Creating an ‘intermodal transport system’ represents the holy grail for all those involved in planning the future of the UK’s transport system. In this utopian vision, passengers (and freight) would move seamlessly from one mode of transport to another, thereby speeding up the flow of people and goods and helping grow our economy – as well as dramatically reduce the frustration of travellers.
Great strides are already being taken by planners to turn that dream into a reality. For instance, the soon-to-be-opened Crossrail project (Europe’s largest construction project) will cut journey times from Heathrow in the West to the City of London in the East to just over thirty minutes.
But try not to use the words ‘inter-modal’ when talking to holidaymakers trying to reach Heathrow or Gatwick airports by rail this Christmas because they won’t be able to get to either without a great deal of hassle. Network Rail has just announced its Christmas engineering schedule and, despite its Chief Executive, Mark Carne, claiming that its ‘good news’ that 95% of the network will be running normally over the Christmas period, its extremely unfortunate that the 5% of the network that won’t be running just happens to link two of the UK’s busiest airports with the country’s rail network.
Network Rail claims that it planned the engineering work in close collaboration with both airport operators and all the train operators. Its just a shame that they didn’t include the passengers too because the level of disruption will make for some frustrating journeys when trying to use both rail and air networks. Both the Heathrow Express and Gatwick Express services will not run for extended periods over the Christmas period whilst the main rail line between London Victoria and Gatwick will be badly affected from December 26th to January 4th with a bus service operating between East Croydon and Redhill. (So ‘intermodal’ in that they’ll be using a bus too. Let’s hope it doesn’t take them via the M25!).
Would be holidaymakers travelling to both Airports from further afield are no better off; passengers using train services operated by Great Western between London and the West County also face disruption, as do those using Virgin’s West Coast service between London and Glasgow.
We at Explorer Travel Insurance recognise that the UK is a victim of its own success here; we invented railways and created, at one time, the world’s most comprehensive rail network. And this month’s engineering works represent a further – significant – investment in improving that network that will, one day, make us the envy of the world once again. Only not this Christmas.