By lunchtime on Maundy Thursday, London Euston station was extremely busy. From the close of services tonight, the terminus for the West Coast main line will not reopen until Tuesday 19 April.
Large-scale rail engineering work, resulting in widespread line closures, has become an Easter tradition, and this year Euston is the target.
Since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, travelling patterns have changed – but the usual pattern of rail closures continues.
James Dean, Network Rail’s West Coast South route director, said: “There is never an ideal time to shut the railway and we have to carefully balance the best time to do this essential work with the needs of our passengers.
“Long bank holiday weekends continue to give our engineers the time they need to close the railway for complex jobs like track replacements and bridge overhauls while disrupting the fewest passengers.”
David Sidebottom, director at the independent watchdog Transport Focus, said: “For many of us, the Easter weekend is an opportunity to meet friends and family and take trips. Being able to rely on trains running when they are supposed to, is key.
“Passengers understand that welcome improvements will mean some disruption, but they need plenty of information before, during and after. This includes how their journeys are affected and what their choices are.
“It will also be important to have plenty of staff on hand during the disruption, to guide passengers and answer any questions.”
What is happening at London Euston?
The station, which normally links London via the West Midlands and northwest England to Scotland, will be completely closed from Good Friday to Easter Monday (15 to 18 April inclusive). The work is to replace track and improve switches and crossings.
Avanti West Coast, the inter-city operator, says: “Our trains will terminate at Milton Keynes or Rugby, where connections into rail replacement services will be available.”
Buses will run between Milton Keynes Central and Bedford, connecting primarily into Thameslink trains, and between Rugby and Kettering, connecting into East Midlands Railway services.
Which trains are affected?
- Birmingham, Carlisle and Manchester services will start or end at Milton Keynes.
- Liverpool trains will start/terminate at Rugby.
Besides the London Euston closure, there will be multiple sets of engineering work elsewhere on the West Coast main line, including the Coventry-Birmingham section of the line on Saturday and Sunday (16 and 17 April) for bridge renewal and “HS2 enabling works”.
Crewe, Carnforth and Carstairs will also be affected – the last of these closing the West Coast main line between Carlisle and Glasgow/Edinburgh. A limited service will run the pretty-but-slow way via Dumfries between Carlisle and Glasgow Central.
Where else will feel the most serious effects of rail closures?
From 15 to 18 April – Good Friday to Easter Monday inclusive – these lines will be closed:
Piccadilly line Tube trains will not run between Acton Town and Heathrow. Transport for London (TfL) says: “Customers for Heathrow are advised to use TfL Rail or Heathrow Express services and replacement buses will operate.”
TfL Rail departures from London Paddington run four times an hour to Heathrow Terminals 2 and 3, with two journeys each hour extended to Terminal 5. The one-way fare of £11.60 for TfL trains is less than half the £25 Heathrow Express price.
No trains will run on the main Gatwick Express/Southern route from London Victoria to Gatwick airport. Alternative rail services will run from London Bridge.
Stansted Express trains will not run, with rail replacement buses running from Waltham Cross to the Essex airport.
National Express provides a coach alternative.
Other train issues?
From the UK’s busiest station, London Waterloo, the line west of Staines will be closed.
The route from Waterloo through Hampshire, Wiltshire, Somerset and Dorset to Exeter will be interrupted between Yeovil Junction and Honiton – which is a shame because it’s a lovely way to travel between the capital and southwest England.
No trains will between London Marylebone and Aylesbury Vale Parkway via Amersham.
What about Eurostar?
The train operator linking London St Pancras with Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam is set for its busiest weekend for the past two years.
On Friday, a Covid-era record of 14 trains will run each way between the British and French capitals.
Eurostar is urging passengers to arrive 90 minutes before departure to pass through security and passport checks.
A British couple booked on the 1.31pm on Thursday from London to Paris arrived at St Pancras at 11.45am and were still some way from the front of the queue an hour later.
They report that passengers booked on imminent trains are being called forward, slowing everything down for other passengers.