New road and rail plans for Christmas travel spike



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Road and rail networks are facing changes as the government prepares for a spike in travel when Covid restrictions are eased over Christmas.

Across the UK, up to three households will be allowed to stay together in a “Christmas bubble” from 23-27 December.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said 500 miles of roadworks have been cleared on motorways and A-roads to ease any congestion.

And, he added, there are plans to run longer trains on the rail network.

Mr Shapps said that rules may also be eased to allow more types of coaches to run.

“We recognise that people will want to be with their friends and family over Christmas,” he said. “For those that choose to form a Christmas bubble, we’re lifting travel restrictions across the UK for five days.”

Further details will be published next week, once the picture on passenger demand is clearer.

The government will be monitoring demand for road and rail travel using ticket booking websites and journey planning services such as Google Maps to try to get a grasp on the public’s travel plans ahead of time and increase capacity accordingly.

The expectation is that the start and end of the five-day travel window will be very busy.

Earlier this week, the transport secretary urged people to book tickets well in advance where possible, and prepare for restrictions on passenger numbers.

Referring to domestic travel during the festive period, Mr Shapps urged those travelling on public transport to pre-book tickets as the capacity of services remains reduced to allow for social distancing and as a result of staff self-isolating.

Some advance fares, such as for Avanti West Coast, which operates trains on the West Coast Main Line, go on sale on Tuesday.

These cheaper tickets are usually available 12 weeks in advance, but their release has been delayed during the pandemic due to short-notice timetable changes.

Mr Shapps also highlighted Network Rail’s plans for a series of upgrades and routine maintenance across Britain between 23 December to 4 January.

He told the BBC: “I would appeal to people to think very carefully about their travel plans and consider where they are going to travel and look at the various alternatives available.”

People who live in areas placed in the highest tier of restrictions in England, tier three, should avoid leaving their region entirely, he said.

The majority of the network has also been cleared of engineering works in a bid to avoid disruption.

Those that are scheduled for the festive period will be reviewed if passenger demand is high. But government sources say it is unlikely that the major works on the East Coast Main Line and London King’s Cross will be altered.

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