Network Rail is warning passengers that RMT strike action planned for Christmas Eve will have a severe impact on rail services on the day with passengers being advised to only travel if absolutely necessary or to consider travelling another day.

During this latest industrial action, across Network Rail’s Western route – which covers the railway and towns and communities between Penzance and London Paddington – passengers are being urged to only travel if absolutely necessary. For those passengers who must travel by train on Christmas Eve, they should do so as early as possible, plan ahead, book a seat and complete their journey by lunchtime.

With most vital RMT staff due to leave their posts at 18:00 on 24 December, by then, all trains will have to be off the network and safely stabled ready for start-up on 27 December. Also, hundreds of vital engineering trains need to be moved into position much earlier than normal before the strike begins resulting in passenger journeys having to have been completed much earlier than usual.

For longer journeys, last trains will be in the morning and passengers are strongly advised to check their journey details ahead of time. This RMT strike action continues through to 06:00 on 27 December resulting in a later start-up of services. GWR services will start after midday with a significantly reduced, revised timetable in operation. There may also be some short-notice changes or cancellations and passengers should check before they travel, and travel earlier. Varying industrial action across a number of train operators, including strike action and action short of strike (an overtime ban), between 27 Dec and the New Year will also result in further disruption to rail passengers.

Passengers are encouraged to check with their train operators for the latest information on services, ticket acceptance and how to claim a refund, as well as visiting the National Rail Enquirieswebsite. Engineering upgrades over the festive period. Over the festive period when many people are spending time with friends and family, Network Rail’s engineers will be completing a range of vital upgrades to help maintain a safe and reliable railway.

In the South West of England, engineers will be installing piles at Dawlish station as well as continuing the construction of the rockfall shelter round the corner at Parsons TunnelIn the West of England, engineers will be renewing parts of the track near Bristol Parkway, replacing sleepers in Yate and inspecting the condition of the overhead electrical cables. Work to renew a bridge on the quarry freight line in Frome will also be completedIn the Thames Valley, there are critical improvements to the overhead electrical cables in Reading and at London Paddington.

David Davidson, Network Rail’s interim Western route director, said: 'We’re really sorry that passengers are facing further, unnecessary disruption this Christmas Eve due to RMT strike action. Services will finish much earlier and we’re asking passengers to only travel if absolutely necessary and if you must travel, please so as early as possible, plan ahead, book a seat and complete their journey by lunchtime. I would like to wish everyone a healthy happy Christmas festive period and recognise the many Network Rail colleagues who will be working tirelessly over the festive period to complete vital engineering work that helps maintain and improve the safe and reliable running of the railway.'