Liverpool FC fans are facing major travel disruption for the FA Cup Final next month against Chelsea FC. This comes as Virgin Trains cancelled most of its direct services between London Euston and Liverpool Lime Street for May 5. Due to engineering works between Warrington and Crewe, as well as outside the city, only three services will run from Liverpool to London on the day of the Cup Final.
On top of that, every train will depart before 8am, but the match doesn’t start until 5:15pm. This is the first time since 2007, when the new Wembley Stadium opened its doors, that the Final has been moved from its traditional 3pm slot. It means that Liverpool fans won’t be able to get back to Liverpool by train when the match is over. Fans will have to take a replacement bus service to Crewe to get to London by train, or they could leave from Chester or Manchester. There will be chartered trains, but these will have to leave Lime Street before 8am.
Virgin Trains may increase capacity on services to London for May 5, but it warns about severe disruption for those trying to get back to Liverpool the following day. They will be operating a limited service for trains leaving Euston on May 6 due to engineering works in Milton Keynes. Additionally, trains to Liverpool will depart from Rugby, which is nearly 80 miles away. The train operator is advising passengers to travel on the east coast line to York, Doncaster or Sheffield first, and then taking a five-hour trip that involves five trains or a cross-Pennine service. A Virgin Train spokesman says this work was planned for the May Day bank holiday weekend a long time ago by Network Rail.
Despite the impending travel disruption, Network Rail says the engineering works will continue as scheduled. A spokesperson said engineering works are planned about 18 months ahead of any sports schedules and before they know which teams will compete in the final. There aren’t as many travellers on the network over weekends, so essential works are planned for these least disruptive times. It’s unfortunate Liverpool fans won’t able to return by train in this case, with the FA Cup Final coming earlier in the month and choosing a later kick-off time. However, delaying the works will mean more passengers are disrupted on a different day.
On Saturday for the FA Cup Semi-final, thousands of Liverpool FC and Everton FC fans got in line at Lime Street before 6am to get trains for the match, which started at 12:30pm. Supporters were made to start their journey at 3am just to make the trip, and the FA is being accused of ignoring the public’s concerns.
A Liverpool FC Official Supporters Club spokesman in Merseyside says the Football Association running the game in the UK is a total joke. Once again, the FA Cup has been completely devalued. It should be kicking off at 3pm while the other league matches are moved to Sunday. Everything should work around the FA Cup Final fixture. The FA thinks of the fans last, as they see them as the money-markers who will do whatever they can to follow their clubs. Loving a football club means supporters keep going, and since Chelsea fans don’t have to worry about travel problems and can spend all day in London drinking, there’s a potential for trouble, he added.
However, the FA has defended its decision to change the traditional kick-off time of 3pm. A spokesman says they stated at the end of the last season final that they were considering a later kick-off time. This followed a review of the competition with broadcasters and supporters. The research found that 5:15pm was more appealing than 3pm, as it gives fans the chance to go to or play in a match earlier in the day before watching the final on TV. The 5:15pm kick-off also maximises a larger domestic and global television audience for broadcasters.
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