Today is the last day that trains on the West Coast Mainline (the Silverlink part of it, anyhow) will be running without disruption until 21st June. There are minor amendments to the published timetable over this weekend but on Monday the fun and games really start.
There is a revised timetable in effect for Monday to Friday next week. In actual fact, we appear to benefit from this change rather than suffer. Our usual morning train (the 7.49 from Hemel) is still running but now appears to be starting from Hemel, so there should be plenty of seats available. In the evening, not only is our normal train running as it does now but there is an additional service leaving just four minutes earlier that is first stop Hemel, which will shave about 15 minutes off our homeward journey. During the off-peak times of the day, services are more drastically affected.
Tomorrow week things get worse. The whole of the West Coast Mainline from Euston to Birmingham will be closed for nine days, ensuring travel chaos will ensue. For the four workdays that fall into that period, rush-hour passengers will be taken by bus to nearby stations on alternate lines that will hopefully be able to cope with the extra numbers. For us that would mean going to Amersham and getting on the Metropolitan Line. Going from Amersham to Moorgate would take 75 minutes (about as long as the journey takes me door-to-door at the moment) so the total journey time would be up at two hours or more. We've done the sensible thing and booked time off instead.
On Monday 7th June the line reopens again but next week's revised timetable is in force for another two weeks before everything gets back to normal.
So, what will they be doing during all this disruption? Well, there's actually quite an impressive list of work that should be going on over the next month. It includes putting in new signalling, repairing bridges, overhead line maintenance and lengthening some platforms so that all stations can hold twelve carriage trains. It's this last one that interests me the most because it should mean it will become easier to get a seat in the future.
If they were to do all of this work at weekends, it would take months to complete and, to my mind, it's as well to get it all out of the way as soon as possible. I just hope it's all worth it and we will end up with a better, more reliable rail service as a result.