How could UK transport strikes affect travel over Christmas? | Transportation | Daily News Byte


The great Christmas holidays continue on Saturday as millions of people travel across the UK to be with friends and family for the festive season.

But the strike means that journeys home could be severely disrupted by industrial action on roads, railways and airports as Britain’s transport network reaches breaking point.

What is the condition of railways?

Rail passengers have been urged to travel only if “absolutely necessary” as thousands of members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union at Network Rail will walk out from 6pm on Christmas Eve until 6am on December 27.

The union said industrial action would mostly affect planned engineering works, but Network Rail confirmed trains would stop running at around 3pm on Christmas Eve.

A number of train operators have warned passengers to travel only if “absolutely necessary”, as some routes will not operate at all, and others will have limited service.

The overtime ban – short of an industrial action strike – could cause further disruption on Saturday afternoons when services are in high demand. It has already wreaked havoc with timetables on some lines on non-strike days, with around 4,000 trains canceled every day.

Limited train services will almost certainly have an impact on ridership. An RAC survey showed that almost half of those affected by the rail strike this month planned to drive themselves or get a lift from someone else.

On Friday, the RMT accused the government of “missing out”, with no further talks planned after last week’s meeting with Rail Minister Huw Merriman and industry leaders.

Andrew Haines, chief executive of Network Rail, said the union was causing “unnecessary suffering to its own members, the railways and the national economy”.

What about roads?

The AA predicts 16.5 million people will travel by road on Christmas Eve and has warned of long delays and traffic jams on major motorways and A-roads.

The AA has identified traffic hotspots as: M25; the M5 between Bristol and Weston-super-Mare; M6 around Birmingham; the stretch of the M1 “smart” motorway northwards from Luton; The M62 and M60 and the M4 and M27 in the north-west.

The motoring group warned that the aforementioned rail strike could “increase gateway mayhem” by hampering confidence in the use of public transport.

The AA’s head of road policy, Jack Cousins, said: “We advise people going out in their cars to be prepared for some congestion, particularly on popular routes out of London.

“Rail strikes have convinced more people to travel by car this year, and while hundreds of miles of roadwork have been removed to ease the pain, it hasn’t been enough to keep the queues at bay.”

Transport analytics company Inrix said it expects journey times by road to be about 14% longer than in the same period last year.

Pressure on front roads over Christmas could be exacerbated by industrial action by National Highways workers.

Members of the Public and Commercial Service Union (PCS) working as control room staff and traffic officers will continue their four-day strike on December 24 and 25.

PCS said the move “risks bringing the road network to a standstill” and road safety campaigners said they were “deeply concerned” about potential delays in setting up warning signs on roads.

National Highways said there would be no road closures as a result of the industrial action, that it had “well-rehearsed resilience plans” and that a small number of frontline staff were involved in the strike.

What’s happening at the airport?

Border Force officials joined a wave of industrial action in the country on Friday and will strike every day for the rest of the year except December 27.

Passengers have been warned to expect delays amid fears that long queues at passport control could hold people up on planes and disrupt later departures.

Around 1,000 members of the PPCS union, employed by the Home Office to operate passport booths, are on strike at Heathrow, Birmingham, Cardiff, Gatwick, Glasgow and Manchester airports, as well as the port of Newhaven in East Sussex.

The Home Office has drafted in trained military personnel to carry out passport checks. Heathrow and Gatwick, the country’s two largest airports, said their immigration halls were operating normally on Friday.


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