Veterans fear Remembrance railway chaos in Portsmouth

RAILWAY chaos fears on Remembrance Sunday have left veterans worried they will miss out on paying their respects to their fallen comrades.

Friday, 3rd November 2017, 5:55 am
Updated Tuesday, 12th December 2017, 9:30 am
Former RAF veteran Roy Abraham, who is calling for the rail maintenance to be postponed to allow veterans to travel on Remembrance Sunday. Picture Ian Hargreave

Maintenance work is set to close a number of key routes in the Portsmouth area on Sunday, November 12.

Worried veterans now fear they will be stranded as they attempt to travel from Portsmouth to London to join the national parade in the capital.

And they say scores of others travelling from across Hampshire to Portsmouth could also be affected, either running late for the city’s ceremony or missing it entirely.

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RAF veteran Roy Abraham, of Portsmouth, hopes to travel to London’s event. He is worried about the effect closures could have on the elderly.

The 76-year-old part-time lecturer at the University of Portsmouth expressed his concern in a letter to six Hampshire MPs. He said: ‘I am flabbergasted Network Rail has even considered this date to do its work at a time that is so important to the nation, particularly to this region.’

The all-day closures affect London Waterloo trains from Portsmouth via Haslemere and Southampton, via Fareham.

Network Rail said the ‘vital’ work would include fitting 450m of new lines and that passengers should check routes in advance.

‘Lines between Havant and Cosham will remain open and replacement bus services will be in place throughout the day so passengers can still make their journeys, though they may take longer than usual,’ a spokesman said.

But Mr Abraham said the work would cause delays in services to the capital and to Portsmouth, meaning some veterans might miss out.

He also claimed it was hard to find out details of replacement bus services, something he said could lead to further confusion for veterans.

Jim France, the Royal British Legion’s area manager for Dorset and Hampshire, said the situation was unfortunate.

‘I have every sympathy with the veterans who will be affected,’ he said. ‘Unfortunately these things happen. It’s just a shame that this wasn’t highlighted earlier.’

The news comes as bus firm First Solent today announced it will offer free transport to veterans and serving military personnel across Portsmouth Fareham, Gosport, Havant and Waterlooville, on Remembrance Sunday.

To claim the free bus travel, all current and ex-military personnel need to do is wear their uniform or medals, or show their military ID card.