Hundreds of trains scrapped 'to boost services'

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Nearly 500 trains a week are to be scrapped when the winter timetables are introduced, the Strategic Rail Authority confirmed yesterday.

The services to go from 28 September are mainly in London and the South-east, Birmingham, Liverpool and Wales.

A spokesman for the SRA said the cuts were being made to allow more heavily subscribed services to run on time. The spokesman argued that the trains cut were insignificant out of a total of 125,000 services a week. He said the services were being cut because the trains were "obstructing trains behind them.

"It's about who is going to get the benefits," the spokesman said. "The reason we're cutting these services is to improve the performance ... for people who use the service day-in day-out. We're trying to remove bottlenecks from the network."

All 14 Virgin Cross Country trains that run each day between Birmingham and Liverpool are to go, there will be fewer services between Birmingham and Cardiff and fewer off-peak trains between Waterloo and Southampton, and Reading and Guildford via Woking.

The SRA also confirmed that large parts of the rail network across the country would be disrupted during the August bank holiday weekend because of maintenance work by Network Rail.

"The bank holiday weekend during the summer period is the one time we feel we can minimise the disruption to passengers," the SRA spokesman said. "No matter what time you do it, there's going to be disruption."

The services worst affected will be those to Wales and the west of England and those on the east coast main line, which will be shut between Newark and Retford. Travel will also be suspended between Stockport and Manchester and Hemel Hempstead and Milton Keynes.

Track work around Slough will mean that people travelling to Bath and Bristol from London will have to leave from Waterloo, rather than Paddington, meaning an extra hour of journey time. The rail service between Liverpool Street and Stansted airport - normally a busy line over a holiday weekend - will be replaced by a bus service.

The decision to do maintenance work was criticised by the Automobile Association, which predicted a consequent gridlock on the roads.