Footsteps across the concourse at Manchester Piccadilly station with Christmas tree in background

Last Christmas Eve trains as early as 8am for strike torn UK

Footsteps across the concourse at Manchester Piccadilly stationNetwork Rail

The four-day strike by RMT union members is going to be no festive fun. Travelling to London from Edinburgh on Christmas Eve? It will be an early start from the Scottish capital. Set that alarm, because the last train will leave at eight in the morning (08.00) and be in London before lunchtime. If you think that’s early, spare a thought for London-bound travellers from Sheffield and Nottingham. They can forget the twenty-fourth altogether.

Not for the first time this year, travel will be disrupted by industrial action across the British railway network. The RMT union, which has been involved in the biggest and bitterest dispute the industry has seen in decades, is set to call out most of its members in a four day strike beginning on Christmas Eve. Not only will the strike derail engineering plans, it is set to cause severe rail disruption for holiday passengers up and down the country.

Needless misery to members

Network Rail is warning that RMT strike action is set to severely impact passenger services across the country on Christmas Eve. The infrastructure agency is asking passengers to only travel if absolutely necessary, and if possible to consider travelling another day. They say that services will finish around 3.00 pm (15.00) with wide regional variations – both earlier and later – with some last trains departing in the morning and some locations seeing no services at all. They have warned that those who must travel should expect disruption, and plan and check services before starting their journeys. That’s something of a given, as Christmas travel is generally considered essential in almost all social settings.

“RMT suggestions that their planned strike action over the festive period is not targeting Christmas would be laughable were the consequences not so painful to so many people including on Christmas Eve”, said a clearly frustrated Andrew Haines, the Network Rail chief executive. “The RMT is causing needless misery to its own members, to the railway and to the country’s economy. I am so sorry that our passengers are having to bear the brunt of the needless RMT strike when a fair offer is on the table and when only a third of the workforce have rejected it.”

Vital engineering trains

Freight operators, although not directly involved in the dispute, over pay, conditions and security of job tenure, will be restricted in movement around the network by the absence of signalling staff in many areas. They will also be asked to alter rostering to accommodate rescheduled engineering works.

Close up of red signal light
Going nowhere. Red signal across the British railway network

“Most vital RMT staff [are] due to leave their posts at 6 pm (18.00 hrs) on 24 December”, say Network Rail. “By then, all trains will have to be off the network and safely stabled ready for start-up on 27 December. Hundreds of vital engineering trains need to be moved into position much earlier than normal before the strike begins.”

Acceptances for alternative travel

Passengers are being advised to only travel if absolutely necessary or to consider travelling another day. Train operating companies have put in place an extensive programme of ticket acceptances for alternative travel. For a longer term solution, Andrew Haines says the RMT has to follow the lead of other trades unions – the drivers’ union Aslef, and the general rail professionals union TSSA. “Our offer guarantees jobs and gives everyone a decent pay-rise of nine per cent and more”, said Haines. “Two of our three trade unions have already accepted and the RMT needs to think again.”

Passenger journeys will have to be completed, in most locations, by 3 pm (15.00) say operators. For longer journeys, last trains will be in the morning and passengers are being strongly advised to check their journey details ahead of time. Added industrial action means some rail companies will be unable to run any services on 24 December, with further significant impacts between Christmas and New Year.

Overtime ban also in place

The RMT strike action also means that even very limited Boxing Day services run in a handful of locations won’t run. Strike action continues through to 06.00 on 27 December, resulting in a later start-up of services, typically between 09.00 and 12.00 hrs.

“The RMT’s willingness to disrupt travel plans for the first Christmas in three years without Covid restrictions is deeply disappointing”, said a spokesperson for the Rail Delivery Group, the industry representative body. “We worked hard to avoid this damaging widespread campaign of industrial action affecting travel during the festive period. The RMT overtime ban in place up to 2 January will also affect services. We are now focussing on giving passengers the maximum possible certainty so they can make alternative plans if necessary. We believe the offer fairly balances the need to make the changes required to improve services and secure the long-term future of the railway with our aspiration to give our people a pay rise.”

Customers are urged to check with the operators’ websites and social media feeds from the overarching National Rail Enquiries service.

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Author: Simon Walton

Simon Walton is UK correspondent for and

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