Network Rail chairman Sir Peter Hendy has been tasked with examining whether rail, air and road networks are ready for millions of people taking trips during the five-day window when coronavirus restrictions are relaxed .
Meanwhile, Michael Gove has warned that every hospital in England could be inundated with coronavirus cases if the new level restrictions are not introduced.
The cabinet minister delivered the blunt message as the government faces a Tory backbench rebellion over the measures.
He urged MPs to “take responsibility for the tough decisions” to curb the spread of Covid-19 amid reports up to 70 could rebel and vote against the plans in the Commons on Tuesday.
In Saturday’s Times, he said there was a need to ‘pull the handbrake’ and prevent the ‘disaster’ of NHS hospitals – and the private sector and newly built Nightingale hospitals – from filling up at full capacity with only Covid patients and emergency cases.
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Network Rail chief Sir Peter Hendy named Christmas travel czar to avoid transport chaos
A Christmas travel czar has been appointed in an effort to avoid transport chaos during the holiday season.
The Department for Transport (DfT) said Network Rail chairman Sir Peter Hendy will check whether rail, air and road networks are ready for millions of people making trips during the five-day window when restrictions relating to coronaviruses will be relaxed.
Cheaper train tickets for Christmas trips didn’t go on sale until Friday, about eight weeks later than usual, due to delays in finalizing timetables during the pandemic.
Capacity on trains is limited to allow for social distancing, with some operators preventing passengers from boarding without a pre-booked ticket.
The strain on the network will also be increased by the engineering work that will take place during the Christmas period.
One of the most disruptive projects will take place at London King’s Cross, which will be closed for six days starting on Christmas Day.
London North Eastern Railway, which normally uses the station for its Anglo-Scottish trains on the East Coast Main Line, warns that alternative routes will be “very busy and should also be avoided”.
The UK government and decentralized administrations have agreed to a temporary easing of coronavirus restrictions on Christmas, allowing three households to mix in a bubble from December 23 to 27.
The DfT will publish measures to mitigate travel disruption next week, taking into account the analysis of demand for advance train tickets and public inquiries.
Transportation Secretary Grant Shapps said: “We recognize that people will want to be with their friends and family this Christmas.
“And for those who choose to form a Christmas bubble, we are lifting travel restrictions across the UK for five days in an effort to see this bubble.
“Before you travel, plan your trip very carefully and, if possible, book well in advance.
“Everyone should also follow clear instructions to ensure the safety of you, other passengers and staff.