RAIL passengers will face severe disruption and extended journeys on Virgin Train services between London and Glasgow in the run up to Christmas due to a major engineering project.

The southern section of the West Coast Main Line will be closed to trains on December 23 and 24 as part of the £125 million Bletchley resignalling project, near Milton Keynes, allowing only one train per hour from Euston via an alternative route. No trains will run on Christmas or Boxing Day.

However, Network Rail, which is carrying out the work, and the Association of Train Operating Com-panies (Atoc) said the vast majority of people expected to travel over the Christmas and New Year period should experience no disruption. They added that the number of replacement bus services needed would be almost half that of the festive period last year.

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Direct services will resume on Thursday, December 27, but with two of the four lines closed up to and including New Year's Eve, this means fewer services to the usual destinations.

Robin Gisby, NR network operations managing director, said: "Services on the West Coast on December 23 and 24 will be severely affected by a major project to increase line-speeds and capacity in the Milton Keynes area.

"We understand and regret the impact this will have on passengers and freight services, but believe it is unfortunately necessary to achieve the long-term benefits."

Atoc chief executive Michael Roberts said: "A great deal of effort and planning goes into making sure that work to improve stations and make journeys faster and more reliable goes on while minimising disruption for our passengers. This year, we have again been able to reduce the number of people who will have to get on to a replacement bus."