Heathrow won’t have rail or tube services this Christmas, here’s how you can still get there

Nov 17, 2021

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A potentially calamitous Christmas travel scenario looms for Brits as it will be much more difficult to travel through Heathrow Airport (LHR) during the holiday season. The reason? Major engineering work being done on London’s rail and tube network means no trains will be available on Christmas Day and Boxing Day to shuttle passengers to and from one of the world’s busiest travel hubs.

The Network Rail and Transport for London (TfL) have scheduled upgrades to take place on those days. Network rail will be doing signalling, track and HS2 repairs and improvements between Paddington and Slough. It all adds up to major service disruptions holidaymakers will need to account for to make sure their travel plans are not scuttled.

Passengers walk past an information sign at Terminal 3 of Heathrow Airport, London, advising of the new drop-off charge for people transporting travellers to the airport by vehicle. Picture date: Monday November 8, 2021. (Photo by Steve Parsons/PA Images via Getty Images)

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As if that’s not bad enough, TfL will be suspending the Piccadilly line between Heathrow and Acton Town from Christmas Eve until 3 January. A full list of the engineering work taking place during the holidays and its impact on service can be found at the National Rail Enquiries website.

Travellers who have already booked their plane tickets through Britain’s busiest airport will be left with essentially three alternatives for reaching Heathrow or trying to get home: Drive themselves to the airport, book a taxi or make use of a coach or bus service.

According to the Mirror,  Network Rail’s CEO attempted to downplay the disruption the rail work would have on holiday travel plans. “While some essential work is taking place to upgrade our railway over the festive period, we’ve worked hard with train operators to reduce the impact on passengers as far as possible so that they can spend time with their families and friends this Christmas,’ said Andrew Haines.

The repairs are deemed necessary for maintaining reliability across the rail and tube network. “I’d like to thank the thousands of rail workers who will be working to keep services running,” Haines added. “And those delivering upgrades to improve our railway and bring more reliable journeys to passengers in future.”

People waiting on London underground platform.

So what options do travellers have?

Travelling to Heathrow by car

If you drive your own car to the airport, turn to Heathrow’s long-stay parking. Peak time parking rates would apply, as this is the middle of the holiday travel season, so the first day would cost £38.20. Each additional day would then cost £30.50. You can book a space in advance, and that seems like a smart move given that others may also be considering long stay parking as an option this Christmas – especially if travelling to the airport from further afield than London.

If you have a dear friend or a family member who can drive you to the airport, the long-stay parking area is free for the first 30 minutes. That should be more than enough time for a drop-off. If you have someone pick you up, the cost is £8 for the first two hours.

If you prefer taxi service, an Uber from central London to Heathrow will probably cost you between £40-£60. It is worth noting however that this amount could rise due to surge pricing. If you order a black cab, expect to pay somewhere in the range of £45-65.

Travelling to Heathrow by bus or coach

Heathrow is served by several local London bus routes, although some routes may be running a reduced holiday service. If you’re planning to travel to the airport this way we’d highly recommend checking in advance that your service is running regularly on the day to avoid any last-minute panics.

Alternatively, you can make use of a coach service such as the National Express which has a number of coaches running through the Christmas period. Depending on where you travel from prices can sometimes be as cheap as just £10.00.

As before we’d recommend booking your seat as far in advance as possible. We’d expect coaches to begin filling up fast due to the planned tube and rail closures.

Network Rail’s upgrades will also impact Gatwick Airport (LGW) between Christmas Day and 3 January, so if your travel begins or ends there, be sure to check ahead of time to see if you need to make alternate transportation plans.

Featured image by DLewis33 for Getty Images

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