Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has urged people to consider alternative travel options because of the rail network’s “limitations”. Mr Shapps warned of major engineering work across the country’s railways and a lack of capacity because social distancing regulations. And he advised travellers to to “look very carefully at the transport route they take” when planning Christmas trips.
We are going to be appealing to people to look very carefully at the transport route they take
Mr Shapps said: “We have got to understand there are limitations to the rail network caused by, for example, things like the need on some trains to pre-book tickets at this time, in order to prevent overcrowding.
“So we are going to be appealing to people to look very carefully at the transport route they take and of course even making a choice about whether they travel at all.
“It is the reality of the situation we’re in. We will try to do everything we can with the network to make it as good as possible but I think it is worth people being aware that busy times of travel is a problem.”
Travellers have been warned of chaos on the railways this Christmas
Mr Shapps said he was in “close contact” with transport leaders of the devolved governments to make Christmas travel plans, which he expects will be finalised “later this week”.
Engineering work will be carried out by Network Rail from December 23 to January 4.
Projects include track renewals, bridge replacements and improvements to signalling and overhead line equipment.
Most of the railway will stay open but some lines will be closed to allow the work to take place.
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Grant Shapps has warned Christmas travellers to expect ‘limited’ rail services
LNER warned alternative routes will be very busy and should also be avoided
London King’s Cross station will be closed for six days from Christmas Day as a £1.2 billion upgrade of the East Coast Main Line continues.
London North Eastern Railway is warning that “alternative routes will likely be very busy and should also be avoided”.
The operator, which runs trains between the capital and Scotland, is also telling passengers to “avoid travel” on Christmas Eve and December 31 to January 3 because “services will be very busy with reduced capacity”.
Waterloo Station will offer significantly reduced services between Christmas and New Year
Network Rail said there will be a “significantly reduced service” at London Waterloo – the UK’s busiest railway station – between Christmas Day and January 3.
This is to enable work to be carried out on lines approaching the station in a bid to improve punctuality.
Vauxhall and Queenstown Road stations will be closed over the period as part of the same project.
The installation of a new signal gantry will disrupt services through Bristol Temple Meads from December 27 until January 10.
Mr Shapps issued his travel warning as it was announced that people will be able to join “Christmas bubbles” to allow families to reunite over the festive period.
The UK Government and devolved administrations agreed the approach despite concerns about the spread of coronavirus.
The temporary easing of measures will allow three households to mix in a bubble from December 23 to 27.
Social distancing will be relaxed within the bubbles, giving people the chance to hug friends and family for the first time in months.
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King’s Cross station will be closed for six days from Christmas Day
Boris Johnson acknowledged the measures would not add up to a “normal Christmas” and urged people to exercise caution – particularly when meeting with the elderly or the vulnerable.
He said: “We can’t afford to throw caution to the wind. The virus doesn’t know it’s Christmas and we must all be careful.
“I know this doesn’t equate to a normal Christmas and it won’t work for everyone. It is up to each of us to think carefully about how we use this time-limited special dispensation.”
A joint statement issued by the four UK governments said they had been working closely together to find a way for family and friends to see each other, recognising it must be “limited and cautious”.