MAJOR rail disruption this bank holiday weekend has led London North Eastern Railway to draft in extra staff to help passengers still hoping to head to the capital on the East Coast mainline.

LNER has already issued 'unprecedented' advice for people not travel this Saturday and Sunday, August 24 and 25, when no trains will be running between Peterborough and London King’s Cross or Cambridge and London St Pancras International for the first time in two decades.

Bosses now say they are confident that their warning has reached people following an awareness campaign with Network Rail, with advance bookings looking "light" yesterday.

Significant disruption is expected as work is carried out this bank holiday weekend as part of a £1.2billion investment into the route.

Numerous events and sporting fixtures are taking place near rail routes affected by the engineering work this weekend including York Racecourse's Ebor Festival on Saturday, although services north of Doncaster will largely be unaffected.

Others include Leeds Festival, the Ashes Test match in Leeds,Creamfields near Warrington, Manchester Pride, rugby league’s Challenge Cup final at Wembley, and a full round of football fixtures and people returning to England from the Edinburgh Fringe festival, which ends on Monday.

Inspector Andy Godfrey, of North Yorkshire Police, said: “We’re expecting a busy weekend ahead in York with the last day of the Ebor Festival and the closure of the East Coast Mainline.

“Remember – if you’re at the races or out drinking in the city, please stay safe and please enjoy yourselves responsibly.

“We will be at the races and across the city to make sure everyone is safe and has a great time.”

A spokesman for the British Transport Police said: "We always put on extra resources for the Ebor Festival particularly on late night services to help returning racegoers."

Warrick Dent, safety and operations director of London North Eastern Railway (LNER), said: "It is unprecedented for us to advise people not to travel considering our business to travel but it is really about making sure we can manage demand for services over the bank holiday weekend while we undertake key work at King's Cross.

"We are very confident that the messages have landed. Certainly from the awareness programme we have launched with Network Rail, we have had Transport Focus undertake a survey for us and they have reported back to us this week that there's a very visible awareness."

He reported that advance bookings for their services were "very light for the weekend", but stressed that people should avoid travelling if possible.

"If it is essential you do, be aware the service will be extended in journey times and won't go further south than Peterborough."

A rail replacement coach will take passengers from Peterborough to Bedford.

Mr Dent said additional staff would be working to help ease the weekend disruption and help customers.

LNER had been in contact with York Racecourse from an early stage to alert them to the work so they could also help spread the message to racegoers, he said.

"It is important to emphasise that the route north of Doncaster will be largely unaffected by this so there's still a reasonable train service from York. "The major changes to services are due to work taking place at the southern end of the route as part of the East Coast £1.2 billion upgrade which aims to make journeys faster and more reliable, provide more seats and more frequent services.

Passengers are advised to travel on either Friday or Tuesday, 27 August. Work at Newark will continue on Monday, 26 August, when a heavily-reduced service will be in place.

Passengers who must travel this weekend should plan ahead and allow extra time for their journey as travel times will be extended and they will need to change trains or use bus replacement services, both of which will be incredibly busy.

Ed Akers, principal programme sponsor for Network Rail, said: “We understand that this work is disruptive and we are sorry for that, however this is vital work which will improve the railway and provide benefits for passengers in the long run. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all those who are impacted for their patience.”

Other routes into London will be open, but will be significantly busier than usual.

There will also be industrial action affecting CrossCountry services on Sunday, August 26.

Anyone who is travelling with CrossCountry is strongly advised to travel on another date. Details of what services are running together with information on other days people can travel are available on CrossCountry’s website.

The AA has also warned of potentially severe congestion this weekend.

George Flinton, AA patrol of the year, said: “The August bank holiday weekend is always busy on the roads.

“Traffic is likely to build up on Friday evening as people set off early to make the most of the weekend, and will be busy again for the return on Monday afternoon, so allow plenty of time if you’re travelling then.

“Routes to coastal resorts and countryside beauty spots are usually among the busiest and there will be localised congestion around events, especially at finish time, so it’s a good idea to plan ahead for the journey.”