Most of British rail network will be shut on Boxing Day – adding pressure to chaotic December 27 when millions will travel to beat Christmas Covid bubble deadline
- Families get a five-day reprieve from coronavirus restrictions over festive period
- But many are likely to leave the rush back home until the last day of that spell
- Many of Britain’s popular long-distance routes to shut completely on Boxing Day
Most of Britain’s rail network will shut down on Boxing Day, adding more pressure to December 27, which is set to see a chaotic rush of millions travelling to beat the bubble deadline.
Families are getting a five-day reprieve from coronavirus restrictions over the festive period, with up to three households allowed to mix between December 23 and 27.
But many are likely to leave the rush back home until that last day of that period, with heavily reduced services on a small number of lines, and the long-distance routes closing down completely 24 hours before.
It comes despite a government pledge to increase options for travelling over Christmas, with the roads also expected to be gridlocked.
Bosses will be hoping to avoid scenes like these, seen at London Euston earlier this year
Key routes connecting London with Edinburgh and Cardiff, as well as major cities including Manchester, Liverpool and Sheffield are just some of the lines affected by the closures.
Avanti West Coast, LNER, Great Western Railway, Cross Country, Greater Anglia, London Northwestern, East Midlands and Transpennine Express are among the major long-distance operators to shut, according to the Times.
Meanwhile, there will be a reduced service on lines linking to airports like Heathrow and Stansted as well as operators such as TfL Rail, Southern, London Overground and ScotRail.
Passenger numbers were still only at 28 per cent of pre-pandemic levels earlier this week, with demand for train travel having been slashed with millions working from home rather than commuting to busy towns and cities.
It comes as Transport Secretary Grant Shapps today announced that £3 million of funding to provide up to 80,000 more seats on coach services over the Christmas travel window.
The Transport Secretary said: ‘We’ve already set out important measures so journeys can run as smoothly as possible this Christmas.
‘Today’s funding announcement for the coach sector goes one step further, ensuring there are more options available for people wanting to travel to celebrate with loved ones and friends.
‘We remind everyone that it’s essential to plan their journey and book ahead, be considerate of other passengers and staff across our transport network, and follow the guidance, including keeping space and wearing a face covering, unless exempt, on public transport.’
The Government’s Christmas travel coordinator Sir Peter Hendy added: ‘This is very welcome, as it gives additional and flexible Covid-safe public transport capacity for the Christmas period.
‘I’ll continue to assure transport provision so we can get everyone to their Christmas bubbles safely. Please book early to help achieve that.’
Meanwhile, a campaign group has urged for families to be given extra travel days either side of the window to avoid disruption.
The Campaign for Better Transport group has warned that forcing everyone to do all of their travelling in five days will create jam-packed roads and busy trains.
Edmund King, the president of AA, said: ‘One third of drivers still haven’t decided if they are going to travel at Christmas and this could make all the difference.
‘Two fifths of drivers who had already cancelled travel plans may still be wary of risk to their loved ones, or unable to choose who to include in their small Christmas bubble.
‘With tier restrictions in place, many may opt to stay local, so we’d like to see councils remove as many roadworks as possible to help ease the flow of local traffic.’