Transport mayhem feared as Wigan play in Super League final on strike day

Sean O'Loughlin in one of the Betfred taxis
Sean O'Loughlin in one of the Betfred taxis

Public transport chaos is feared this weekend as thousands of Wigan Warriors fans attempt to travel to and from the Super League Grand Final during a rail strike.

Northern employees will down tools on Saturday for a 24-hour walk-out as part of a long-running dispute over safety.

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That means the thousands of cherry and white-clad supporters watching their team battle Warrington Wolves at Old Trafford will be unable to get a train back to the borough after the match.

A revised timetable with far fewer services than usual is also likely to be running between Wigan and Manchester during the day, although Northern was only due to announce the official schedule later on Tuesday.

Wigan Warriors are advising supporters to travel on the official coaches it is laying on for the season-ending decider.

And even Northern has had to concede fans should forget the railways and seek alternative transport.

Some East Midlands Trains and Arriva Trains Wales services will be running between Manchester and Warrington, with the town also linked to the borough thanks to the Virgin Trains services from Wigan North Western.

That, though, raises the prospect of the two sets of rival fans heading to and from the match together.

The other services are also far more infrequent than Northern’s standard timetable of journeys into the city.

Fans could also potentially travel to Leigh and get the guided busway into the city centre.

And enterprising firms have been keen to try to help out, with flexible shuttle service Zeelo announcing it will have a pop-up coach route from Wigan on the day.

Super League’s title sponsor Betfred is also doing its bit by laying on a fleet of taxis.

The bookmaking giant's boss Fred Done is forking out £20,000 on 10 black cabs for supporters wanting to see the showdown at Old Trafford.

However, the taxis, which will be resplendent in the bookmakers’ colours, will only be picking up Wigan supporters from three postcodes in Manchester city centre.

Fans can flag one of the vehicles down and head to the stadium for free by showing their ticket to the driver.

There will also be prizes of £1,000 and £100 as well as a signed ball waiting for lucky travellers.

The gesture won praise from Warriors captain Sean O’Loughlin, who said: “It is a smashing idea for our fans to turn up in style with the prospect of a few quid in their pockets.”

The taxis will be running on Saturday between 10am and 6pm.

Both clubs involved in the match were meeting the RFL on Monday to discuss the travel headache.

Saturday will be the 31st day of strike action by members of the RMT union in its dispute with Northern over keeping guards on trains.

Ironically Northern is one of the main sponsors of the Super League.