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Summer no holiday for rail travellers

A dreaded rail replacement bus service in action. Credit: PA

It’s that great British summer holiday tradition – rail disruption.

Hundreds of trains every day and tens of thousands of passengers will be affected by the West Coast main line upgrade.

Many customers will have to change on to different trains, clamber aboard dreaded replacement bus services and endure journeys taking significantly longer.

But does this really have to be at the peak summer holiday period... when so many families want to travel?

Network Rail insists summer is a good time to carry out major repairs. Credit: PA

Network Rail says its the best time to do the work, because there are fewer business commuters in the summer holidays.

But passengers say people plan summer holiday trips far in advance, so giving less than 11 weeks notice simply isn't good enough.

Nearly a quarter of rail journeys are for leisure, yet these travellers nearly always bare the brunt when engineering work has to be done.

Network Rail says this £27 million summer project is needed to upgrade tracks, cabling, overhead lines and signalling.

I’m afraid the truth about rail improvement is things get worse before they get better.

Long-suffering commuters are well used to delays from overrunning engineering works. Credit: PA

What is Network Rail planning this summer?

The West Coast main line will close for 16 days for vital engineering work in Warrington, from July 20 to August 4.

Network Rail will be upgrading track, cabling, overhead lines and signalling at Acton Grange junction, which is used by more than 260 trains every day.

Acton Grange is a key section of the West Coast main line between Crewe and Preston.

So, which lines are going to be hit?

The following is a quick breakdown of the lines and routes affected. For full details see Network Rail here.

  • Blackpool - London Euston: Services between Blackpool and London Euston will not run.
  • Carlisle - London Euston via Birmingham: Direct services between Carlisle and London Euston will be diverted between Wigan and Crewe, via Manchester Piccadilly. Services between Carlisle and London Euston via Birmingham will terminate at Preston (for trains South) and Crewe (for trains North). There will be rail replacement buses operating.
  • Chester - Leeds: The service will start/terminate at Manchester Victoria.
  • Chester - Manchester Piccadilly via Helsby, Frodsham and Runcorn: Rail replacement buses will operate on much of the route, to pick up connecting rail services.
  • Earlestown/Newton-le-Willows and Manchester Piccadilly: Reduced service to one train an hour.
  • Edinburgh - London Euston via Birmingham: Trains will terminate at Preston (for South) and Crewe (for North). Buses will replace services to pick up connecting trains.
  • Ellesmere Port and Manchester Victoria: No service early morning/late evening.
  • Glasgow and London Euston via Birmingham: Services will run but will terminate at Preston (for trains South) and Crewe (for trains North), for replacement buses.
  • Lake District - London Euston via Birmingham: Services between Carlisle and London Euston via Birmingham will terminate at Preston (for trains South) and Crewe (for trains North). Passengers travelling to / from Birmingham are advised to take a rail replacement bus service between Preston and Crewe to pick up connecting trains.
  • Preston - London Euston via Birmingham: Services again to terminate at Preston or Crewe, with bus replacements in place.
  • Warrington and London Euston via Birmingham: Direct services will not run. Passengers are advised to take a rail replacement bus service between Warrington and Crewe to pick up connecting trains to / from London.
  • Warrington - Manchester: Direct services between Warrington Bank Quay and Manchester Piccadilly will not run.
  • Warrington and Preston, Glasgow and Edinburgh: Direct services from Warrington will not run. Buses will be operating.
  • Warrington and Wigan: No direct services, buses will replace trains.
  • Wigan and Edinburgh: No services, passengers are advised to take a train between Wigan and Preston to pick up connecting trains.
  • Wigan and London Euston via Birmingham: Services will not run, passengers travelling to/from Birmingham will have to take a replacement bus service between Wigan and Crewe to pick up connecting trains.
Many services in and out of London Euston will be caught up in the West Coast works. Credit: PA

ITV News asked Network Rail some questions about the summer disruption:

How much extra could be added to journey times?

It depends completely on the route where you’re travelling from and to. We’re hoping to get the rail replacement bus times from our train operating colleagues soon so that passengers can get an indication on how long journeys will be.

How many passengers would normally be expected on this route each day (on the 260 trains)?

We don’t have this information. This also includes freight trains. It’s worth noting that many of these services are being diverted so it’s not that 260 trains are cancelled.

When was the decision made to close the junction?

We’ve been working over the past two years to develop the access and delivery strategy and working tirelessly in collaboration with train and freight operators over the last six months to build a robust transport plan to keep passengers and goods moving throughout the essential upgrade work.

Are passengers eligible for any compensation for these delays?

No, not for planned work like this. The reason we are letting people know well in advance is so they can either:

- plan ahead to avoid disruption caused by our work, or,

- know exactly what to expect if they do travel by train in this area on those dates.

Why was more notice not given?

We launched our publicity campaign this week because we didn’t want to confuse passengers.

Over Easter and both May bank holidays we have had/have other engineering work taking place in the north west and have been running a campaign relating to this separate West Coast main line work.

To have launched our Acton Grange campaign before the May bank holiday would have led potentially to confusion among passengers.

That’s why we did it in order.