For months leisure passengers from East Anglia hoping for a weekend day out in London have found their rail journeys disrupted by bus replacement services.

Engineering work as Network Rail prepares for a new station near Chelmsford has closed the main line between Witham and Shenfield every weekend in February and in March work north of Ipswich means there is similar disruption for passengers heading to Norwich, Cambridge, and Peterborough.

There will be more disruption over the Easter Weekend at the end of March and probably over one of the May bank holiday weekends as engineers take advantage of long weekends to carry out work on the new station.

But from the end of May to the middle of autumn there should be a clear run from East Anglia to London every weekend.

A spokesman for Network Rail said they had been working with Greater Anglia to try to ensure the main routes to London were kept open during the spring, summer and autumn when the demand for weekend leisure trips was greatest.

He said he could not give any guarantees that there would be no disruption at this stage because it was possible that new problems might arise.

But there was nothing on their calendar of works at this time - and that calendar is usually compiled many months if not years in advance.

The number of people making leisure trips by train is now higher than it was before the pandemic while commuter numbers have still not recovered - and there are doubts about whether that will ever happen, particularly commuters heading to London.

The government has suggested that Network Rail should look at shifting more of its engineering work to midweek because weekends are the peak time for leisure trips - but at present there are few signs that a widespread shift is planned.