Rugby’s rail link with London Euston will be out of action for one week next February, two weeks next August, as well as for bank holidays throughout 2014.
According to Rugby Rail Users Group (RRUG), the news is down to work on the West Coast Main Line at Watford. Alternative arrangements for passengers have yet to be publicly announced.
The group have also described how, at the end of July, the Rail Regulator rejected an application by Virgin Trains to run more services on the West Coast Main Line through Rugby which would have introduced new direct trains to Blackpool and Shrewsbury.
Both of these services had been planned to stop at Rugby and this would have restored at least some of the links from Rugby to the north which were severed in 2008.
According to RRUG, these proposals would have been especially valuable to Rugby rail users in extending direct journey opportunities.
Stephanie Clifford, RRUG Chair, said: “This work at Watford should have been done in 2007, but it was not, so after all the rebuilding and disruption on the West Coast line we now find there is more to come. This cannot be a happy experience for passengers.
“Such a major disruption to rail services to and from London will be of great concern to both commuters and leisure travellers and we hope alternative arrangements will be made which minimise the inconvenience to rail customers.”
Network Rail said of the decision: “We’re undertaking major work on the West Coast Main Line to improve performance and punctuality. In the past 15 years, the number of trains using the West Coast Main Line has doubled - and it’s getting busier.
“Much of the infrastructure around Watford dates from the 1960s and is becoming unreliable. It is a particularly heavily used section with trains running round the clock. There is a huge amount of work to do and the only alternative would have to close the line for 54 consecutive weekends to complete it. We decided that a series of longer closures at quieter times of the year would cause less disruption.”
The Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) said Virgin Train’s application to run services between Blackpool and Shrewsbury could have disrupted existing services. ORR Chief Executive, Richard Price said: “We understand that many people will be disappointed that ORR cannot at this stage give the go-ahead for new direct train services from London to Blackpool and Shrewsbury. We recognise the public support for these proposals, however our analysis shows the introduction of new services would see performance deteriorate on this key route for passengers.
Updates will be posted on our website at rugbyrailusersgroup.org.uk.