Christmas travel chaos as COVID-19 sparks staff shortage

Published on : Friday, December 24, 2021

The rail firms have blamed Covid-19-related staff shortages for hundreds of cancellations during the Christmas getaway period.

A huge number of operators are running reduced timetables as almost 10% of railway staff are off sick or isolating.

Govia Thameslink Railway said a train crew shortage means there will be a reduced service across the Southern, Thameslink and Great Northern network until the end of the day on Christmas Eve.

Greater Anglia said it has removed trains from its timetables due to falling passenger numbers ‘as people follow advice to work from home’.

Meanwhile, CrossCountry said it is expecting ‘widespread disruption’ due to strike action starting on Christmas eve, urging people to travel earlier rather than later.

Cancellations have been made on several routes, including Manchester to Bournemouth via Birmingham; Bristol to Paignton, Devon; Cardiff to Nottingham; and Birmingham to Stansted Airport.

The international travellers have been hit twice as hard by the chaos with no trains or tubes serving the biggest airport in the UK. Heathrow will be cut off as Network Rail conducts signalling, track and HS2 work between Paddington and Slough on Christmas Day and Boxing Day.

Tourists could struggle also suspends the Piccadilly line between Heathrow and Acton Town for seven days from Christmas Eve. Around 500 Transport For London workers are currently off work due to ‘Covid-related illness’.

Northern, ScotRail and TransPennine Express have also reported disruption due to crew unavailability.

Heavier-than-usual traffic is forecast on the roads as thousands travel home to see their families.

The RAC has said it expects up to 27 million journeys to be made in the run-up to the big day.

This would be the busiest period in five years, with a peak of 5.3million trips taken on Christmas Eve

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