Home » Half-term travel chaos as trains hit by strikes, floods and engineering work

Half-term travel chaos as trains hit by strikes, floods and engineering work

At the start of the busiest weekend of the year so far, with half-term holidaymakers jostling with Valentine city-breakers, many of the millions on the move face transport problems.

A combination of flooding, engineering work on the rail network, together with a resumption of strikes after a few days of respite, will make train travel difficult in the UK.

In addition, airline passengers seeking to get to or from Britain’s busiest airport, London Heathrow, will find the Tube link is closed for the next five days.

These are the key trouble spots.

Rail

Flooding between Swindon and Bristol Parkway on the Great Western Railway between London and South Wales is causing long delays and cancellations.

Between Shipley and Ilkley in West Yorkshire, the line remains closed due to a landslip on Thursday.

On the East Coast main line, which connects London King’s Cross with Yorkshire, northeast England and Scotland, LNER has announced cancellations, curtailments and delays on a number of Friday evening trains. The causes: a combination of a shortage of train crew, delays at depots and a fault on the signalling system.

The start of the half-term for many schools in Britain will coincide with widespread engineering work.

London Liverpool Street, hub for the Greater Anglia network, will have no trains on the main lines between the capital and Southend, Ipswich and Norwich. The Elizabeth Line will also be affected. The railway is closed between London and Shenfield in Essex. Passengers are being offered bus replacements services to and from the London Underground station of Newbury Park.

Over the weekend, links on the East Coast main line are being disrupted by work at various locations on the route. Grand Central has cancelled all trains between Sunderland, York and London, and LNER is urging passengers between the capital and Newcastle to travel via Derby or Sheffield on East Midlands Railway.

Work in conjunction with the controversial HS2 project will close the line between Birmingham and Coleshill Parkway, affecting CrossCountry services.

Other lines facing disruption due to engineering work include:

  • Wigan-Bolton-Manchester
  • Manchester-Sheffield
  • Preston and Blackpool North (Sunday only)
  • Reading-Ascot/Gatwick airport

A strike by members of the RMT union who work for CrossCountry at Craigentinny depot near Edinburgh means many trains will run no further north than Newcastle – including the UK’s longest train route, from Penzance to Aberdeen.

Disruption will continue through the week. Other operators run on the affected lines, but services will be more crowded as a result.

Tube

The Heathrow end of the Piccadilly Line of the London Underground will close at 7am on Saturday for five full days. Upgrade work means Heathrow will be disconnected from the Tube network until the start of service on Thursday 15 February.

Replacement buses will run nonstop between the airport and the Underground station at Hammersmith in west London. An easier alternative for many travellers is the Elizabeth Line, which runs from all four terminals at Heathrow to central and east London – though fares are higher than on the Tube.

Ferry

Caledonian MacBrayne has cancelled a number of sailings in the Western Isles on Friday, including all links to and from the Isle of Arran and the ferry between Oban and Barra, due to adverse weather.

With “strong easterly winds gusting in excess of 40mph”, the first return trip between Ullapool and Stornoway on Saturday has been cancelled.

The ferry from Mallaig to Skye is “liable to disruption or cancellation at short notice” due to a technical problem.

Europe

Travellers who make it to Continental Europe could find their problems are only just beginning.

On Monday 12 February, strikes will affect trains in Spain and Italy.

German rail workers have staged widespread industrial action at short notice. On Wednesday ground staff working for Lufthansa caused hundreds of cancellations when they walked out.