Amid a cacophony of cancellations at London Euston station on Monday night, dozens of passengers sprinted to platform 12. They were desperate to catch the final train to leave the capital for Birmingham before the line was closed indefinitely.
Fortunately for them, the train left 15 minutes late.
With all subsequent trains cancelled, the Avanti West Coast 8.40pm was standing room only – with first class “declassified” to allow as many passengers as possible to get a seat.
The cause: a landslip on the track between Rugby and Coventry.
Throughout Monday, London-bound trains were delayed or cancelled as Network Rail staff worked at the site.
The infrastructure organisation opted to close the line completely on Monday night, hoping to fix the problem by Tuesday afternoon.
The late departure was itself a problem, since it obliged Network Rail to delay the “possession” that would allow staff to tackle the landslip.
Tens of thousands of travellers on Tuesday morning will facing severely disrupted journeys.
The Birmingham-Coventry-Rugby line is normally extremely busy, shared between Avanti West Coast intercity trains linking London with the West Midlands as well as local and regional services on London Northwestern Railway and West Midlands Trains.
Phil Barnes, operations director for Network Rail, said: “A plan is now in place to remove soil before checking the track to allow services to run.
“To do this safely, we are closing both lines overnight on Monday (12 February) and Tuesday (13 February) morning.
“We are working to reopen both lines on Tuesday afternoon. Our team is working around the clock to get trains running again as soon as we can, and we are sorry for the disruption to journeys this is causing.”
Rail replacement buses will run half-hourly between Coventry and Rugby.
Avanti West Coast tickets will be valid on Chiltern trains between Birmingham Moor Street and London Marylebone, and on CrossCountry/GWR services from Birmingham via Reading to London Paddington.