Railway upgrades threaten to disrupt travel over Easter

Disruption and closures on the railways over the Easter weekend will affect hundreds of thousands of passengers.

Network Rail, which owns and operates the UK’s rail infrastructure, will carry out £100m of upgrades between Friday 19 April and Monday 22 April, including engineering work that will shut London’s Euston station.

Works will also affect Birmingham, the north-west of England, the south west, and parts of Scotland and south Wales.

The west coast mainline running from London Euston to Glasgow will face the most significant disruption, with some sections shut down for a programme of engineering works that includes preparations for HS2. Travellers between London and north-west England have been asked to start and end their journeys from another station stations.

Network Rail said the fall in passenger numbers over the bank holiday weekend compared with a working week meant that it was the best time to perform engineering works.

Anthony Smith, chief executive of the user watchdog Transport Focus, said: “For passengers wanting to travel over the bank holiday, engineering works could be a major inconvenience, especially if it means having to use rail replacement bus services or make longer, unfamiliar journeys while London Euston is closed.

“Investment in maintenance and improvement is necessary, and people understand that. But our research is clear: passengers want to be kept on the train wherever possible, they want to know before buying a ticket if part of the journey will be by bus, and they want plenty of staff on hand to signpost and to help.”

On Good Friday and Easter Monday, Virgin Trains’ west coast services will start and end at Harrow & Wealdstone station on the outskirts of London, with passengers asked to catch the tube if they want to continue to or depart from central London.

On Saturday and Easter Sunday, the service will terminate at Milton Keynes, with Chiltern trains providing an alternative route to and from London Marylebone station.

Disruption will affect the entire west coast mainline over the weekend, with major work going on at Rugby, Birmingham New Street, Lancaster, Carlisle, Rutherglen and Motherwell.

Passengers travelling between London and Glasgow are being advised to use the east coast line terminating at King’s Cross.

Upgrade work will also affect several other routes, with the South Western network facing “altered” services on routes through Wimbledon in south-west London. Engineers will also be replacing two bridges and track between London Fenchurch Street and Barking, with some trains diverted to London Liverpool Street and others replaced by bus services.

The Gatwick Express will not run on Friday and Sunday, with reduced or altered services on the other two days.

Buses will replace trains between Cardiff Central and the Severn Tunnel as workers put up electrification infrastructure including masts and overhead line equipment. The rail link from Newport to Gloucester via Chepstow is also closed, meaning Great Western passengers between south Wales and stations to London will spend 45 minutes on a bus between Bristol Parkway and Newport, adding an hour to journey times.

Buses will also replace trains on the branch line to Southend on the Essex coast as Network Rail upgrades overhead wires as part of a £46m investment. On Easter Sunday, the main line from London to Devon and Cornwall will be closed between Westbury and Taunton, with trains diverted and journey times extended.

Trains between Manchester and Liverpool Lime Street will terminate at Hunt’s Cross on Easter Sunday, with buses completing the journey.

Network Rail, which is state-owned, said 13,800 staff would work “round the clock” to minimise disruption.

The chief executive, Andrew Haines, said: “This Easter we are strongly advising passengers to plan ahead while we deliver essential upgrades to the rail network to improve their journeys.

“We know that our railway is up to 50% quieter than usual over bank holidays so doing work at this time of year minimises our impact on passengers who, as research shows, understand the need for such activity.”

Highways England, which maintains and operates motorways and A roads, said it was removing nearly all roadworks to limit congestion. It would remove 459 miles of roadworks, meaning 99% of the network would be clear in time for Easter.

Source: theguardian.com