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May rail misery: Eight days of disruption facing passengers as strikes and engineering work combine

Simon Calder’s Travel

Rail passengers face eight days of disruption in early May as long-planned engineering work by Network Rail over the bank holiday weekend merges into the next round of industrial action by train drivers.

Key stretches of track will be closed from late Friday evening, 3 May, through to the start of service on Tuesday morning, 7 May. Network Rail says it will have 487 projects in operation over the weekend.

Network Rail’s system operator director, Anit Chandarana, said: “The vast majority of the railway will be open for business as normal. We know people want to travel by train and not replacement bus and we do our best to fit as much work as we can into these closures to minimise the impact on passengers and freight customers.

“The work this month will see new track laid on one of the busiest mixed-use railway in the world – the West Coast Main Line – along with work to replace worn out equipment at junctions at Crewe. We’ve also got more work to build a new station at Cambridge South.”

On Tuesday 7 May, a three-day succession of “rolling” strikes by train drivers belonging to the Aslef union in a long and bitter dispute over pay and working arrangements will have begun.

A six-day overtime ban by train drivers, running from 6 to 11 May, will cause many hundreds of further cancellations.

These are the key questions and answers.

The most disruptive rail projects?

Once again, the most serious effects of engineering work will be felt by passengers hoping to use the West Coast Main Line, which connects London Euston with the West Midlands, northwest England, North Wales and southern Scotland.

The main London-Birmingham line will be severed between Rugby and Birmingham International due to track renewal work – disrupting Avanti West Coast, West Midlands Railway and London North Western Railway services. The work will also affect the CrossCountry line from Leamington Spa to Coventry, but an alternative route via Solihull is available.

Many other projects on the line mean a much-reduced service on the intercity operator Avanti West Coast, with most journeys taking significantly longer due to diversionary routes.

The line between Euston and Milton Keynes Central will be closed completely on Sunday 5 May. On the same day, no trains will run between Glasgow and anywhere in England “owing to improvement work on the West Coast Main…

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