THE festive season is finally here, and this year, you plan to spend your holidays out of town. London may be gorgeous in December, but you have other plans — going home, perhaps, or heading to a countryside pub for a very English Christmas by the fire.
Spending Christmas Day with sand between your toes, or with mulled wine in hand and snow falling outside, is a magical thought. What’s less magical is the journey there. If you don’t plan ahead, there’s every chance you’ll get stuck in a transport nightmare.
Problem is, planning is one of those things that’s easier said than done.
Whether overworked, stressed or just absent-minded, it’s easy to forget to book that train ticket, and leaving it to the last minute is only going to cost you. Booked on the day, tickets from London to Manchester can come in at a hefty £150 — come Christmas season, you’re lucky if you can even get a seat.
We don’t want to be the ones to say “I told you so”, but now might be the time to consider alternate methods of travel.
Ride-sharing is a good option for a long-distance journey. Services like BlaBlaCar.com connect you with others heading in the same direction, and are certainly cheaper than opting for a last-minute train. Drivers list their journeys on the site for paying passengers to find them — drivers save the cost of their fuel, and passengers pay far less than they would for a rail ticket.
The service claims that ride-sharing is an average of 79% cheaper than the same journey would be via rail. On the day, a train from London to Manchester can cost up to £154* – with BlaBlaCar, the same journey costs £15, saving passengers 90% on the journey.
If you were planning to get out of town by rail, it pays to be aware of the various disruptions going on this Christmas.
Several pieces of ‘essential engineering work’ are planned, so it pays to check if your lines are operating and whether their frequency will be affected. The National Rail’s disruptions website is the best place to check. Many lines are also closing earlier than normal — for instance, the last Chiltern Railway service from Marylebone to Aylesbury finishes at 20.42 on Christmas Eve.
Even within London, both underground and overground trains will work on altered schedules due to maintenance works. Heading to the airport could be a nightmare too — there will be no Gatwick Express service between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, and there will be no trains from Paddington to Heathrow Airport until Sunday 29th December.
While snow may be a delightfully foreign experience to us, it seems to take the English by surprise every year. A few centimetres of the white fluff can throw off entire train schedules — and have you checking into your romantic country hotel at some unholy hour with no time to enjoy dinner and finish off your last-minute wrapping. Be sure to check live departure times online, to be on top of any delays and cancellations.
* Source: nationalrail.co.uk, 16.12.13