Rail confusion for England-Scotland train travellers in February

Going places? Passenger at strike-hit London Euston, which will have no Anglo-Scottish trains on 18-19 February  (Simon Calder)
Going places? Passenger at strike-hit London Euston, which will have no Anglo-Scottish trains on 18-19 February (Simon Calder)

Intercity rail passengers hoping for the return of some normality after the current round of strikes face yet more problems in mid-February.

At present passenger information indicates there will be simultaneous closure of the UK’s two key rail arteries – the East Coast and West Coast main lines – on 18 and 19 February. These are the routes that connect London with Edinburgh and Glasgow respectively.

But The Independent understands that engineering work that would have closed the East Coast main line hub, London King’s Cross, is being pared back to allow trains to run from the capital to Yorkshire, northeast England and Scotland.

The weekend is likely to be extremely busy, marking the start or end of half-term for many schools.

It seems certain that engineering work will close the West Coast main line on 18-19 February at two locations: north of Wigan North Western and between Preston and Lancaster

Avanti West Coast services from London Euston will terminate at Crewe or Wigan North Western.

Travelling south from Scotland, trains will terminate at Lancaster.

Passengers are warned: “If you are travelling with Avanti West Coast or TransPennine Express, these changes are not currently shown in the National Rail Enquiries Journey Planner.

“Please check back nearer to the time of travel.”

On the East Coast main line, the current passenger information states that London King’s Cross station will be closed for the weekend for planned Network Rail engineering work.

The main operator, LNER, is said to be starting and ending its services at St Neots in Cambridgeshire, 52 miles north of the capital.

Buses are scheduled to run between St Neots and Bedford, where passengers can travel on East Midlands Railway or Thameslink services to and from London St Pancras.

Alternatively, travellers can change at Peterborough for a train to Cambridge and continue to London Liverpool Street.

Journey times are planned to be extended by up to two hours.

Lumo trains from Edinburgh are said to be running to Peterborough, 76 miles north of the capital, with connecting buses.

Anthony Smith, chief executive of the independent watchdog Transport Focus, said: “Passengers understand that welcome improvements will mean some disruption, but they need plenty of information in advance.

“The scale of these works, closing both lines on top of the strikes and all the recent problems with TransPennine and Avanti, is really going to hurt.

“Passengers urgently need clarity on which lines will be open and alternative arrangements so they can plan their journey with confidence.”

All Grand Central services from Yorkshire and Teesside are currently shown as cancelled on both days of the weekend of 18 and 19 February, and the first King’s Cross to Sunderland service on Monday morning is also axed.

Hull Trains will run a circuitous route via Doncaster and Sheffield to London St Pancras, taking 70 minutes longer than normal.

But a long-established principle has long been that engineering work should not close both the East Coast and West Coast main lines simultaneously, and Network Rail is believed to be working with train operators to restore services on the East Coast main line to near normal.