throughout the festive period right up until Sunday, January 3, and there will be no services on Christmas Day or Boxing Day.

Graham Ellis, administrator of the Great Western Passengers’ Forum, said: “These things have to be done, and it is probably the better time of year to be done – travel around this time of year tends to be a little bit quieter.

“The key thing is to ensure people are well informed and they do get it back on track at the right time, which was an abject failure last year.”

But he added that rail operators were missing out on a trick by not running trains on Boxing Day every year.

He said: “It is one of the busiest times of the year for sales or sporting fixtures, but the rail industry shoots a major own goal by showing them they don’t need the trains to get there.”

A Network Rail spokesman said that the work being carried out over Christmas mainly consisted of work to prepare for the arrival of Crossrail.

He said: “While 95 per cent of services will still be running this Christmas, major work such as this can only take place when trains aren’t running. We therefore advise anyone planning to travel over this period to check before they travel through National Rail Enquiries or Great Western Railway’s website.

“We apologise for the inconvenience this may cause but ask the public to please bear with us through this temporary period when crucial improvements will be made to ultimately provide passengers with a better travelling experience.”

Roger Newman, chairman of West Wiltshire Rail Users Group,  said there would be a real long-term benefit from the engineering work for passengers from Wiltshire heading east.

He said: “In terms of this Christmas, the effect for passengers from this area is not very much other than a slightly longer journey, in that they will arrive at Marylebone or Waterloo. But passengers joining the railway system between Reading and Paddington will be affected.”

He add that, in the longer term, Crossrail would have real benefits for passengers from the West who wanted to get across London, as they could leave mainline services at Reading and join a Crossrail service to the East End.

He said: “It will save the scramble at Paddington to get onto the Underground, you will bypass Paddington and go under the West End and come out at the East End of London, which will make travel easier.”

The final GWR trains will depart on Christmas Eve before 9.30pm, with no trains then running until Sunday, December 27.

GWR is advising passengers to check all journey times at before leaving to ensure they don’t miss the last train home.