Easter trains: no strikes – but how badly will you be disrupted by planned engineering works?
The national rail strikes planned for 30 March and 1 April have been suspended. But widespread engineering work continues, especially over Easter and the end of April/beginning of May.
Network Rail warns: “There will be disruption to services on many routes between Friday 7 April and Monday 10 April 2023 (inclusive), and Friday 28 April and Monday 1 May 2023 (inclusive).
“Some train services will be affected as we work to improve the railway. So, be in the know before you go.”
The most significant disruption to intercity services will be on the West Coast Main Line.
Right through the Easter weekend, no trains will run to or from London Euston. Trains from the West Midlands, northwest England and North Wales will terminate at Milton Keynes Central.
At the other end of the West Coast route, southern Scotland will be cut off from England by long-term improvement work at Carstairs.
These are the key pain points for train travellers.
When does disruption begin?
Immediately, on the West Coast Main Line. A big improvement project at Carstairs in southern Scotland has been disrupting links between Glasgow, Edinburgh and the West Coast route to England since 4 March, and will continue until 4 June.
Liam Sumpter, route director for Network Rail Scotland, said: “Our Carstairs works are designed to improve the railway so that we can provide a better and more reliable service for our passengers and freight customers.”
No ScotRail trains will operate via Carstairs until 28 May. Various workarounds involving diversions via Dumfries or Shotts will allow some Avanti West Coast services to continue to link England with Glasgow Central.
TransPennine Express services from Manchester airport, Preston and Lancaster will terminate at Carlisle.
Some replacement buses are running.
The Caledonian Sleeper will be re-routed via the East Coast Main Line. Services will still start and end at London Euston, but on Good Friday, 7 April, overnight trains will use London King’s Cross ahead of the closure over Easter of the West Coast Main Line.
On Saturday 1 April and Sunday 2 April, the Midland Main Line from London St Pancras to Leicester and Sheffield will be closed between Bedford and Mill Hill Broadway in northwest London.
East Midlands Railway will run only as far south as Bedford, with connecting buses running to Hitchin, where passengers can pick up Thameslink trains to London.
Thameslink warns: “This weekend there is extremely limited rail replacement availability.”
Over the same weekend, Portsmouth will be cut off from London Waterloo due to engineering work between Guildford and Havant.
The line between Salisbury and Southampton will also close on 1 and 2 April.
What is the biggest rail problem over Easter?
The one that will cause most difficulty to long-distance travellers is the closure of London Euston station – hub for Avanti West Coast and London Northwestern.
Avanti West Coast says: “We strongly recommend you travel either side of the Easter weekend.”
The West Coast Main Line is completely closed between Euston and Milton Keynes Central, 50 miles up the track.
The workaround depends on your origin/destination.
Glasgow: one train every hour to/from Milton Keynes Central, but taking many hours – and, on Easter Sunday, two bus replacement services (Lancaster-Carlisle and Carlisle-Glasgow).
Liverpool: one train every two hours to/from Rugby
Manchester Piccadilly: one train each hour from Milton Keynes Central via Stoke-on-Trent.
Birmingham New Street: one train per hour from Milton Keynes Central, continuing to Wolverhampton and Stafford
North Wales: trains to/from Holyhead will start/end at Crewe.
To connect with the end points, replacement buses will run between Milton Keynes and Bedford, and between Rugby and Kettering. From either Kettering or Bedford you can travel to London St Pancras International on East Midlands Railway.
The western half of London Victoria, serving south London, Gatwick, Brighton and the south coast, will once again close completely for “modernising the track and signalling”.
Fortunately there is an alternative route between central London and East Croydon, where the main line heads south to Sussex. While no Gatwick Express trains will run, the airport can be accessed via Southern and Thameslink – the latter also running through central London and serving Blackfriars, Farringdon (for the Elizabeth Line) and St Pancras.
London Charing Cross and Waterloo East
Both stations will close on Saturday 8 and Sunday 9 April, with normal services diverted to Cannon Street or Victoria.
The Southeastern line between Tunbridge Wells and the East Sussex coast will be closed throughout the Easter weekend, and afterwards until Sunday 16 April.
Replacement buses will run.
Travellers between the capital and Hastings could use Southern from London Bridge.
Buses will replace trains between these stations on the South Western Railway main line from London Waterloo to Southampton and Salisbury. This will also affect GWR links from Reading to Basingstoke and CrossCountry services between Reading and the South Coast.
London-Southampton trains are being diverted via Guildford and Havant, with the journey time extended to almost two hours.
The same disruption will apply the following weekend, 15-16 April
The line through Hope and Edale in the Peak District is closed on Easter Saturday and Sunday, with some services diverted via Huddersfield – adding half-an-hour to the journey.
London Underground/Elizabeth Line
Glynn Barton, chief operating officer for Transport for London (TfL), says: “We have ensured most of London’s transport network will remain open over the Easter holidays to help everyone make the most of the city, but customers are still asked to plan ahead and check before they travel as some essential planned works will be taking place.”
TfL will cut some Elizabeth Line services between Paddington and Maidenhead over the Easter long weekend.
“There will also be no service between Paddington and Abbey Woodâ¯during those dates, with services from Shenfield terminating at Liverpool Street main line station and services from Reading and Heathrow terminating at Paddington main line station,” says TfL.
The Jubilee Line will be closed on Good Friday (7 April) until 2pm, when it will open between West Hampstead and Stratford.