Organisers of Edinburgh’s festivals say they are facing “total disaster” over plans to sever the city’s main rail link with London over the August Bank Holiday weekend.
International Festival, Fringe, Tattoo and book festival chiefs have pleaded with Network Rail for a rethink over a programme which will axe all services heading north from King’s Cross on 24 and 25 August.
The festivals are furious that LNER, which operates the East Coast Main Line service, and Network Rail are urging potential festival-goers to avoid travelling completely from London to Edinburgh on those days, claiming the timing of the work will have a “massively detrimental effect” on them.
However Network Rail says it has no intention of changing the date of the work outside King’s Cross, which is aimed at improving track and signalling lay-out more than 40 years old.
A leaked joint letter from the festivals to Network Rail chief executive Andrew Haines states: “The Edinburgh festivals are a focus point for the UK’s cultural sector in August.
“The closing weekend is the finale of a month long showcase of performing arts and literature from every part of the UK and the world, and is also the closing weekend of the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo.
“The scale and impact of the Edinburgh festivals as an annual expo for the UK is enormous. And with over three million tickets being issued during August – there are the many thousands who travel from London and other parts of England for the Bank Holiday weekend to visit the festivals and see shows.
“The proposed disruption to the train service will have a massively detrimental effect on our business and yours. It is well documented that what happens in Edinburgh every August is on a scale equivalent to the FIFA World Cup or the Olympic Games.
“It would be unthinkable to propose such disruption to transport services for either of these events. “It cannot be acceptable for Network Rail to set a timescale that will be totally disastrous for the Edinburgh festivals.”
However Mr Haines said passengers could still get to the Edinburgh festivals by travelling from London Euston to Glasgow on the West Coast Main Line route, or travel on alternative services from Manchester and Peterborough.
He added: “We have planned our works as considerately as we can and will use every minute efficiently to make sure we deliver a service our passengers deserve and expect.
“We are carrying out four pieces of work in August and clustering them together to try and impact as few people as possible.
“We’ve not closed the East Coast Main Line in in this way for more than 20 years and it is overdue an upgrade.”