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Rail passengers faced delays as they rushed to catch the last trains before the Christmas Eve service halted, while UK roads were prepared for extra traffic following strikes on railways.
People embarking on festive getaways or returning home for the holidays gathered in the concourses of major stations, including London Euston and Birmingham New Street.
Thousands of members of Network Rail’s RMT union will go on strike from 6pm on Christmas Eve until 6am on December 27.
The last intercity trains on some long-distance routes were due to leave as early as 8 a.m. Some major routes were not expected to operate at all, partly due to ongoing industrial action, including banning overtime at rail operating companies.
Services from Euston to Crewe, Manchester Piccadilly, Glasgow Central and Birmingham International were all delayed with limited staff attendance as travelers waited anxiously with their luggage.
Some expressed frustration with short-notice cancellations, but others voiced support for striking workers.
Kartik Aggarwal, a 24-year-old student, nearly missed a Christmas party in Birmingham. Speaking at Euston alongside some of his family members, he told PA Media: ‘It’s been really bad. We had long predicted that two trains would be canceled without notification. We came running but still nothing. I feel very irritated, as if we were wasting our time.
Doctoral student Amy Saunders, 31, said the interruption to her trip to see her family over Christmas was stressful, but she expressed her sympathy for the strikers.
She said: ‘I support the strikes and I’m sure it’s just as stressful for everyone working here trying to get everyone home for Christmas, and they wouldn’t need to go on strike if their working conditions were not intolerable.
“Everyone is really struggling and more support is needed.”
The RMT had argued it was not targeting Christmas travel when it called the latest strike in the long-running pay and jobs dispute.
Network Rail, however, said the timing of the action meant all passenger trains would have to be in depots before the action started.
Emergency staff are being recruited to enable Network Rail to go ahead with most of the £120million engineering work planned over the Christmas holidays. No passenger train has ever been scheduled to run on Christmas Day. The few scheduled Boxing Day services on Eurostar, Merseyrail and Stansted Express have now been cancelled.
With major stations quiet for much of Friday, rail sources suggested many passengers had decided to travel earlier – while surveys of motorists’ organizations indicated a third had chosen to drive this year rather than taking the train they would normally choose.
The last Christmas Eve trains between Edinburgh and London were due to leave at 8am. The last trains for Newcastle and Scotland will leave at 11 a.m., and back and forth between Manchester and Liverpool around 2 p.m.
Rail passengers rush to beat Christmas Eve strike hit by delays | Railway strikes
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