Image copyright Network Rail
Image caption Work will be carried out across London and elsewhere throughout August

Three weeks of major disruption on the railways starts this weekend, with key stations in London, services in Wales and the north of England expected to be heavily affected by engineering work. So how do you avoid a summer travel headache?

How is London affected?

Image copyright EPA
Image caption A number of works will be carried out over the bank holiday weekend

There are a number of closures planned in London throughout August, with Londoners, tourists and commuters all likely to be affected.

London Waterloo is likely to see some of the worst problems, with fewer trains running from Saturday 5 to Monday 28 August, as part of a 800m project to increase capacity at the station.

Work will include the extension of station platforms, with platforms one to nine closed during the whole time.

Platforms 10 to 19 will be open as usual but are likely to be very busy, while platforms 20 to 24 will temporarily open to provide extra room.

Train users are urged to avoid morning and evening rush hours, or to either work from home or “take a holiday”.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Waterloo will be one of the worst affected stations

There will also be no trains to London on the West Coast Mainline – London’s largest main line – on Saturday 26 and Sunday 27 August, when Euston will close.

As part of the HS2 high-speed rail project, engineers will install a new power supply at the station.

“Significant maintenance work” will also be carried out between Watford Junction and London Euston at the same time.

Work on the Crossrail project will also affect services between Liverpool Street and Shenfield, Ingatestone and Billericay from Saturday 26 to Monday 28 August.

From Saturday 27 August to Saturday 2 September, work on the Thameslink Programme will take place at London Bridge, Charing Cross and Cannon Street.

It will affect services to and from the stations, with passengers urged to use alternative routes.

Is it just London?

Unfortunately not. Works are also being carried out in the North-West, South Wales and the Midlands.

Those travelling on the Great Western Mainline between London Paddington and Wales from Saturday 19 August to Friday 15 September have been told to plan ahead due to electrification work between Swindon and Bristol Parkway.

Services between Newport and Cardiff will be reduced between 19 August and 3 September 2017, while “essential electrification work” is carried out, with no trains over the August bank holiday weekend.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Work to electrify some lines will cause cancellations

Services between Manchester and Preston will also be affected due to work to upgrade Bolton station between Saturday 12 and Sunday 27 August.

Most train services will not run in or out of Bolton until the first service on Monday 28 August, but trains will still run from Bolton to Blackburn and Clitheroe during weekdays.

A rail replacement service will also run between Tamworth and Derby on the Cross Country route on Sunday 27 August, as well as between Rugeley Trent Valley and Walsall on Sunday 27 and Monday 28 August.

There are also some minor works taking place in Scotland during the evenings and weekends this month.

Rugby League woes?

Image copyright PA
Image caption Wigan Warriors fans could suffer due to the closure of Euston station

Rugby League fans are set to be among those worst affected by the works.

The game’s showpiece cup final, the Challenge Cup, will be played between Hull and Wigan Warriors at Wembley Stadium on 26 August.

But Wigan fans hoping to travel to the capital on the train will have to avoid Euston station, with the club saying it is “unable to run official train packages this year” due to the closure.

All official travel will instead be by coach.

Closures could also affect fans attending the Community Shield, between Arsenal and Chelsea, which will be played at Wembley on Sunday 6 August.

The English Football League season begins on the weekend of 5 August, with the Premier League season getting under way on Friday 11 August.

Other major events taking place in London during August include the IAAF World Athletics Championships, from 4 to 13 August, and the Notting Hill Carnival, to be held over the August bank holiday weekend.

Why so many works?

Image caption Crossrail will link Reading and Heathrow, to the west of London, with Shenfield and Abbey Wood

August’s delays and closures are being caused by some of the biggest rail projects under way in the UK, including HS2 and Crossrail.

Network Rail says the work is part of the Railway Upgrade Plan, to relieve overcrowding and congestion on key lines.

Its says passenger numbers have doubled in the last 20 years – more than the current rail network was designed to serve – with that number set to double again in the next 25 years.

Benefits of its summer programme of work will include longer, faster and more frequent trains, a better, more reliable service, and improved facilities, it added.

But why August?

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Network Rail says the timing of work will affect fewer customers

For many, the sight of a rail replacement bus service trundling over the horizon during the summers weeks of August will come as little surprise.

Along with the Christmas and Easter breaks, the bank holiday weekend in August is one of the most popular times to carry out rail works.

Network Rail says carrying out essential works over bank holidays, at weekends and overnight causes the least amount of disruption for train users.

“Even though it might seem strange to carry out work at Christmas – when people are travelling to see friends and family – on average, around half the usual five million people travel by train each day during the Christmas period,” it says.

So we might have to get used to it.

So how do I plan ahead?

Network Rail is probably the best place for advice and also to plan journeys, although individual rail firms and operators have also published a raft of advice on how to dodge the delays.

Of the main closures, South West Trains says timetables for the works are now available during the work at London Waterloo.

Likewise, London Midland and Virgin Trains – which operate on the West Coast Mainline into London Euston – have also published details of the services they are running over the bank holiday weekend.

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