Rugby fans fouled by traffic chaos

CHRISTIAN WOLMAR

Transport Correspondent

Thousands of rugby fans converging on Twickenham for today's rugby match between Bath and Wigan will be greeted by traffic chaos.

Twickenham station in south-west London has been closed for safety reasons. Trains will still use the station and passengers will be allowed to change there, but not to leave the station.

The bizarre situation for today's Union v League match arose because Railtrack refused to postpone long-established engineering works.

South West Trains was therefore unable to provide its normal quota of up to 15 rugby specials and even some regular trains have been cancelled. As a result, the newly privatised train operator, now owned by Stagecoach, Britain's biggest bus operator, felt compelled to close Twickenham station because of the risk of having too many people trying to get on its restricted service.

To the confusion of the fans, some trains will be operating from Waterloo to Reading and due to line closures passengers on those trains will have to change at Twickenham.

As a result of the closure, the Rugby Football Union has had to restrict today's capacity to 50,000, two-thirds of its normal maximum. The RFU has warned all ticket purchasers about the closure but many fans are expected to turn up at Waterloo unaware of the problem. They will be told to take a train to Richmond about a mile from the ground and walk or take a bus from there.

Those trying to go on trains to Twickenham will be warned that the station is closed and will not be allowed out of the station.

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