Christmas looks like being a bigger nightmare than usual for people wanting to travel by train to visit friends and family. The unions are embarking on a fresh series of strikes while the annual disruption caused by engineering works will see the network closed down for days in many places. The unions have organised their action so that it takes place in the run-up to Christmas and in the first week of the new year. Most track works will take place in the week in-between.
Five per cent of the network will be affected. No trains at all will run into or out of London Liverpool Street from December 25 through to January 2, while long-distance services to Manchester, Birmingham and Glasgow Central will run to a reduced timetable from London Euston. There will be no Southern or Gatwick Express trains to or from London Victoria from December 25 to January 2.
Ministers should instruct Network Rail to postpone its engineering works between Christmas and the new year. The unions will then have to provide the manpower for a full service over the holiday period. Rather than stand by as people struggle to move around at one of the busiest times of the year, the Government should make an all-out effort to side with the travelling public. If the trains are to be disrupted, there will be more motor traffic so roadworks should also be suspended for the Christmas period.
Parking could be made easier and free in town centres, and congestion charges waived for the week between Christmas and the new year. Ministers should come up with measures that will help people avoid the disruption and not just sit and watch.