Britain’s railways braced for 22 million passengers

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The Independent Online

Britain’s railways are preparing themselves for the Christmas surge in passengers which could see up to 22 million people travel on the country’s rail networks.

Delays to West Coast Main Line engineering work last year caused widespread disruption for many services and saw regulators impose record fines of £14m on Network Rail, and this year the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) is making a special effort to encourage passengers to take precautions to make their travel less stressful.

Michael Roberts, Chief Executive of ATOC, said, “The new timetable which started on Sunday has created almost 700 extra train services each day and with a smaller Christmas engineering programme than in previous years more trains will be running.

“If you haven’t already, we advise our passengers to book ahead and reserve seats wherever possible as there are still many discounted advanced purchase tickets available. But they will be snapped up the closer to Christmas we get.”

With Christmas day falling on a Thursday this year, it is expected that the getaway will begin earlier than usual, with train operators expecting increased traffic from Friday 19 December onwards. Morning and evening peak periods in the three days immediately preceding Christmas are expected to be quieter than usual, while off-peak rail services will attract more passengers as people travel through the day for Christmas shopping, special events or parties.

As 70 per cent of journeys involve travel to or through London, the capital’s terminal stations will be particularly busy, as will main stations in other cities around Britain.