Thousands of Aston Villa fans heading to Wembley this weekend and hoping to use the trains are in for a shock with services on the Cross City line facing major disruption.
West Midlands Railway has confirmed buses will replace trains between Lichfield Trent Valley and Birmingham New Street, including all stations in Sutton Coldfield and Erdington, and Aston on Saturday (May 26) when the Villans will take on Fulham in the Championship play-off final seeking that coveted place in the Premier League.
There will also be bus replacement services from Tame Bridge Parkway and the Aston Villa heartlands of Hamstead, Perry Barr and Witton – the closest station to the ground.
While the rail company has also said there will be a ‘reduced service’ on the southern part of the Cross City line between New Street and Redditch.
The West Midlands Police’s Force Football Unit which covers Aston Villa tweeted on Thursday: “Between 14,000 and 15,000 estimated AVFC fans Travelling via Chiltern Railways on Saturday, trains and stations will be very busy please be patient with rail staff and each other please.”
The direct service to Wembley Stadium runs from Birmingham’s Moor Street station but fans travelling on the Cross City line will have to account for the disruption an extra time required on that service.
Head of corporate affairs for West Midlands Trains, Francis Thomas, said: “We want Aston Villa fans to have a great day at Wembley. Unfortunately due to essential maintenance work we won’t have northern section of the Cross City Line in operation.
“The bus replacement service is likely to take twice as long depending on where you are travelling from. Allow plenty of time.
“We want people to have a great time and hope Aston Villa get the result they are looking for.”
To add to the problems those travelling from Birmingham New Street also face disruption with planned upgrade work on the railway between there and Coventry which means there will be no trains between the two for the whole weekend.
A major resignalling project between Birmingham New Street and Coventry, via Birmingham International, means there will be bus replacement services in operation or diverted journeys which will take longer to get to or from London Euston from Saturday May 26 until Tuesday May 29, causing problems for Shrewsbury Town in the League One play-offs against Rotherham on Sunday and for Coventry City fans on Bank Holiday Monday as they take on Exeter on the League Two play-off final at Wembley.
Network Rail said: “The investment will improve the railway between Birmingham and Coventry, increasing capacity and enabling better, more reliable journeys.”
Chiltern Railways said it will be strengthening its services between Birmingham, Wembley and London Marylebone with 10,000 extra seats over the bank holiday weekend. However trains are still expected to be much busier than usual and queuing systems will be used if needed at stations along the route.
Martin Frobisher, Network Rail route managing director for the London North Western route, said: “These upgrades are a vital step towards us being able to provide better, more reliable journeys for the millions of passengers who travel on the railway from London to Carlisle via the West Midlands and the north west of England.
“The work we do is essential to keeping people and goods moving. Improvement work on the railway is planned years in advance, ahead of any short-term scheduling of sporting events and knowing which teams will compete in finals.
“There is never a good time to carry out big pieces of work but we plan it over bank holidays which are traditionally quieter times to affect the fewest number of people.”
While Eleni Jordan, commercial director for Chiltern Railways added: “Customers travelling to Wembley over the weekend should be aware that queuing systems will be in place at Birmingham Moor Street, London Marylebone and Wembley Stadium stations, and there may be queues of 90 minutes or longer in both directions.
“We’ll have extra people at our stations to help and advice. We appreciate your patience during this busy time.”
Source : BirminghamMail