Published: 6th February 2014
Sunderland FC stunned most football pundits and fans when they beat Manchester United to reach the Capital One Cup Final at Wembley to be played on March 2. Franchised train companies are not overly keen on football traffic on scheduled services for various reasons, so this year the two companies that serve the northeast and London with rail services have kicked of a race for tickets on special services in conjunction with the match.
East Coast Trains (ECT) and Grand Central (GC) have both opened booking for their special services taking fans to the game. ECT is operating an additional train in each direction between Sunderland and Kings Cross for local fans who have got their hands on a ticket for the game against Manchester City.
The fanatical Wearside fans are expected to travel in their thousands to their first Cup Final this century. ECT as a pseudo-franchise has contractual access rights to run extra services while GC as open access operators, do not enjoy such access rights. But Network Rail has managed to accommodate the extra trains despite engineering works which are planned up to a year in advance.
The extra ECT services will run from Newcastle to Kings Cross on 1 March 2014 at 0922hrs and 1122hrs calling at Durham, Darlington, York and London King’s Cross. Matchday, Sunday 2 March, sees another pair of ECT services from Newcastle to Kings Cross departing at 0730hrs and 0830hrs also calling at Durham, Darlington and York.
The extra ECT services all return from London Kings Cross to the North East on Sunday 2 March 2014 as follows:
1845hrs/1915hrs/1945hrs and 2042hrs all calling at York, Darlington, Durham and Newcastle.
In addition, the 2045hrs and 2145hrs King’s Cross to York services on Sunday 2 March will both be extended to Darlington, Durham and Newcastle.
ECT Commercial and Customer Service Director Peter Williams said: “Demand for travel with us for Cup Final weekend began rising rapidly within hours of Sunderland’s semi-final victory at Old Trafford.
“Network Rail planned to carry out engineering work south of York on both Saturday 1 and Sunday 2 March, but some of this has now been rescheduled to allow us to run extra trains on both days, which is great news for our customers.
“We’re already seeing high demand for travel to and from London across the whole cup final weekend. Our advice to fans is to book travel as soon as possible, while those who can choose to travel south on Saturday 1 March should do so, as we will have more capacity available across the Saturday than on the Sunday morning, when we expect all our services to be very busy.
“With so many fans expected to travel, the roads into London will be even busier than normal. The sensible choice for Sunderland fans is to let the East Coast train take the strain – and hopefully they’ll be returning to the North East with us having witnessed a famous cup win by the Black Cats at Wembley.”
Phil Verster, Route Managing Director for Network Rail, said: “Every weekend we have hundreds of engineers out on the tracks working to maintain and improve our railway. The weekend of the Capital One Cup final was no exception. Moving engineering work is not a simple undertaking but we know what a big occasion this is for fans and have been keen to work with operators to do our best to get them to the capital by rail.”
East Coast is working closely with the British Transport Police to ensure everyone has a safe and comfortable journey to and from London on cup final weekend. Additional police officers and rail staff will be on duty at stations and on-board trains, and restrictions on the carriage or consumption of alcohol will be in place on many services.
Grand Central has said that many of their scheduled trains are already fully booked for the weekend of Friday 28 February to Monday 3 March 2014 but that they will be running an extra service from Sunderland to Kings Cross and back on Sunday 2 March. This will run direct without any intermediate passenger stops in each direction. The train leaves Sunderland at 0812hrs and arrives at Kings Cross at 1131hrs. It returns from Kings Cross at 1746hrs arriving at Sunderland at 2108hrs and tickets are now on sale.
The game is played at Wembley which can be reached on the tube or via Euston and Wembley Central station with a 15 minute signposted walk to the stadium, or via Marylebone and Wembley stadium station which is adjacent to the ground.