Avoid West Coast main line, festive commuters told

Passengers are being advised to avoid the West Coast main line ahead of planned engineering work that is expected to cause disruption. Picture: Getty

Passengers are being advised to avoid the West Coast main line ahead of planned engineering work that is expected to cause disruption. Picture: Getty

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TRAIN passengers are being ­advised not to use one of the main Scotland to London lines over Christmas as engineering works look set to cause major disruption.

The west coast main line will be shut between London Euston and Hemel Hempstead in ­Hertfordshire after the last trains on Christmas Eve until Monday, 29 December.

It will also be closed between Stafford and Crewe after the last trains on Christmas Eve until Sunday, 28 December.

Network Rail and the Virgin Trains and London Midland train companies are advising passengers to use alternative routes.

Jim Syddall, acting route ­managing director for Network Rail, said: “There is never a good time to carry out this type of work and we have liaised closely with the train operators to plan for it to take place at a traditionally quieter time on the railway.

“We apologise for the ­inconvenience caused but the work is essential to improve the network and maintain reliable services for the millions of ­passengers who travel on the west coast main line every year.”

The closure is just one of a number of disruptions to ­services over Christmas and the new year.

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It will affect services out of a number of main London stations including London Bridge, where there will be a 16-day part closure for work involving the £6.5 billion Thameslink programme.

Virgin Trains said Scottish passengers would be able to use the east coast main line, which links Edinburgh with London King’s Cross. However, that line will not be running at full capacity, meaning some ­disruption is likely.

Gary Iddon, Virgin Trains’ general manager for Anglo-Scottish services, said: “We realise these works will cause a real headache for passengers over the Christmas period and have tried to ensure our customers are aware of the potential ­disruption they face and can plan appropriately.

“There will be no services on Christmas or Boxing Day, ­followed by the weekend of 27-28 December when a section of the west coast main line at Watford will be closed.

“This means passengers going to and from London will have to travel by alternative services. ­Passengers in Glasgow are ­advised to travel to Edinburgh and use East Coast services to London.

“Virgin Trains services will still operate between Edinburgh/Glasgow and Preston. Or, if it is possible for people to defer travel, a normal service will resume from Monday, 29 December.”

ScotRail is one of the train companies running services on Boxing Day to cope with ­increased demand from rail users.

Michael Roberts, director general of the Rail Delivery Group, which represents ­operators and Network Rail, said: “Major holidays are when significantly fewer people travel, and the ­industry has been working more closely than ever this year to ensure that disruption to ­passengers is minimised and people are kept on trains wherever possible.”

Other areas where engineering work is scheduled at times over the holiday period include Birmingham New Street and ­between Cambridge and Ely in East Anglia.

Meanwhile, British Airways is preparing to take record ­numbers of people away for Christmas this year.

In the period from December 12 to January 5, BA will be ­carrying around 2.7 million ­passengers, with Friday, 19 ­December, its busiest day with 129,000 ­customers flying.

The BA schedules include 267 flights on Christmas Day on which 37,000 turkey dinners will be served.

Other BA destinations over the festive period are to Dubai, Barbados, New York, Australia and Barcelona.

Ryanair is carrying more than 3.5 million customers between 20 December and 6 January – an increase of 500,000 customers over the 2013-14 holiday period.

Popular destinations include the Portuguese Algarve, the Canary Islands, Cologne and Prague.

On the roads, National ­Express will double the number of coach services on Christmas Day and operate a near-normal service on Boxing Day.

The company said that ­advance bookings for the period 1 December to 4 January were seven per cent up on the festive period last year.

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