Passengers struggling to return home after the Christmas break have endured “misery on top of misery” after all services from London’s King’s Cross station to the north were cancelled and the local station where their trains were re-routed from was shut due to the resulting overcrowding.
National Rail confirmed it was forced to temporarily close Finsbury Park in north London due to overcrowding at around 11.30am on Saturday. Large numbers of passengers had arrived there after overrunning engineering works on the east coast mainline meant trains were scrapped at King’s Cross.
Travellers trying to get to and from the west of England also suffered serious disruption to their journeys after all lines out of Paddington were blocked by a signalling fault, Network Rail said.
Paddington had already been running limited services because of engineering works scheduled to last until 5 January.
First Great Western said overrunning engineering works were further exacerbating the problem. In a statement, the train operator said: “Due to overrunning engineering work in the London Paddington area, services are not running between London Paddington and Reading, which is resulting in cancellations and delays.”
Travellers at Finsbury Park took to Twitter to vent their frustration. Jim Ewing tweeted a picture of the station concourse jammed with travellers, adding that he had been stuck in a corrider for more than an hour. “It’s crazy here, disorganised chaos,” he wrote.
Willard Foxton tweeted a photo of the chaos outside, adding: “Queue to get into Finsbury park. Whatever genius had the plan ‘send all of Kings X here’ should be fired.”
The shadow transport secretary, Michael Dugher, said the government needed to get a grip on the travel chaos.
“Ministers are responsible for piling misery on top of misery for those who have to rely on our railway,” he said. “It was the government that allowed almost the entire rail network to be shut down during Boxing Day, one of the busiest bank holidays of the year.
“Now we see this further unacceptable disruption, just as people try to get home after Christmas and at a time when many of our roads have experienced severe problems because of the bad weather.”
King’s Cross was closed on Friday evening for 24 hours as work to install new overhead power cables on tracks running north of the station has taken longer than expected.
Before Christmas, Network Rail warned passengers that a £200m engineering project scheduled between Christmas and New Year would affect stations across the network, with an estimated 11,000 engineers working on Christmas Day.
Paul Emberley, a spokesman for East Coast Trains, said: “Network Rail has apologised to passengers for the inevitable delays to their travel plans on Saturday as a result of the overrunning engineering works.
“East Coast is particularly sorry, too, for the inconvenience to its customers as a result on what we know is an already very busy travel day immediately following the Christmas break.
“For customers intending to start or finish their journey at King’s Cross, consideration should be given to deferring travel plans to either Sunday or Monday.
“We’re working hard over the holiday period to make the necessary adjustments to our timetable as a consequence, and to provide as much information as we can.”
A Department for Transport spokesman said: “It is extremely disappointing that Network Rail’s engineering works have overrun and will affect travellers during this festive season, passengers will be rightly annoyed.
“This was essential work but passengers need to be able to plan and rely on Network Rail meeting its deadlines for having the network back in service.
“The department is in contact with Network Rail to understand what went wrong and if lessons can be learned for the future.”