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Last Updated: Friday, 16 May, 2003, 08:56 GMT 09:56 UK
Stations close to trains
Workers on the West Coast Main Line
Work will affect a 53 mile stretch of track

Rail passengers are facing months of travel misery with the closure of part of the West Coast Main Line.

Major improvement work on a 53 mile section of the track begins this weekend, between stations in Staffordshire and Cheshire.

Trains will stop running through Stoke-on-Trent for four months from midnight on Saturday, in the longest shutdown since railways began more than a century ago.

Two commuter lines serving Manchester will be closed for five months each, isolating Wilmslow station.

Services are not expected to resume until September.

Reliable railway

Buses will instead be used to transport passengers to other local stations while express coaches will take long distance passengers to Crewe or Stafford.

Michael Wilmott, of the North Staffordshire Rail Passengers Group, said: "Numbers of passengers will drop.

"People will be tempted, if they've got to get into their car to drive to a railway station, to drive the whole journey."

The West Coast Main Line is one of the UK's busiest rail routes carrying about 2,000 trains per day.

Modernisation work on the line, which was last carried out in the 1960s, will include signals, overhead line renewals, improvements to tunnels and bridges and the electrification of the Crewe to Kidsgrove line.

Network Rail say the engineering works will result in a safer, more reliable railway which can take trains at speeds of up to 125mph.

Stoke-n-Trent station is due to reopen to trains on 27 September.

The BBC's Peter Plisner
"The West Coast Main line is one of the UK's busiest rail routes"

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