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Coronavirus: Labour calls for peak rail fares to be scrapped for Christmas

Lucy Harley-McKeown
·2-min read
The Tornado Steam Locomotive is seen carrying her first passengers through Durham, northern England January 31, 2009.  The last of the Peppercorn class 'A1' steam  locomotives was scrapped in 1966, but this new locomotive, number 60163 Tornado, and built by the A1 Steam Locomotive Trust in Darlington, pulled her first passengers on the Network Rail main line from York to Newcastle-upon-Tyne on Saturday.         REUTERS/Nigel Roddis    (BRITAIN)
From 23 to 27 December three households in the UK will be allowed to form a “bubble,” as an exemption from England’s tiered system over the holiday period. Photo: Reuters/Nigel Roddis

The Labour party is urging the government to suspend peak rail fares and introduce mass testing for transport staff to avert “chaos” as COVID-19 restrictions ease for Christmas.

As the railways anticipate a surge in travel the opposition party is calling for a “comprehensive plan” to be presented to parliament.

From 23 to 27 December three households in the UK will be allowed to form a “bubble,” as an exemption from England’s tiered system over the holiday period.

Christmas travel tsar, Network Rail chairman Sir Peter Hendy, will oversee what the impact of easing rules will have on air, rail and road networks over that five-day period.

Labour warns that more than two million people use the rail network to travel over Christmas and New Year in previous festive periods. Millions more took car journeys.

Providing reduced peak fares would alleviate some of the strain on the railways as people travel for Christmas, Labour said.

Labour also said train staff, bus drivers and highway personnel should be mass tested.

READ MORE: Britain prepares last-minute road and rail changes ahead of Christmas

Labour also argued that planned maintenance works on the East Coast Mainline, which runs between London and Edinburgh, via cities such as York and Newcastle, should be delayed until after Christmas, so people can return home safely.

Shadow transport secretary Jim McMahon said: "This is too important for the government to ignore or leave until the last minute. This is about protecting lives and livelihoods."

"Families will be looking forward to travelling to see one another this Christmas after a really tough year. However, we cannot afford to be complacent. The virus still poses a very serious risk to people's health.”

The Department for Transport is due to publish an outline of its travel measures for the Christmas period next week, using an analysis of demand for advance rail tickets and public surveys.

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