There is no rest and little joy for UK travelers due to air and rail strikes | Daily News Byte


Passengers flying into the UK face the prospect of long queues at the border from Friday as passport officers begin an eight-day strike over Christmas.

UK government officials have warned people to expect disruption and have drafted in troops to help passengers get through immigration during one of the busiest travel periods of the year.

The strike by passport officers in the PCS union will affect six of the UK’s busiest airports: London’s Heathrow and Gatwick; Birmingham; Cardiff; Glasgow; and Manchester, as well as the small port of Newhaven in East Sussex.

Industrial action will take place between December 23 to 26 and then again between December 28 and 31.

Electronic passport gates will generally remain open, and departing passengers are not expected to run into problems.

Airport and airline officials expect long queues at immigration, but are cautiously optimistic that most arriving travelers will not face extraordinary disruptions.

The industry has spent the past month working with the government to put contingency plans in place. Military personnel will be joined by volunteers within the civil service at immigration, while airlines flying into Heathrow, the UK’s busiest hub, have limited ticket sales to keep passenger numbers manageable on strike days.

Still, the strikes represent the biggest challenge for the industry since the summer, when thousands of commuters faced severe disruption for weeks as companies struggled to hire enough staff to handle the return of mass travel following the pandemic’s border restrictions.

The potential problems have come as the UK’s Christmas holidays also face disruption from further train strikes.

Commuters have been warned to travel on Christmas Eve “if absolutely necessary”, as another three days of industrial action by the RMT transport union begin.

Infrastructure manager Network Rail said trains would end at 3pm on Saturday, with some of the last trains leaving in the morning and some locations with no service.

Andrew Haines, chief executive of Network Rail, said the union was causing “unprecedented suffering” for commuters, who faced disruption every day until January 8.

The RMT will also pull out during the first week of January, when services will again be severely disrupted.

Union overtime restrictions will cause problems even on non-strike days.

On Wednesday TransPennine Express – which is canceling hundreds of services a week despite suspending part of its timetable due to driver shortages – warned passengers against using its services in the north of England, as a result of “significant” internal planning problems. .

Chiltern Railways, which covers London to the Midlands, has asked passengers not to travel on December 27 and 28, while South Western Railway will operate a reduced service over the next two weeks.

The AA has warned that unreliable train services will force more drivers onto the roads and has issued traffic warnings for Friday and Christmas Eve.

Anthony Smith, chief executive of independent watchdog Transport Focus, said: “With thousands of people planning to travel to visit family and friends, it is disappointing that rail cannot provide a reliable alternative.”

Additional reporting by Jennifer Williams in Manchester


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