Christmas transport disruption looms across UK
Lorries are already queuing at ports and the Channel Tunnel
Britain’s transport network is facing disruption at Christmas as rail companies shutdown services, airport cargo staff strike and lorries queue at ports.
The government has announced a five-day festive reprieve from coronavirus restrictions with up to three households allowed to mix between December 23 and 27.
But a number of long-distance rail routes – including Edinburgh-London – will shut on Boxing Day, just one day before travellers attempt to reach their destinations before the festive bubble deadline.
A number of operators across the UK, including ScotRail, have already announced service cutbacks.
Timetable changes come into effect across the ScotRail network from Sunday 13 December. About a fifth (19% ) of services will be withdrawn., with some services being removed following a significant reduction in passenger demand. ScotRail says the new level of service will more than meet demand over the coming months.
However, the withdrawal of some key rail services on 26 December comes ahead of potential chaos at British ports as companies choose to stockpile some goods and raw materials ahead of the end of the Brexit transition period on 31 December.
There is also concern that confusion over paperwork will cause huge hold-us and delays in deliveries. Long queues of lorries have been seen outside the ports and Channel Tunnel over the past week.
The British Retail Consortium has warned that retailers have seen a 25% weekly rise in costs for shipping and are working overtime to rearrange and redirect incoming freight to make sure customers get their items in time for the festive season.
Meanwhile, British Airways cargo workers have declared nine days of strike action from Christmas Day in a dispute over pay and terms and conditions.
Heathrow announced on Friday that its Terminal 4 will not reopen until the end of 2021 as it revealed passenger numbers were down 88% in November compared to the same month last year.
The airport’s chief executive, John Holland-Kaye, warned that Britain’s trade would be held back until the nation gets flying again.
Heathrow is the UK biggest trading port with 40% of the country’s exports passing through the hub airport.