RAIL operators and agencies are preparing to smooth the ride for thousands of Sunderland fans travelling to London for the Capital One Cup Final.

A large proportion of the anticipated 40,000 Black Cats’ fans heading to the capital for Sunday’s (March 2) showdown with Manchester City are expected to travel by train.

As a result, some long-planned repair work on the Main East Coast Rail line has been shelved to avoid this weekend.

But British Transport Police (BTP) and its rail industry partners have warned train-travelling fans that many London-bound services will be running dry over the weekend.

This means alcohol cannot be bought, carried or consumed on board any East Coast train between Newcastle and King’s Cross, all day on Saturday (March 1).

It includes many services also calling at Durham, Darlington, Northallerton and York.

The drink ban also applies to early services on Sunday, up to and including the 8.55am departure from Newcastle’s Central Station.

Trains making the return journey from King’s Cross will run dry between 5.12 and 9.45pm on Sunday.

A similar ‘dry’ policy will operate on all northbound post-match Grand Central Trains’ services, on Sunday.

BTP Chief Inspector, Derek O’Mara, said: “I’m sure supporters will enjoy the occasion on Sunday, and continue to represent the club in a positive manner.

“We’ve built a really good relationship with the Sunderland fans over the past few seasons, having travelled with them on some memorable away days.”

BTP officers will be at stations and on board trains alongside travelling fans on the way to and from London, to answer any questions passengers may have as well as to provide up-to-the-minute information and general safety and travel advice.

Sunderland fans are also advised that no passenger using the London Underground network is allowed to consume alcohol.