Christmas travel misery for millions as disruption hits UK rail and air travel

Passengers heading to Heathrow Airport will not be able to take the Tube

Strikes by members of the RMT union will affect UK rail travellers over the Christmas season. Getty Images

Rail strikes and disruption to air travel are set to wreak havoc on millions planning to see loved ones for Christmas in Britain.

CrossCountry, one of the UK’s main rail operators, warned passengers it would be running a “severely amended service” on Christmas Eve due to planned strike action by members of the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT).

The firm also said trains risked being cancelled when further strikes take place on New Year’s Eve.

“We are expecting widespread disruption to our services over the festive period due to planned strike action by the RMT.

“Disruption is to be expected on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve as we will only be able to run a very limited timetable, with the cancellation of many of our services,” said CrossCountry.

“We are advising customers to alter their plans where possible and to avoid travel on either Friday December 24 or Friday December 31.”

The Piccadilly Underground line which connects Heathrow to central London will be disrupted over the Christmas period. EPA

People travelling to and from Heathrow Airport in west London may also have to alter their plans if the Tube is their preferred mode of transport.

From Christmas Eve to December 30 the Piccadilly line, which connects the airport to central London, will be partly suspended, affecting all terminals at Heathrow.

Passengers are advised to use Transport for London – the local government body responsible for most of the transport network in London – rail or bus services or taxis to and from the hub.

However, TfL has early closure on Christmas Eve.

TfL underground and bus services do not run on Christmas Day.

RAC, a firm specialising in car insurance, said up to 5.3 million drivers are expected to hit the road on Christmas Eve for what is usually one of the busiest days of the year for motorists.

“Despite the increasing prevalence of the Omicron Covid variant, our research shows that the vast majority of drivers are still determined to do Christmas properly this year – in sharp contrast to 12 months ago,” the RAC's breakdown spokesman Rod Dennis said.

The company said there would be a total of 9.4 million journeys by people heading on overnight stays or daytrips across the UK on Thursday and Christmas Eve alone.

From a survey it conducted with data firm Inrix, on 1,400 drivers it predicted this season to be the busiest Christmas for travel in five years.

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson this week confirmed no further social restrictions would be announced in England before the weekend.

Travellers wait for trains at Euston station in London. Getty Images

The UK's devolved governments set their own restrictions.

His decision came as the UK’s daily Covid total reached 100,000 for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic.

The rising numbers of cases and the rapid spread of the Omicron variant have prompted scientists to pressure ministers to impose stricter measures.

But following last year’s chaos on Christmas week, Mr Johnson resisted pressure to lock the country down again and instead urged people to be cautious when they celebrate with their loved ones over the festive season.

Last December, the prime minister thwarted the plans of millions of Britons when just days before Christmas he announced a ban on the mixing of households. Only those in support bubbles and people providing care or other essential services were permitted to mix with those from outside.

Updated: December 24th 2021, 12:06 PM