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Happy Christmas! There'll be 12 days of train engineering work hell over the festive season

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Hannah-Rose Yee
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The trains are going to be royally screwed up over the holiday period, so here’s how to spend the inevitable delays.

On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me… Crippling delays and major disruptions on several rail lines due to engineering work.

Network Rail has announced that there will be “significant changes to normal services” and urged passengers to take trains as early as they conceivably could in order to avoid major delays as they head across the country for the holiday season. Work will commence on 23 December, the Sunday just before Christmas, and will impact routes from several of London’s biggest stations as well as the lines that service London’s major airports.

Deep breath. Here are the planned disruptions to services out of London:

  • Heathrow Express will not be running between 23 December and 25 December as well as 30 December
  • Platform 9 through 19 at London Victoria will be closed, placing strain on Clapham Junction between 23 December and 1 January. Expect high levels of foot traffic
  • No Gatwick Express trains will run from London Bridge and several trains going South diverted from the station
  • Great Western Railway trains will end at Slough or Reading
  • London Paddington to undertake major engineering works from 23 December through 31 December and will be closed during the Christmas period
  • Trains will not run from Liverpool Street on 22 and 23 December, or on 28 and 29 December. The Stansted Express will run half hourly on these days. No trains will run on 25 December
  • Engineering work between 24 December and 1 January will impact stations between Bedford and Kettering 

Happy Christmas to everyone except those who planned the engineering work over the festive season

Suffice to say, if you’re getting on any train out, into, through or in any direction from London, you’re likely to face disruptions and delays along the way.

It’s a nightmare, but we know it won’t stop you from getting home for Christmas. Sitting for hours on a slow train as it tries to navigate a meandering network of trackwork is nothing compared to the guilt you’d get from your parents if you didn’t show up on Christmas Day.

We get it. We would never advise you to avoid the trains altogether and stay home – although, in the worst case scenario of this whole thing you can always tobbogan back to your parents’ place or wherever you need to be on 25 December – but we want you to get prepared for the inevitable delays you might face this festive season.

Forthwith, a list of things you can do if you’re stuck in a station waiting for a train that feels like it’s never going to come, or twiddling your thumbs on a train as it slowly makes its way to its final destination.

  • Read War and Peace. You’ve always wanted to do it. Now might be the time. It’s 1,238 pages long and will take you around 32.5 hours, so that should be enough to cover a roundtrip over Christmas, including delays. 
  • Crochet Christmas presents for everyone. You’ve been so busy in December, going to Christmas parties and generally being lush, that you haven’t bought anyone presents. Don’t worry! You’ve got a massive train journey ahead of you with “major disruptions” and “severe delays”. Looks like everyone is getting a beanie for Christmas this year.
  • Learn how to code. Before you head to the station this year, get your iPad and download Swift Playgrounds, the app that teaches you in simple, step-by-step ways, how to code. Who knows, you might arrive home the next Sheryl Sandberg.
  • Memorise all the lyrics to every song – including the dialogue-only tracks – on the soundtrack of A Star is Born.
  • Run an unofficial, for-your-eyes only taste test of every flavour of Pop Chips.
  • Plan a holiday to Malta and inevitably chicken out and closethe browser tab right before you plug in your credit card details.
  • Download the first season of The Romanoffs, the new series from Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner and stop watching after 15 minutes. Stream four old episodes of The Good Place instead.
  • Place a pre-emptive order from Ocado for champagne for New Year’s Eve.
  • Face the crippling existential dread of the end of another year and the beginning of yet another as we all inch slowly towards the moment when we shuffle off our mortal coil.

Happy Christmas, everyone! 

Images: Unsplash

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Hannah-Rose Yee

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