The Rail Regulator has launched an investigation into a "last-minute" decision to close part of the main line between London and Birmingham on New Year's Eve
Journeys planned by more than 60,000 passengers will be severely disrupted by track improvement work in and around Rugby station in Warwickshire. Network Rail found itself the subject of severe criticism after it was accused of giving less than two weeks' notice of its intention to extend the Rugby closure for an additional day.
The work was originally scheduled to take place between December 27 to 30, allowing services to resume on new year's eve, which is one of the busiest days on the railways.
But on December 18, Network Rail announced it required more time to complete the work, which meant the closure would have to be extended to December 31.
Virgin Trains, whose services from Euston will terminate at Northampton to allow passengers to be taken by coach to Birmingham International, have taken out full-page newspaper adverts condemning the short notice.
Chris Gibb, Virgin Trains' managing director, said he had reported the matter to the Office of Rail Regulation, who had promised to investigate further.
In the advertisement, which took the form of an open letter to customers, Mr Gibb said: "I am extremely disappointed that Network Rail have informed us of this new disruption at such short notice, particularly when around 6,000 of you have already made advance reservations and a further 50,000 of you are expected to travel on this day.
"However, Network Rail have insisted this work goes ahead on this crucial travel day."
Mr Gibb said Virgin Trains would do everything possible to minimise inconvenience to customers by running a coach service every 15 minutes between Northampton and Birmingham International, connecting with trains to the West Midlands and the North-west.
However, journey times would be extended by at least an hour, Mr Gibb warned. He added: "I would like to assure customers that I am insisting that we do not have a repeat of these kinds of actions from Network Rail in the future, hence the involvement of the Office of Rail Regulation."
News of the closure came at a time when the country's train companies found themselves under fire for refusing to operate services on Christmas Day and Boxing Day, in contrast to the rest of Europe where public transport ran virtually as normal during the holiday period.
Network Rail insisted there was no alternative.
A spokesman said: "As already advertised, a multi-million pound investment programme will be carried out in and around Rugby station resulting in the West Coast Main Line being closed at this point and alternative travel arrangements have been put in place.
"A huge amount of work is being crammed into these few days and Network Rail feels it prudent to extend the closure by one day to enable this vital work to be safely and properly completed.
"Network Rail is extremely sorry for the short notice but believes it is absolutely necessary to deliver the longer term benefits that the Rugby scheme, and other projects on the route, will bring – faster and more frequent services."