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Hope for Christmas travel as public transport boosted for 25 and 26 December

Driving home at Christmas: National Express is adding extra intercity coaches on 25 December (National Express)
Driving home at Christmas: National Express is adding extra intercity coaches on 25 December (National Express)

Twenty million Britons who have no access to a car and rely on public transport can look forward to the best provision of Christmas Day travel for decades – thanks to thriving competition between coach companies.

And while no trains run on 25 December, and usually very few operate on Boxing Day, one train operator is promising its most extensive 26 December service for 30 years.

The Independent has identified a surge in the number of long-distance coaches running on Christmas Day. It reflects the general move towards a 24/7 society – and also the growing number of people, both travellers and transport staff, for whom 25 December is not a particularly significant day.

National Express will be running almost 500 journeys across 34 routes on Christmas Day. The highest numbers are between central London and the capital’s airports – with 50 round-trips to and from Heathrow, and almost as many serving Luton and Gatwick.

Coaches from Cambridge, Great Yarmouth and Norwich will call at London Stansted airport en route to London.

New overnight services between Scotland’s two biggest cities and London will be introduced. Travellers can choose from three services from Glasgow and two from Edinburgh on 25 December.

FlixBus will be running an extensive network in Scotland on Christmas Day, connecting Dundee, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Dunfermline, Stirling and Perth. Cross-border services between London and Scotland, and from Bristol, Birmingham and Manchester to Scotland will also be running as usual.

In England, coaches from Liverpool, Sheffield, Bradford, Manchester, Nottingham and Birmingham will run to and from London services running as usual, as well as a couple of Cambridge–London services.

From the West of England and South Wales, airport services to Heathrow and Gatwick will run. And FlixBus will also offer London-Paris services departing from / returning to Victoria Coach Station throughout the day. The Birmingham–London–Brussels route will be running as usual.

Megabus says of its Christmas Day schedule: “We operate over 7,000 miles and serve the majority of our destinations to offer transport choices to our customers.

On Boxing Day the full network will be covered.

Rail services on 26 December are traditionally minimal – but in Scotland, at least, travellers will have the widest range of options for three decades thanks to plans for ScotRail.

Traditionally services on Boxing Day have been restricted to a very small number, mainly in the Glasgow area. On 26 December 2023, though, trains will also run to and from Perth, Dunblane and Glenrothes, and between Bathgate and Edinburgh.

Scotland’s transport minister, Fiona Hyslop, said: “We would encourage everyone to consider the train for all their festive journeys, particularly where they can take advantage of off-peak fares all day, every day.”

No ScotRail trains will run on 1 January 2024.

In England, very few trains will be running on Boxing Day.

The Independent has identified these options:

  • London Victoria-Gatwick Airport-Brighton plus some South London services (Southern)

  • Tottenham Hale-Stansted Airport (Greater Anglia, with connections on London Underground)

  • London Marylebone-Oxford Parkway (Chiltern)

  • Clapham Junction-Stratford (London Overground)

  • Merseyrail: “Special service for some stations” including Aintree for the Boxing Day race meeting

Very few domestic flights will operate. Those that do are mainly to connect with international services at London Heathrow.

British Airways is operating three flights each way between Edinburgh and Heathrow, and four each way serving Glasgow.