The overall situation
The FA Cup final is due to take place between Wigan Athletic and Manchester City at Wembley on Saturday 11 May with a 17:15 kick off. Because of the possibility of extra time and penalties, Wigan and Manchester City supporters will be unlikely to see the end of the match and catch any advertised return service back to Wigan or Manchester that evening. The last departure from Euston to Wigan North Western is at 20:31 and to Manchester Piccadilly is at 21:00.
This is the normal departure times for the last services from Euston to Wigan and Manchester Piccadilly on a Saturday evening. The railway for longer distance travel on the West Coast Main Line closes earlier on a Saturday to give Network Rail sufficient time to carry out essential maintenance and inspections on Western Europe's busiest mixed traffic railway.
The FA's position
We have had a direct dialogue with both the FA and Wembley Stadium that if team(s) from the North West were to be involved in the FA Cup final at Wembley then a 17:15 kick off would mean supporters would be unable to return to the North West that evening.
We appreciate that the FA do have major commercial considerations in agreeing to a teatime kick off, but to be fair to all concerned we thought that that at least it (the FA) should be made aware of the situation as soon as possible.
Why can't you run extra trains?
The unpredictability of exactly when the match will end, coupled with the earlier close down of the route for essential maintenance and inspection means that the planning of any additional services is extremely difficult given the high numbers of supporters that would attempt to return to the North West that evening. We would much rather that everyone fully understands the position well in advance so that that they can make their plans accordingly.
What can you offer supporters who want to travel by rail?
We are of course more than happy to bring Wigan and Manchester City supporters down to London on the Saturday and for them to return on the Sunday. We are looking at the possibility of running an additional service from Wigan on Saturday morning. The 20 minute frequency from Manchester to Euston on Saturday morning will meet the expected demand from the City supporters.
Are there any other train operators who could help get supporters back to the North West ?
There are specialised train charter companies separate from Virgin Trains who might be prepared to run a special service(s). They would need to discuss with Network Rail timings and routes.