Easter weekend travel: Holidaymakers face chaos on trains, boats and planes

Key railway stations in the UK will be closed, while strikes in France jeopardise journeys abroad

 

Easter Weekend Travel: Simon Calder gives advice ahead of air strikes and railway station closures

After the last train from Bristol Temple Meads to London Paddington at 10.35pm on Thursday, the next service will not run until Wednesday 4 April. The busiest station in the west of England is closing for five days over Easter because of engineering work to upgrade signalling and improve reliability.

On a normal day, more than 25,000 passengers use the station, while tens of thousands more pass through on journeys such as Exeter to Birmingham and Cardiff to Southampton.

Many other rail travellers will be affected by Easter engineering projects. Manchester Victoria station is closed from Good Friday to Easter Monday for electrification work. Bus replacement services will operate.

London Euston, the fifth-busiest station in Britain, will close all day on Easter Sunday for work in the Wembley area. To Manchester, the recommended route involves a train from London St Pancras to Kettering, then a bus to Rugby to connect with rail services. Journey times could be doubled.

To Birmingham, passengers are urged to travel via Chiltern Railways between London Marylebone and Birmingham Moor Street – but are warned that trains will be extremely busy.

The line between Glasgow and Carlisle will close from Saturday to Monday, due to signalling work at Motherwell. Buses will replace trains.

The highest concentration of work is in South-east England. The main line from London Charing Cross to Dover and Hastings is closed for the whole long weekend between Sevenoaks and Tonbridge, because of engineering work in a tunnel beneath the North Downs.

The Great Western line is disrupted between London Paddington and Reading. With two of the four tracks out of action, high-speed trains could get caught behind local stopping services. Heathrow airport’s rail services to and from Paddington will be basically halved through the long weekend.

The South Western Railway line between Waterloo station and Reading is cut between Clapham Junction and Richmond from Good Friday to Easter Monday. The train operator says a strike across the long weekend by members of the RMT is unlikely to disrupt services.

Mark Carne, chief executive of Network Rail, said: “While most of the network is open for business as usual, some routes are heavily affected and so we strongly advise passengers to plan ahead this Easter.

“Our Railway Upgrade Plan is the biggest in 100 years. A number of massively complex and hugely challenging projects are on the home straight. These will bring faster journeys, more comfort and greater reliability to millions of people who rely on the railway.”

Travellers heading to or through Paris on Air France face disruption due to strikes by pilots, cabin crew and ground staff on Good Friday and the Wednesday after Easter.

The airline says it will cancel 30 per cent of European services, and one-fifth of long-haul flights, but warns “last-minute delays and cancellations may occur”.

Four flights connecting Paris with Heathrow and Manchester have been cancelled, along with other cancellations from UK airports.

The unions are demanding a 6 per cent increase in pay to compensate for what they say are several years of wage stagnation. Air France, which saw profits rise by 42 per cent last year to €1.5bn (£1.31bn), is offering a 1 per cent rise plus other benefits.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, 3 and 4 April, rail workers in France will stop work in the first of a series of two-day strikes against labour reforms.

Eurostar has cancelled a total of 20 trains between London and Paris, and nine between London and Brussels, on the strike days. The Disneyland service will run to Paris Nord rather than direct to the theme park, obliging passengers to take a complicated onward journey on suburban trains.

Workers at the port of Calais will take industrial action on 5 April 2018, affecting ferries to and from Dover.

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