Total shutdown of railway but coaches and ferries running on time

‘People visiting the UK are amazed and shocked by our railways here’ – National Express passenger Anne Milligan

Simon Calder
Travel Correspondent
Monday 26 December 2022 11:50 GMT
Paddington station deserted as train strikes continue on Boxing Day

As the latest rail strike continues into its third day, Britain’s railways are at a standstill – with a warning to many passengers to avoid all but essential travel until 9 January.

But many people are on the move within the UK, with flights, ferries and long-distance coaches already busy.

The UK’s biggest bus hub, Victoria Coach Station in central London, is extremely busy, with departures every few minutes to national and international destinations on National Express, Megabus and FlixBus.

Many arriving passengers travelled overnight – including Anne Milligan, who boarded a coach shortly after midnight from Carlisle to London.

“All fine, the roads were clear, straight through. National Express coaches, they’ve got it covered.”

She is on a journey to the Sussex coast to see friends, which she would have preferred to make by rail. But just along the road, Victoria railway station is locked and barred as a result of the four-day walk-out by members of the RMT union as part of the long-running dispute with Network Rail.

Ms Milligan said: “Real problem, this rail strike – real, big problem. They do get paid OK.

“People visiting the UK are amazed and shocked by our railways here.”

Network Rail at Euston station in London has warned travellers to avoid trains until 9 January. In a tweet on Saturday afternoon, the organisation that runs the nation’s rail infrastructure advised passengers to avoid trains unless “absolutely necessary” until 9 January.

The organisation, which is part of the Department for Transport (DfT), says: “Rail passengers who use the West Coast main line from London Euston to Carlisle and rail routes in the West Midlands, North West, Merseyside and Cumbria are being advised to only travel by train if absolutely necessary between December 24 and 8 January.”

Strikes by the RMT and Aslef unions will affect nine days out of the next 14 over New Year, with overtime bans and planned engineering work hitting services on the remaining days.

London Paddington station, the terminus for South Wales and the West of England, remains open – though is almost deserted except for the occasional overseas tourist who turns up hoping to catch a non-existent train to Heathrow airport.

The latest strike began on Christmas Eve and ends at 6am on Tuesday, with rail services beginning some hours after that.

What is believed to be the first post-Christmas train is scheduled to depart from Sheffield at 7.53am on Tuesday. The CrossCountry service will run to Birmingham, Bristol, Exeter and Plymouth. On some other routes, trains will not start running until noon or later.

Even without the strike, Boxing Day trains in the UK are always thin on the ground and run only on a very limited number of routes.

With the biggest impact on tens of thousands of passengers booked on Eurostar between London, Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam. All 43 international trains have been cancelled to and from London St Pancras International.

Eurostar says: “We’ve made every effort to try and get access to the UK high-speed line on 26 December.

“We’re sorry we will be unable to provide our usual service to customers due to circumstances outside of our control.”

As a result of the strike, all services on Tuesday are fully booked when they resume at 8.01am from London to Paris.

On the other side of the Channel, a strike by guards on SNCF (French Railways) is continuing for a third day, with about one in three trains cancelled.

Passengers with advance bookings whose services are axed are being offered twice their fare back to compensate for the inconvenience.

On schedule: Thousands of travellers are at Victoria Coach Station in central London (Simon Calder)

On the ferries, cross-Channel links are running normally. In Scotland, Caledonian MacBrayne ferries are running to schedule on most routes – though with adverse weather threatening to disrupt some Western Isles sailings later on Boxing Day,

At the airports, there are delays on some arrivals and departures serving the US and Canada, with some incoming flights from North America four hours late at London Heathrow due to extreme wintry weather,

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