RAIL passengers on the West Coast main line should check for changes to their journey before travelling over the Bank Holiday weekend as Network Rail prepares for the first closure of the railway at Watford.
As part of an £81m project to upgrade the railway around Watford, Network Rail will be closing the West Coast main line between London Euston and Watford between Saturday, May 3 and Monday, May 5, which means passengers will need to use alternative routes to travel in and out of London.
During the closure, rail journeys from Manchester to London will take at least three hours and will involve at least one change of trains. Some journeys will be almost four hours and need two changes.
Dyan Crowther, route managing director for Network Rail, said: “The section of track at Watford is one of the most intensively used, high-speed sections in the UK and has seen tremendous growth in traffic and passengers over the last five years.
“There is never a good time to close the railway but this work is essential to maintain reliable train services for the millions of passengers who travel on this route every year.
“We have worked with all our industry partners to provide passengers with information in advance and will continue to during the work to minimise disruption as much as possible.”
The May Day weekend closure will be the first of eight weekend and Bank Holiday closures between May 2014 and April 2015 when significant upgrade work will be carried out to improve reliability and punctuality along this section of the West Coast main line.
Network Rail is working closely with the train operating companies who will provide alternative routes in and out of London for passengers.
Although alternative arrangements are in place, journey times will be considerably longer and passengers are being advised to avoid travelling to and from London on the West Coast main line during these weekends if travel is not essential.
Barrie Cottam, London Midland’s head of West Coast services, said: “My advice would be use an alternative train route where possible. Everyone who needs to make a journey along the affected route should plan ahead and check again before travelling.
“We have done all we can to minimise the inconvenience but having no through train services will mean longer journeys while the work takes place.
“London Midland will continue to update customer information and will have staff at stations along the closed route to provide assistance over the weekend.”
Phil Bearpark, operations and customer service director for Virgin Trains, said: “We are aware that many customers will be affected by the May Day bank holiday closure and we have made arrangements with a number of operators to ensure customers can continue to travel to and from London should they need to. We strongly advise customers who need to travel during the May Day bank holiday to plan their journey in advance and take into consideration that journeys will involve connections with different operators and longer travel times.”
In all cases, Virgin Trains’ customers will need to use an alternative train operator for journeys to and from London. Those that have access to other routes via Chiltern Railways, East Midlands Trains and East Coast are being encouraged to use these instead. Southern services will also be impacted.
As part of a joint passenger campaign, travellers should use National Rail Enquiries to check and plan their journey if they have to travel during this time using: www.nationalrail.co.uk/Watford.