Passengers have been left stranded after services at one of the country’s busiest rail terminals ground to a halt.

Trains in and out of London King’s Cross have been cancelled because of overrunning Network Rail engineering works north of the station, with a reduced service tomorrow.

All East Coast and Thameslink & Great Northern passengers must start or end their journey at Finsbury Park in north London, with at least one change of train, Network Rail said.

Najib Mohamed, 18, from north London, said he had to make other arrangements after arriving at King’s Cross this morning expecting a train to take him to work outside of the capital.

He said: “It is usually very, very busy here, but not today. I am supposed to be working as a fundraiser today and getting told where to go once I get here, but there are no trains so I think I might just go back to bed.”

Other travellers took to Twitter to vent their frustration.

Caroline Hannam posted a picture of a packed Finsbury Park stairwell, writing: “Happy Xmas everyone. Thank you @nationalrailenq. Physio at 11, not likely!”

Another Finsbury Park traveller joked that rail staff at the station must be auditioning for a rebooted Beadle’s About – the prank show that aired in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Rail operators’ advice to defer travel until Sunday or Monday comes as many workers who travelled to see relatives over the festive period are expected to use the railways to return to work this week.

East Coast spokesman Paul Emberley said: “Network Rail has apologised to passengers for the inevitable delays to their travel plans on Saturday as a result of the overrunning engineering works.

“East Coast is particularly sorry too for the inconvenience to its customers as a result, on what we know is an already very busy travel day immediately following the Christmas break.”

Network Rail said the work was part of a £200 million Christmas investment programme, with most railways expected to return to normal on January 5.

It is one of 300 projects being undertaken over the holidays at 2,000 sites up and down the country by 11,000 engineers.

A spokesman said: “What has happened is really regrettable and unfortunate, but it is a small part of a massive amount of engineering investment taking place over Christmas.”

The spokesman said 4.5 million passengers use the railways on a normal day, compared with two million over the holidays.

A Department for Transport spokesman said: “It is extremely disappointing that Network Rail’s engineering works have overrun and will affect travellers during this festive season. Passengers will be rightly annoyed.

“This was essential work but passengers need to be able to plan and rely on Network Rail meeting its deadlines for having the network back in service.

“The department is in contact with Network Rail to understand what went wrong and if lessons can be learned for the future.”

Shadow transport secretary Michael Dugher said: “Ministers are responsible for piling misery on top of misery for those who have to rely on our railway.

“It was the Government that allowed almost the entire rail network to be shut down during Boxing Day, one of the busiest bank holidays of the year.

“Now we see this further unacceptable disruption, just as people try and get home after Christmas and at a time when many of our roads have experienced severe problems because of the bad weather.”

The Labour MP said the Government’s response so far had been “weak”.”The Government must get a grip. The travelling public deserve better,” Mr Dugher said.

It appeared Finsbury Park was unable to cope with the bumper crowds diverted to the zone two station, as passengers reported jostling for space on the platform.

The situation came to a head shortly before 11.30am, when National Rail confirmed it was forced to temporarily close the station “due to overcrowding”.