Further to the briefing last week, we wanted to update you on the likely position for Christmas Eve, Saturday 24 December and Tuesday 27 December should strike action take place, as it is particularly important that customers start to plan their journeys for Christmas with as much knowledge of potential disruption to services as possible. We would be grateful if you could use your own channels to ensure this information is shared as widely as possible.
Christmas Eve - Saturday 24 December
On Christmas Eve, Saturday 24 December, the last trains on all Southern, Thameslink, Great Northern and Gatwick Express routes are likely to depart at approximately midday. Exact train times are expected to be available in journey planners such as www.nationalrail.co.uk on Tuesday 20th December, but customers should plan to catch a train before midday, if possible.
Customers travelling longer distances and on other train companies should plan carefully, as some train operators are unable to run at all and others will have last trains even earlier than midday.
Tuesday 27 December
On Tuesday 27 December, the first trains on all Southern, Thameslink, Great Northern and Gatwick Express routes are likely to depart from approximately midday. Exact train times are expected to be available in journey planners such as www.nationalrail.co.uk on Thursday 22nd December.
Planning work for both dates is still underway, but we wanted to provide as much information as we can now to give people as much notice as possible.
The reason there is such a limited service is the combination of Network Rail RMT strike action from 18:00 on the 24th, a ban on overtime, and all-day strike action by other unions such as Unite. For specialist staff such as depot shunter drivers, signallers, and electrical control room operators and to support the engineering work taking place on Christmas day, this adds considerable uncertainty to staff coverage and requires the network to be clear of traffic by 15:00 on the 24th.
Similarly, once the strike action ends on the 27th, signalling and power systems will need to be reactivated and safety checked, which takes considerable time, hence our current expectation that first passenger services will not be until around midday on most routes. If there is snow or ice on the tracks, it will need to be cleared, meaning even later start up times.
We know this will be very disappointing for our customers at a time of year when they rely on the railway to be with their families and we are very sorry. We hope that the action will be called off, but while plans are still in development, we wanted to advise on the likely outcome so that people can plan and ensure they can make their journeys.
More widely, across the period 18 December to 2 January, industrial action in the form of an overtime ban will be in place, which will remove flexibility at a time of maximum annual leave. While we will do everything we can to keep disruption to a minimum, our advice is to check journeys before leaving for the station and allow extra time.
As always, thank you for your assistance.