High demand for travel during first Christmas getaway in two years

Photo: PA Media

The first Christmas getaway for two years has led to high demand for leisure journeys by road, rail and air.

A survey of nearly 2,000 people in Britain for watchdog Transport Focus indicated that 44% plan to travel to visit friends or family over the festive period.

Coronavirus restrictions meant many people missed out on such visits 12 months ago.

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Although demand for rail travel is at around 50% of pre-pandemic levels, thousands of people are travelling by train to spend Christmas with loved ones.

Hundreds of trains have been cancelled due to pandemic-related staff shortages.

Some 370 engineering projects are being carried out on the railways in the coming days, which will also disrupt services.

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Heathrow Airport will be cut off from the rail and Tube network on Christmas Day and Boxing Day due to Network Rail and Transport for London doing simultaneous work.

Disruption elsewhere includes:

  • Leeds will have a reduced service between December 27 and January 3, including a “very limited” service on January 2.
  • No services will run between London King’s Cross and Finsbury Park on Christmas Day or Boxing Day.
  • CrossCountry trains will not call at Bristol Parkway between December 27 and 31.

Passengers can find out whether their journeys are affected through their train operator or National Rail Enquiries.

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The festive period is one of the busiest times of the year outside summer for international travel from the UK, with many people visiting family overseas, enjoying a winter sun holiday or going skiing.

The number of people heading abroad is higher than last year but remains down on pre-pandemic levels.

The poll suggested the majority of those planning a getaway this year intend to travel by road, with only one in 10 using public transport.

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An estimated 4.1 million journeys by people embarking on overnight stays or day trips will take place on UK roads on Thursday, rising to 5.3 million on Christmas Eve, according to RAC analysis.

Major roads are likely to be particularly busy between 12pm and 4pm on Thursday, and 11am and 2pm on Friday.

The RAC, which surveyed 1,400 drivers, predicts it will be the busiest Christmas getaway on the roads in five years.

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Sam Hewitt