Go slow: No trains will run between London Victoria and Gatwick airport over the early May bank holiday
Go slow: No trains will run between London Victoria and Gatwick airport over the early May bank holiday

Bank holiday rail problems at start and end of May

‘We strongly advise you travel either side of the Bank Holiday weekend’ – Avanti West Coast

Simon Calder
Travel Correspondent
Wednesday 28 April 2021 14:40

Many rail passengers face widespread disruption over the bank holiday weekends at the start and end of May.

Network Rail uses long weekends to carry out big engineering projects – which spells slower and more complicated journeys on a wide range of routes.

In 2021, the early May day weekend is 1-3 May, while the Spring bank holiday weekend takes up the final three days of the month.

From 1 to 3 May, the West Coast main line to and from London Euston is completely closed for work connected with the HS2 high-speed project, as well as engineering work in the Wembley, Watford and Bletchley areas.

Some services are starting and ending at Milton Keynes Central. But Avanti West Coast, which normally runs inter-city services from the capital to the West Midlands, northwest England, North Wales and southern Scotland, warns: “We strongly advise you travel either side of the bank holiday weekend.”

The National Rail Enquiries service recommends passengers between the capital and Manchester travel either via Sheffield from London St Pancras or via Reading from Paddington.

Between London and Birmingham, Chiltern Railways offers alternative services from London Marylebone to Birmingham Moor Street and Snow Hill, though these are expected to be busy.

Track upgrades are taking place at several locations further north on the West Coast main line, including between Rugby and Birmingham; Crewe and Warrington, Preston and Lancaster; and Carlisle and Carstairs.

Over the late May bank holiday weekend, there will be further work on the West Coast main line – though not outright closures.

Thameslink and East Midlands Railway links to, from and through London St Pancras will run to a reduced timetable between 1 and 3 May because of work for the new Brent Cross West station in the northwest suburbs.

On Saturday and Sunday 29 and 30 May, no East Midlands Railway trains will run between London St Pancras and Luton. A replacement bus will run between Stanmore, on the London Underground, and Luton.

Main line services from Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex to London Liverpool Street will terminate in Chelmsford from 1 to 3 May. Passengers from the capital to Colchester, Ipswich and Norwich are advised to take the Central Line to Newbury Park, from which trains will run to Witham – northeast of Chelmsford.

No Southern services will run to or from London Victoria, due to work on signalling and track. Links to Gatwick Airport and the Sussex coast will operate to and from London Bridge.

On the East Coast main line, the next major disruption will take place from the early afternoon of Friday 4 to Sunday 6 June, with the closure of London King’s Cross.

The latest figures from the Department for Transport on UK journeys show a significant increase in rail trips, with train travel on Tuesday 20 April reaching 44 per cent of pre-pandemic levels. If that provisional figure is confirmed, it will be the highest since 19 March 2020.

Road use is almost back to normal, with motor vehicles reaching 99 per cent of pre-pandemic levels on 24 and 25 April.

The RAC predicts nearly 15 million separate leisure trips will be made by car between Friday 30 April and Monday 3 May, the highest number since 2016.

A survey of 1,000 drivers indicates 62 per cent more leisure trips are planned this coming bank holiday weekend than over the Easter break four weeks ago.

The RAC traffic spokesman, Rod Dennis, said: “After what was one of the quietest Easters on the roads in years, our figures suggest the easing of Covid restrictions has made a dramatic difference with millions more drivers planning to hit the roads.”

Saturday is expected to be the busiest day of the weekend, followed by Friday and Monday. The busiest roads are expected to be holiday routes including the M5 from the Midlands and Bristol to Devon, and the M6 to Cumbria.

“Given nearly a fifth of drivers we surveyed said they had yet to decide on which day over the long weekend they will be travelling, it might well be the case that the weather ends up playing a deciding role in which days end up being busiest,” Mr Dennis said.

“Any sunnier, warmer days could trigger many more people to jump into their cars.”

The government is urging people to keep journeys to a minimum.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

View comments