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Peak fares should be suspended to prevent overcrowded trains at Christmas, says Labour

Kate Devlin
·2-min read
 (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
(Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Labour has called on ministers to suspend peak fares in a bid to prevent travel chaos this Christmas.

The party has also called on the government to introduce mass coronavirus testing for transport workers over the festive period, to help keep people safe.

Travel restrictions have been lifted between 23 and 27 December to allow people to spend time with their families over Christmas.

At the same time ministers have announced an easing of the strict rules on socialising, allowing up to three households to meet and celebrate together.

But the move has prompted fears of a rise in coronavirus outbreaks and that the virus will be spread around the UK.

Around two million people each year travel by rail between Christmas and New Year.

Labour’s shadow transport secretary Jim McMahon said minister should set out a comprehensive plan to ensure families travelling across the country are not at risk.

Labour wants ministers to suspend peak fares over the five days the restrictions are eased.

This would minimise the risk of overcrowding on trains either side of peak hours, the party says.

Labour also wants mass testing of staff including train workers and bus drivers.

Ministers should also delay planned engineering works on the East Coast Mainline, due to start on 27 December, to allow people to return home safely.

This could prove tricky as engineering work can be planned up to two years in advance.

Mr McMahon said: “Families will be looking forward to travelling to see one other 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.

“That’s why ministers need to come to Parliament on Monday with a comprehensive travel plan to ensure families travelling across the country are kept safe and chaos on our roads and rail network is avoided.”

The government has already appointed a Christmas transport tsar, Sir Peter Hendy to scrutinise the winter preparedness plans of all transport operators.

More plans, including running longer trains and relaxing rules to allow more types of coaches to run, are due to be set out next week.

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