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Christmas travel hit by ‘absurd’ price hikes as Londoners try to get home

Rachael Burford and Barney Davis
·3-min read
<p>A pedestrian travels on an escalator near the

A pedestrian travels on an escalator near the

(AFP via Getty Images)" />

Londoners planning to leave the capital for Christmas have said they are facing travel “chaos” with December travel timetables yet to be decided, planned rail works cancelling hundreds of services and uncertainty around coronavirus restrictions.

More than 2.2 million people normally use trains to get home between Christmas and New Year, many of them travelling from or through the capital.

But this year Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has warned of a travel bottleneck as millions of people try to get to their families and asked people to consider whether they travel “at all”.

Many train and bus companies have still not announced their December timetables and all lines to and from Kings Cross will be closed from Boxing Day to December 30 for rail works, which will continue to cause disruption until at least January 3.

Sal Baynes, 31, said she is worried about getting home to Doncaster on Christmas Eve.

“When you look for trains they say they are all sold out,” she said. “And there doesn’t appear to be any coaches either. I like to get my travel home booked early because the services book up quickly and the prices skyrocket.

"With social distancing this year is going to be chaos. It’s really panicking me that there doesn’t seem to be a route home at the moment."

PA
PA

London North Eastern Railway (LNER), which runs services from London through the north east and into Scotland, has not released its December train times yet.

A spokesman said it is hoping to have the timetable finalised “very soon”.

He added they would be increasing services “from early December and continuing to operate reservation only services to prevent overcrowding”.

“As we finalise these extra services and to best help our customers plan and book their outbound and return journeys at once, we will be releasing our tickets for all of December very soon. We urge customers to plan ahead this Christmas to avoid disappointment.”

National Express has also not released most of its popular coach services for December with those travelling from Victoria unable to book for destinations such as Darlington, Durham and Newcastle over the Christmas week.

Shadow Transport Secretary Jim McMahon said: "It’s imperative the Government quickly produces a fully worked through transport plan to ensure we don’t see Christmas travel chaos on our roads and trains where staff and passengers are kept safe, with capacity on the rail network to meet demand."

The spiralling cost of travel has also put some off leaving London during the festive period.

To hire a Fiat 500 for pick up from London Paddington on Christmas Eve and drop off in Newcastle Station on Boxing Day cost £410 with Europcar.

A Skoda Octavia for a 500mile trip from Kings Cross with Sixt over December 24-26 costs £427.

This represents a 227 per cent increase on same journey in the same car over December 1-3 costing just £132.

<p>Olivia Mesce, a non-driver, said she was left with no choice but to take train back to Manchester</p>Supplied

Olivia Mesce, a non-driver, said she was left with no choice but to take train back to Manchester

Supplied

Shop assistant Olivia Mesce, 23, said she was left with no choice to take the London Euston to Manchester Piccadilly service run by Avanti West - costing an “absurd” £95.

She told the Standard: “This is for off-peak and a month in advance. I moved to London over five years ago and it’s just increased every year extortionately.

“In my first year here I used to regularly get £24 return journeys.

“I just find it totally unfair. I don’t have much choice as I don’t drive. I have spent all morning texting friends to see if anyone can give me a lift.

“I think it’s particularly frustrating this year given the economy, my earnings have decreased dramatically due to the pandemic.”

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