Update, Saturday, 10.30pm: Thousands of railway passengers faced travel misery as one of the country’s busiest rail terminals ground to a standstill on Saturday (27 December) with services to Peterborough hit, but services to and from London could improve on Sunday.
All trains in and out of London King’s Cross were expected to be cancelled or severely delayed because of overrunning Network Rail engineering works north of the station, with a reduced service running on Sunday with services to and from Peterborough.
With trains unable to run between Finsbury Park and London Kings Cross rail operator advice was to defer travel if possible.
East Coast Trains (@eastcoastuk) tweeted: “We expect to operate a full timetable tomorrow [Sunday, 28 December], subject to @networkrail completing maintenance on time. More: bit.ly/1sTwwVE”
More from the East Coast website: “Tickets for travel today are valid for use on Sunday 28 and Monday 29 December. We expect to operate the full published timetable tomorrow, subject to Network Rail completing this work on time. London customers should this evening use Finsbury Park instead of King’s Cross station.”
Current service alterations:
- East Coast are running a limited amended service to / from Finsbury Park with some services starting/terminating at Stevenage and Peterborough.
Ticket restrictions have been lifted tomorrow [Sunday] on East Coast services but passengers are advised to travel on a service as near as possible to the time of their original booking.
- First Hull Trains and Grand Central are running an amended service with trains terminating and starting from either Peterborough or Finsbury Park. Grand - Central passengers who have tickets for travel today [Saturday] or tomorrow, may use their tickets on Sunday 28 and Monday 29 December instead.
- Great Northern: A very limited train service is running where permited.
Replacement buses are running between Cambridge/Peterborough and Hitchin and also between Hitchin and London.
Saturday, 11am: East Coast spokesman Paul Emberley said: “Network Rail has apologised to passengers for the inevitable delays to their travel plans on Saturday as a result of the overrunning engineering works.
“East Coast is particularly sorry too for the inconvenience to its customers as a result, on what we know is an already very busy travel day immediately following the Christmas break.
“For customers intending to start or finish their journey at King’s Cross, consideration should be given to deferring travel plans to either Sunday or Monday.
“We’re working hard over the holiday period to make the necessary adjustments to our timetable as a consequence, and to provide as much information as we can.”
Network Rail said that the work was part of a £200 million Christmas investment programme, with most railways expected to return to normal on January 5.
It is one of 300 projects being undertaken over the holidays across 2,000 sites up and down the country by some 11,000 railway engineers.
A spokesman said: “What has happened is really regrettable and unfortunate, but it is a small part of a massive amount of engineering investment taking place over Christmas.”
The spokesman said that on a normal day 4.5 million passengers use the railways on average every day, compared with two million a day over the holidays.
David Sidebottom, passenger director at the independent watchdog Passenger Focus, said: “Investment in maintenance and improvement is necessary, and we passengers understand that.
“But overrunning works that disrupt already-limited festive travel are frustrating.
“Our research is clear: passengers want to be kept on the train wherever possible, they want to know before buying a ticket if part of the journey will be by bus, and they want plenty of staff on hand to signpost where to go and what to do.
“We will be looking to see that operators and Network Rail are doing all in their power to alert passengers, to help them make alternative arrangements and to make it easy for them to claim refunds or compensation.”
East Coast said customers who had been intending to use King’s Cross would need to start or finish their journey tomorrow at Finsbury Park in north London, with at least once change of train.
Sunday’s reduced service will see trains leaving King’s Cross up to 20 minutes earlier than normal and resume their usual stopping times from Peterborough onwards.
Services to King’s Cross will arrive up to 40 minutes later than normal.
Other services will start or end at Doncaster, Newark North Gate, Peterborough or Stevenage.
A Department for Transport spokesman said: “It is extremely disappointing that Network Rail’s engineering works have overrun and will affect travellers during this festive season, passengers will be rightly annoyed.
“This was essential work but passengers need to be able to plan and rely on Network Rail meeting its deadlines for having the network back in service.
“The department is in contact with Network Rail to understand what went wrong and if lessons can be learned for the future.”
Najib Mohamed, 18, from north London, said he had to make other arrangements after arriving at the station expecting a train to take him to work outside of the capital.
He said: “It is usually very, very busy here, but not today. I am supposed to be working as a fundraiser today and getting told where to go once I get here, but there are no trains so I think I might just go back to bed.”
Many travellers seemed to have heeded warnings about disruption, although a handful still formed queues at information desks.
One commuter said: “London in general seems pretty dead, Soho is quiet and most of the shops aren’t even open. It’s a huge station and the only people here seem to be those with suitcases who maybe missed the warnings.”