Christmas getaway chaos as rail staff strike and busy airport queues

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Christmas travellers faced travel chaos on the big festive getaway as rail strikes, huge airport queues and massive traffic jams caused transport hell.

CrossCountry trains have been cancelling dozens of trains because of a strike by members of the RMT union.

The company which runs trains from Scotland and northern England via the Midlands to South Wales and southern England is operating a skeleton service between Edinburgh and Plymouth will run only twice in either direction.

Trains between Manchester and Reading, trains will run every two hours – with one service extended to Bournemouth.

Direct trains between Nottingham and Cardiff have been suspended as passengers are now required to change at least twice to make the journey.

Trains between Leicester and Peterborough are also cancelled, cutting off Rutland from the national rail network, the Independent reports.

However, an hourly replacement bus service will call at the county town, Oakham.

Hundreds of other trains services have also been cancelled across the country as many rail staff are isolating because of the Omicron variant of Covid-19.

According to Wales Online, those that have decided to travel by car to visit their loved ones during the festive period have also been left at a standstill.

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There was a three-mile-long traffic jam on the M5 northbound between Junction 20 for Clevedon and Junction 19 for Bristol after a vehicle fire caused the closure of two lanes at around 9am on Thursday.

National Highways said there was also severe congestion on several motorways in England, including the M25, M4 and M6.

An estimated 5.3 million journeys by people embarking on overnight stays or day trips will take place on Friday with major roads busiest between 11am and 2pm, according to RAC analysis.

Airports are also reportedly dealing with huge queues as the number of people heading abroad is higher than last year due to more relaxed Covid-19 restrictions.

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Gatwick Airport said it expects to welcome nearly 750,000 passengers between December 18 and 31, which is nearly seven times more than over the same period 12 months ago but less than half of what it saw before the virus crisis.

Yesterday (December 23) and Boxing Day are expected to be among its busiest days for departures, with up to 35,000 passengers each day.

Gatwick’s chief commercial officer, Jonathan Pollard, said the airport is “encouraged by the number of people looking to travel this Christmas” but said new coronavirus testing requirements have “impacted some people’s travel plans over the holiday period”.

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