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'It's going to take forever the other day was awful too'

The irritation etched on the harassed mother's face illustrated exasperation felt by tens of thousands of rail travellers yesterday as they tried to negotiate major engineering works. "I'm going to Manchester and it is going to take forever," she called behind her. "It was bloody awful the other day as well."

Passenger groups were furious when Network Rail announced less than a week before Christmas that it would extend engineering works (initially intended for three days from 27 December) in the Rugby area to include 31 December. Last night the work was further extended to New Year's Day.

As many as 61,000 passengers including 6,000 who had booked before the extension was announced were forced to endure longer trips and transfers on to coaches.

The worst affected were those travelling between Manchester and Euston, whose normal two-and-a-quarter-hour journey was doubled by having to take a coach to Stockport, a train to Birmingham, another coach to Northampton before eventually getting back on a train to Euston.

Gemma Hillidge, 21, who had travelled from Liverpool to join university friends for New Year's Eve, looked exhausted as she emerged from the station. "I was quite worried I would not get here on time to get ready for tonight. It was a bit of a pain because when I booked my ticket it said the train was direct," she said.

Elham Mahmoud, 22, looked shattered at the prospect of a long trip to Liverpool having just got off a flight from Kuwait. The medical engineering student said her plans for getting back for a quiet celebration before resuming her studies today had been crushed. "When we booked the tickets they said it would be a direct train," she said.