UK

Easter travel disruption likely on rail and roads

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Media captionNetwork Rail said the work, which begins on Friday, was "essential" for passenger safety and would improve service reliability

People travelling by rail over Easter should "think twice", Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin has said.

He told the Evening Standard large-scale rail engineering work may make journeys more difficult.

Several major rail routes are affected, particularly the London to Scotland West Coast main line, parts of Kent and lines running through Reading.

The RAC said four million motorists were expected to travel on Good Friday and some 4.5 million on Easter Sunday.

Arriva Trains said passengers in Wales travelling to London would face delays due to engineering works.

"There will be alternatives and we've lifted almost all motorway roadworks to help," Mr McLoughlin said.

More than 550 miles of roadworks have been put on hold over the weekend by Highways England, formerly the Highways Agency.

For safety reasons the speed restrictions will remain in place but the roadworks, on England's motorways and major A roads, will not resume until Tuesday.

Image caption One West Coast line passenger said she was diverted onto the East Coast line, only to face further delays

Mr McLoughlin said "an army of 14,000 workers" would be working around the clock over the Easter weekend to upgrade train lines.

"But if you are travelling between Friday and Monday night please check your journey first, it may be that you'll think twice about how you travel.

"I'm sorry if it is more difficult - but my promise is that the work is essential and when it's done the benefits will be worthwhile."

One passenger travelling on the sleeper train from Inverness to London Euston told the BBC that the delays were worse than expected.

She said that passengers had been expecting a 90-minute delay after receiving a warning email a few weeks ago. However, after being diverted down the East Coast line, passengers faced a "long wait at Wembley", she said, where engineering works were taking place.

Planned works

Network Rail has promised to try to prevent a repeat of the rail chaos which occurred at Christmas.

An overrunning engineering project shut the line between Reading and London Paddington at the end of last year.

Julian Burnell, from Network Rail, said work on the Reading station redevelopment, in its last major stage, was a "very big project, dealing with one of the biggest bottlenecks anywhere in the country".

He added: "I can't say there's absolutely no danger [of an overrun at Easter], but we have done everything in our power to get it finished in good time. There are hundreds of buses waiting if that happens."

Work on the railways this Easter includes:

  • No Virgin or London Midland trains in or out of London's Euston station between Good Friday and Easter Monday, due to major work at Watford
  • Virgin Trains will run no further south than Milton Keynes, Rugby or Northampton
  • No direct London Midland services between Euston and Hemel Hempstead, part of Network Rail's £81m plan to replace nine miles of track, signalling equipment and overhead power lines
  • Virgin services to northern England and Scotland will be severely restricted, because of improvement work on the West Coast line between Crewe and Warrington and between Carlisle and Glasgow
  • Manchester Victoria station will be closed from Good Friday to the end of Easter Monday
  • There will be no Southeastern services to or from Charing Cross, Waterloo East or Cannon Street in London

As a result of the work being undertaken, Virgin is "strongly recommending" that passengers do not travel between Good Friday and Easter Monday.

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Media captionThe BBC's Robert Piggott: "The south east of England will bear the brunt of the disruption"

Speaking of the work being carried out at Watford, Network Rail route managing director Martin Frobisher said: "There is never a good time to carry out this type of work but we have liaised closely with the train operators to plan for it to take place at a quieter time on the railway."

According to traffic information company Trafficmaster, the top five busiest stretches of road over Easter are likely to be:

  • A303 westbound through Hampshire, Wiltshire and Somerset
  • M1 from junction 6A (M25 interchange) to junction 13 east of Milton Keynes, and from junction 23A in Leicestershire to junction 32 south of Rotherham
  • M5 from junction 15 north of Bristol towards junction 31 (Exeter)
  • M6 through the West Midlands (from junction 4A) and northwards towards Lancashire (junction 21A)
  • M25 all sections, in particular both ways near junctions 14-17 around Heathrow Airport
Image copyright PA
Image caption Patrick McLoughlin said the engineering work being carried out would prove to be "worthwhile"

Breakdown company Green Flag said 54,000 call-outs were expected over the weekend, with one puncture every minute. It said the M4 was likely to be one of the worst-congested roads.

The coach company National Express said it planned to provide 33,000 extra seats to cope with the extra demand from passengers.

According to the travel group Abta, 1.8 million Britons are heading abroad over the weekend, with Spain and Florida among the top destinations.

Heathrow Airport said it was expecting a record-breaking Easter weekend with more than 800,000 passengers passing through.

The airport, which expects a 40% rise in the number of families travelling with small children, has called in 150 extra staff members.

Gatwick Airport will see some 480,000 passengers between Good Friday and Easter Monday - an increase of about 11% on Easter last year.

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