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Travel disruption warning as millions make Christmas getaway

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Motorists and rail passengers are being warned of heavy traffic and disruption as millions travel to see family and friends before Christmas.

On the roads, the RAC estimates 2.2m journeys will be made today, with delays of up to an hour in some of the most congested parts of Britain.

Union members in two rail networks are striking, forcing reduced services as passengers try to get to and from the capital and around the north of England.

South Western Railway is running a reduced service on the majority of its lines after RMT announced another strike over the issues of guards on the trains.

On Northern Rail, a reduced service will begin after 5pm and there are planned cancellations in place for 23 December.

RMT strikes will affect Northern Rail and South Western Railway services
Image:
RMT strikes will affect Northern Rail and South Western Railway services

South Western Railway said in a statement that the RMT was “ensuring that maximum misery is inflicted” by holding the strike just before Christmas.

“This action is totally unnecessary,” the statement said. “We have guaranteed to roster a guard on every train, and we need more, not fewer guards – 70 more by May 2019 – and we have an opportunity with the introduction of the new suburban trains to operate these trains differently to maximise the customer benefits.”

RMT members on Northern Rail are to strike for what the firm says is the 19th consecutive Saturday this year.

David Brown, managing director at Northern, said: “We expect all of our services, and those of other operators, to be extremely busy and are calling on our customers to plan their travel carefully for the coming weekend, check the new timetables well in advance, and make sure they do not rely on the last trains home.”

The network will not be running trains to Manchester from Liverpool, Kirkby or Warrington Central and will stop running some others as early as 4.38pm.

In London, there will be no service on TfL rail from 23 December, with limited services across some tube lines and the overground.

Those travelling on Christmas Eve and Boxing Day have been warned to check before they travel as there will be a Sunday service on many lines, finishing earlier than usual. There will be no public transport on Christmas Day.

Millions of people are expected to hit the roads today to make journeys to family and friends ahead of Christmas Day on Tuesday.

According to a survey of 20,000 drivers by the AA, more than half will travel today, but it seems the the worst is over, with the biggest disruptions expected yesterday.

Passengers stranded at Gatwick amid the drone disruption
Image:
Passengers were stranded at Gatwick amid the drone disruption

The RAC said up to 2.2m journeys will be made today and 1.9m on Sunday.

The worst part of the country for delays on Saturday will be the M40 north from J8A (Oxford) to M42 Warwickshire, where drivers could face an extra 61 minutes on their trip time.

Those keen to avoid jams should keep off the roads between 10.30am and 4pm, and make their journey before 9.30am or after 7.30pm, the RAC suggested.

On Sunday, the window of bad traffic will narrow to just 4pm to 6.30pm, but RAC suggests making a trip before 11am or after 8pm to be sure of the best conditions.

Gatwick Airport is still recovering after three days of drone chaos in its airfield. More than 100,000 passengers were affected when the airport had to close its runway for hours at a time as drones were sighted.

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