Transport User Voice – January 2021 – Travelling for Christmas?

17 December 2020

A look at travel windows over the festive period

Planning Christmas travel can be fraught at the best of times but this year it is especially so. While the ‘Christmas window’ (23-27 December) allows people to travel the question is whether they will actually do so, and if they do, how and when?

Transport Focus has been asking people about their intentions. Our research found that most people (six in 10) will be staying at home. Around three in 10 intend to travel and the majority of those will be using the car. Those using local roads are most likely to make both outgoing and return journeys on Christmas Day itself, while those using motorways are more evenly spread over the run-up to Christmas.

There’s perhaps nothing new in this – car use has always tended to dominate at this time of year. However, we found a relatively small minority looking to use public transport overall and some evidence to suggest that some who might otherwise have used public transport are choosing to drive this year.

Whatever the means of transport, those who are travelling will welcome moves to clear roadworks, provide extra coach services and to alter rail engineering works over the Christmas travel window. We also welcomed the decision to waive the admin fee if, having bought an Advance train ticket before the tiers were announced, somebody then decides not to travel.

We’ve also written to all train companies asking them to do three things:

  • meet demand and facilitate social distancing as best as possible between 23 and 27 December
  • double check their websites and other channels to make sure they are crystal clear about what is running when, what the ticket/reservation arrangements are and what to expect in terms of ‘busyness’
  • where there is still engineering work, make sure there are enough replacement buses/coaches to meet demand while maintaining social distancing.

Most students are already home. Our research (in advance of the 3-9 December student travel window) showed that those who were planning to travel home would mainly be using car. Around eight in 10 students planning to travel home by train said they expected to feel safe when travelling, though one in four said they were concerned about using public transport at the moment. We then took to social media to find out how those journeys home actually went – the results suggest that most people were satisfied with their journey and felt safe.

Information remains key to help people make informed choices about travelling – whether to go at all, and if so by what means. Understanding what to expect is especially important: some people travelling between 23 and 27 December may not have ventured far from where they live since before March.


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