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Travel news – live: Train disruption expected over New Year amid strikes and staff shortages

Last day of 2021 is expected to be one of the most chaotic of the year for rail passengers

Lucy Thackray,Simon Calder
Friday 31 December 2021 15:38 GMT
UK international flights drop 71% from pre-pandemic levels

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Train operators are cancelling hundreds of services due to staff absences as the Omicron variant sweeps across the the UK.

Many passengers hoping to travel for the new year can expect disruption thanks to the staffing issues, as well as a strike by employees of one of the main inter-city train companies.

One of the main operators affected is CrossCountry, which serves Scotland, northern England, the Midlands and the south coast.

The union says it is taking industrial action because of what it calls “a systematic attempt by CrossCountry to undermine the role of the senior conductors and train managers by drafting in other staff to do their jobs.”

But East Midlands Railway, LNER, TransPennine Express, Avanti West Coast, Northern and GWR are also cancelling various services.

In other travel news, Germany is set to lift its ban on UK visitors from Tuesday, with fully vaccinated travellers able to swerve quarantine.

Follow all the latest travel updates below:


Ryanair cancels some UK-Denmark flights

Ryanair has cancelled 28 routes from January 10, according to Danish aviation website Check In.

Flights from London Stansted Airport to Aalborg and Liverpool to Copenhagen will be affected, as well as others to Billund and Aarhus.

The cancellations were due to a decline in ticket sales amid the current surge of Omicron cases, Aalborg Airport director Niels Hemmingsen told Denmark’s TV2 Nord.

“That is how the situation is at the moment. We follow the development both nationally and internationally, and hope it will normalize as soon as possible,” he added.

A Ryanair plane
A Ryanair plane (PA Wire)
Lucy Thackray31 December 2021 15:38

Greenland to open up in 2022

While travel restrictions continue to entangle the world, some airlines are looking ahead. According to the Belgian website, Icelandair is planning to launch a link from Iceland to Narsarsuaq, southern Greenland, from 1 April 2022.

The service will use a 76-seat Dash 8-400 propeller jet. The airline has yet to decide whether it will operate from the city-centre Reykjavik airport or Keflavik, the main international hub where all British flights arrive.

The link will offer a cheaper option to reach the vast country for UK visitors – most of whom use the Air Greenland link from Copenhagen to Kangerlussuaq.

A village on the Greenland coast
A village on the Greenland coast (A village on the Greenland coast Kangamuit Village copy.jpg )
Simon Calder31 December 2021 14:44

Amtrak cancels US train services due to Omicron spread

The US rail operator Amtrak has cut back its schedule between New Year’s Eve and 6 January due to staff absences amid a spike of Covid-19 cases among employees, the Washington Post is reporting.

Around 24 trains will be affected, according to the operator - around 1.5 per cent of their total services.

“Amtrak regrets any inconvenience,” they said in a statement.

“We are continuing to monitor changing conditions and will make any further adjustments as required.”

Lucy Thackray31 December 2021 13:48

Simon Calder’s message to leaders: ‘You can’t ban your way out of trouble'

As the Omicron variant of coronavirus causes record numbers of infections in many nations, the travel correspondent of The Independent has called for governments to ease international restrictions.

Writing his final newsletter of 2021, Simon Calder points out that France is recording two new cases of Covid-19 every second – yet “still pretends that the UK is the problem”.

Meanwhile, he writes: “Britain (one million positive tests in the past week) brought in a preposterously complex and expensive testing regime in a futile bid to keep Omicron at bay.

“Despite their manifest failures, the rules remain stubbornly in place on the obstacle course formerly known as travelling abroad.”

Subscribe to Simon Calder’s free weekly newsletter here:


The latest breaking news, comment and features from The Independent.

Lucy Thackray31 December 2021 13:21

Cruise ships unsafe as Omicron surges, says CDC

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has advised travellers not to board cruise ships, whether they have been vaccinated or not.

In a change to its guidance on Thursday, CDC officials moved cruise ship travel to its highest-risk list, Level 4, saying: “Avoid cruise travel, regardless of vaccination status.”

This is a blow for the cruise industry, which only began voyages in July after over a year of shutdown and major financial losses.

Most cruise lines that are operating insist on full vaccination for adult passengers and mask wearing onboard.

However, several recent high-profile outbreaks have raised concerns about the possibilities of transmission on cruise liners.

Read the full story:

Cruise ships unsafe as Omicron surges, says CDC

‘Avoid cruise travel, regardless of vaccination status’ says update

Lucy Thackray31 December 2021 12:28

New Year flight disruption

More than 1,000 flights to, from and within the US have been cancelled today as airlines battle with rising Covid cases among pilots and cabin crew.

According to the flight-tracking service FlightAware, United has cancelled 204 flights while jetBlue has grounded 144.

New York-based JetBlue has cancelled almost 100 flights each day for the next fortnight in response to staff sickness.

Meanwhile passengers on two British Airways long-haul flights due at London Heathrow on New Year’s Eve have been delayed due to technical problems.

BA106 from Dubai was due in at 5.45am but is running 36 hours late.

BA272 from San Diego in California, due in at 1pm, has been cancelled.

A spokesperson for British Airways said: “We’ve been in contact with customers to apologise for the delays to their journey and have offered alternative options.”

The Independent understands that most passengers have been booked on other flights. Those who arrive over four hours late are entitled to £520 each in compensation.

A US departures board
A US departures board (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
Simon Calder31 December 2021 12:00

Simon Calder answers your travel questions - 1pm today

Confused about where you can travel to in Europe at the moment? Worried about last-minute rule changes affecting your holiday?

Whatever your travel dilemma, The Independent’s expert Simon Calder will be on hand to answer all your latest travel questions in an ‘Ask me Anything’ event later today (Friday, 31 December). He will be answering live in the comments section below between 1pm and 2pm.

To submit a question, click on the article below and register to submit your question in the comments box. If you’re not already a member, click “sign up” in the comments section to leave your question.

Travel expert Simon Calder to answer your latest questions live

Our travel correspondent will be on hand to answer all the latest travel queries on the last day of 2021

Lucy Thackray31 December 2021 11:27

Ferry disruption in Scotland due to Omicron

The current rate of coronavirus infections in Scotland is running at one new case every five seconds.

As a result, many transport services are severely affected. Caledonian MacBrayne says ferry cancellations at short notice are possible on some routes “due to a number of crew members awaiting Covid test results”.

The ferry from Wemyss Bay, west of Glasgow, to Rothesay on the isle of Bute has been running all week with one ship, not two, after a crew member tested positive.

Meanwhile, the Lord of the Isles ship that would normally be sailing between the mainland and Lochboisdale in South Uist is currently being deep cleaned in Oban, with all New Year’s Eve services cancelled.

Northlink is operating to plan between the mainland, Orkney and Shetland. But ahead of Hogmanay most ships are in port and will be staying there until Sunday.

A Caledonian MacBrayne ferry
A Caledonian MacBrayne ferry (Getty Images)
Simon Calder31 December 2021 11:08

Which regions are affected by train cancellations?

Rail passengers between Scotland and England are experiencing widespread problems.

CrossCountry has cancelled most of its trains due to a strike by members of the RMT union in a dispute over the role of guards.

The train operator says “We will only be able to run a very limited timetable” and is advising passengers to avoid travel today if they can. A skeleton service is operating between Edinburgh and Plymouth.

On other operators, there are multiple short-notice cancellations and curtailments. The Avanti West Coast train from Edinburgh Waverley due to arrive at London Euston at 12.36pm left the Scottish capital late after waiting for crew, and is running no further than Wolverhampton. TransPennine Express is cancelling or curtailing dozens of trains, including some between Manchester airport and Glasgow.

LNER, the main operator on the East Coast main line from Scotland to London King’s Cross via northeast England and Yorkshire is running closely to schedule – though it warns: “Further short-notice cancellations and amendments to services are likely throughout the day.”

Here’s everything we know so far:

Rail passengers face severe New Year travel disruption

Essential questions and answers for people hoping to travel by train on 31 December

Simon Calder31 December 2021 10:48

Good morning

Good morning and welcome to The Independent’s travel liveblog, where we’ll be posting all the latest news and updates.

Lucy Thackray31 December 2021 10:44

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