Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

School's out! 20 Million Make Early Start to the Great Christmas Getaway

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

School's out! 20 Million Make Early Start to the Great Christmas Getaway

Article excerpt

Byline: Dick Murray

MORE than 20 million people will pack trains and roads tomorrow as the great Christmas getaway begins.

In what is set to be the busiest day of the festive period, the AA predicts that around 14 million cars will set out while the train companies estimate that 4.7 million journeys will be made.

With many leaving as soon as the schools break up in an attempt to avoid the worst of the rush, motorists face 196 miles of roadworks while train passengers were warned that all London mainline stations will be far busier than usual.

Rail links to both Heathrow and Gatwick will be cut over the festive period. At Heathrow the normal one-day rail closure on Christmas Day will be extended by three days due to Crossrail works, with neither Heathrow Express nor Heathrow Connect trains running from Paddington during the period.

The main line serving Gatwick will also be blocked for 10 days for engineering work. The last Gatwick Express train of the year will leave Victoria at 9.15pm on Christmas Eve and the service will not restart until January 4. Paul Watters, head of Roads and Transport Policy at the AA, said: "Tomorrow will be the busiest day in terms of traffic with the next busiest being Christmas Eve." A spokesman for the Rail Delivery Group, which represents the passenger train companies, said: "With an expected 4.7 million people due to travel on Britain's railways tomorrow and many thousands beginning their journeys in London, some services are going to be much busier than usual."

Eurostar will record its busiest day tomorrow with Paris the most popular destination. Rail passengers are also set to suffer cancelled and vastly reduced services from Christmas Eve until well into next year on some routes, and there will be no rail or Tube services on Christmas Day.

On Christmas Eve most rail operators will start to run down their services from 2pm and finish earlier than usual. From then until Sunday January 3 there will be major changes to many routes across the UK with those in the South-East among the worst for disruption.

Network Rail said Christmas was the best time to carry out major improvement work because, overall, fewer people travel than during normal working days. More than 20,000 NR workers will be spending the holiday period, including Christmas Day, at 500 sites across the UK as part of a PS150 million rebuilding programme.

On the roads, Highways England is racing to complete 273 miles of works at 105 locations before Christmas. A spokeswoman said there were 192 schemes this year against 219 in 2014. Motorists were warned "to plan and allow sufficient time for their journeys".

Melanie Clarke, director of customer operations for Highways England, said: "Where possible, we've completed or lifted road works, leaving more lanes open and lifting many of the associated speed restrictions to help people travelling over the festive period. …

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