Rail service improvements and disruptions

20.04.12

FA refuses to engage over kick-off timing

Virgin boss Sir Richard Branson has waded into the controversy over the timing of the FA Cup, whose late kick-off will prevent thousands of fans travelling home to Liverpool by train due to long-planned engineering works.

Network Rail says that if the match kicked off at the usual 3pm, instead of 5.15pm as planned, far more could be done to help fans get the train home.

Works over the Bank Holiday weekend include the rebuilding of a junction north of Crewe, originally scheduled for 2010 but abandoned because of the volcanic ash cloud, as Network Rail then postponed works to assist people stranded by the airlines.

In his letter, Sir Richard said: “The decision by the FA to schedule the Cup Final on a Bank Holiday weekend and start at 5.15pm rather than the traditional 3pm has been made for the FA’s commercial reasons at the expense of the travelling football fan.

“As is now customary on Bank Holiday weekends, the line is partly closed for improvement work. This is Network Rail’s massive renewal programme, scheduled more than two years ago, which will improve reliability on the line.

“The FA were told of these plans and of the impacts of a late kick off, but chose to ignore the advice of Virgin Trains and Network Rail. 

“If the FA had engaged with the industry we could have worked out a range of options well ahead of time and timed the match to minimise the disruption. 

“I agree with Transport Secretary Justine Greening who said in the Commons today that the timing of the match is the underlying problem.”

“Virgin Trains carries around 100,000 people every day and our customers have changed plans to accommodate these closures. If the works are cancelled on May 5th, it will have serious knock on effects and we will have to disrupt thousands of our customers’ journeys again.

“We have a strong relationship with Liverpool FC and twice recently have worked with them and Network Rail to bring many fans to Wembley. 

“On this occasion we would ask the FA to look again at the timing of the game.”

The FA says that coaches between Wembley and Liverpool will be sufficient to ensure all fans can get home.

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