Red-faced bosses at Preston North End’s main sponsor Virgin Trains have apologised after plans for play-off specials were derailed by engineering work.
Sir Richard Branson’s company had hoped to lay on extra services to take the club’s fans to and from Wembley on May 24. But Bank Holiday maintenance by Network Rail to the West Coast mainline, coupled with the late 5.30pm kick-off, scuppered the idea.
It’s unfortunate timing – and slightly embarrassing for us bearing in mind our connections with Preston
Some supporters will be able to go by rail, via Manchester. But Virgin say there will not be enough trains available to get everyone back on the day – especially if the game goes to extra-time and even penalties.
“It’s unfortunate timing – and slightly embarrassing for us bearing in mind our connections with Preston,” said a spokesman. “But Network Rail is carrying out maintenance work on the line between Preston and London and it will be shut down just north of Crewe and south of Rugby.
“These works are planned well in advance and, clearly, no-one knew Preston would be in the play-off final on that day.
“We don’t have the option on the Sunday evening to put any further trains on, other than the one which is scheduled to come back to Manchester. And that won’t accommodate all the 3,000 or so fans we expect to want to travel by rail.
“So we are looking at what we can do on the Monday morning because the feedback we have had says a lot will be staying down for the night.”
While train travel could be difficult, coach giant National Express has revealed plans for direct services to the play-off final. The operator, which is the official transport supplier to Wembley, will be running direct services to the stadium from Preston Bus Station, priced £37 for adults and £22.50 children.