Lancashire travellers heading around the country have been warned to expect major delays over Christmas.
Route closures and diversions could mean travelling times from Preston to London rising to around five hours – double the normal time.
Passengers are being advised to avoid the West Coast main line and to check before they travel as Network Rail continues its programme of investment and improvements.
The route will be closed between Stafford and Crewe after the last trains on Christmas Eve until Sunday 28 December.
To minimise disruption, Network Rail, Virgin Trains and London Midland are advising passengers to avoid the West Coast main line unless absolutely necessary and use alternative routes.
Travellers between Preston and London Euston will be diverted via Sheffield and London St Pancras.
There is also disruption in and around London.
The closure between Stafford and Crewe is part of a £250m investment to provide faster services and capacity for more trains, including building a new section of railway over the existing main line which will remove the last remaining bottleneck on the West Coast main line.
Jim Syddall, acting route managing director for Network Rail, said: “There is never a good time to carry out this type of work and we have liaised closely with the train operators to plan for it to take place at a quieter time on the railway. Norton Bridge, between Stafford and Crewe, is the last remaining bottleneck on the West Coast main line and the new flyover will help to increase capacity and allow linespeed improvements through the area.”
Phil Bearpark, Virgin Trains’ executive director for operations and projects, said: “The weekend of 27/28 of December will involve longer journeys, changes and potential overcrowding for passengers travelling to and from London on the West Coast main line.
“If it is possible for passengers to defer their travel until Monday or Tuesday, when normal services resume, we’d urge them to do that.”
Anyone wanting to travel over Christmas weekend is urged to check train operators’ websites for the latest travel information.