More hassle on trains but less on planes: Christmas rail strikes are announced while airports prepare to lift liquid limits!
Chalkmarks: Stingray, Dubai. Credit: Mike Lesley

Good morning. This is what happened in the world of travel this week: Friday 25th November 2022

CHRISTMAS train strikes, the pound soars and luggage liquid and laptop rules to end in 2024! Your fact-packed, must-read weekly travel round-up

Off the rails!

Christmas is coming: And so are train strikes and rail engineering works. It’ll add up to almost four weeks of disruption. The latest announcement of walkouts by 40,000 members from the Rail, Maritime and Transport union came on Tuesday. Eight days in total are planned as a series of 48-hour strikes. There are four days set in the week before Christmas and four in the New Year. The dates for your diary are Tuesday 13th and Wednesday 14th then Friday 16th and Sunday 17th. In January the strike days are Tuesday 3rd, Wednesday 4th and Friday 6th and Saturday 7th. The BBC broke the news and the Metro ran with the headline ‘Mick Grinch’ on Wednesday. By Thursday Network Rail tweeted its Christmas rail works with disruption starting on 23rd December until 3rd January 2023. 

Euston we have a problem: The first train strikes over pay and conditions started in June and are continuing into the New Year. That’ll be seven months of industrial action with no resolution in sight. The Centre for Economics and Business Research crunched the numbers and calculated that by January the walkouts would have cost the economy £691 million with train companies losing £320 million in revenue – that’s a £1 billion hit, reported the Daily Mail. It’s been quite the crisis. What doesn’t add up is why the new Transport Secretary Mark Harper told ITV’s Robert Peston it wasn’t his role to get involved. But yesterday he met with RMT boss Mick Lynch, who said the talks were “positive”, and Mr Harper tweeted were “constructive” – there was no mention yet of saving Christmas.

Tomorrow: Planned strike action by Aslef train drivers takes place affecting 11 companies. Some operators will run reduced services but Northern warns passengers to plan ahead as no trains will run tomorrow. On Sunday drivers at LNER will not work any over time.

Pound fights back: Today the pound has risen to $1.21 due to the weakening dollar. It was in September that the pound fell to $1.03 – a record low – after Liz Truss’s massive mini Budget. We reported about it here in this newsletter. The number was grim. For the first time in our lifetime the pound had come close to equalling the US dollar and some said the exchange rate could reach parity by the end of the year. They were wrong. Shopping in New York here we come! The pound hasn’t seen the same rise against the euro, with £1 buying €1.16. Sky News had the news.

Simple flying: Rules forcing holidaymakers to pack travel minis into clear plastic bags to be pulled out and screened at airport security are set to be scrapped. New super-duper advanced 3D scanners are being trialled at Heathrow which can see deep into our luggage and detect banned items. It will mean travellers can keep all their liquids in their carry-on bags and it’ll bring an end to the 100ml rule. Passengers will also be able to keep their laptops and other electrical devices inside bags. This should help cut queuing times. If all goes well expect to see them rolled out across all UK airports by summer 2024. The Times had the scoop.

Which? is the worst airport: Leeds Bradford was named the worst UK airport for its long security lines that can take up to an hour. The average wait time was 35 minutes. Ranked by the consumer experts at Which?  Bristol was second worst, followed by Birmingham, Manchester, Heathrow, Luton, Belfast International, Stansted, Edinburgh, Gatwick, Newcastle, Glasgow International, Belfast City and London City…which we guess was the best worst!

Plane talking: News of a new airline hit the the headlines this week. Fly Atlantic is launching a route from Belfast to North America, hoping to create a transatlantic hub. Starting in summer 2024, airline boss Andrew Pyne said: “Our vision is of Belfast as a strong aviation hub linking Europe and North America.” Travel expert Simon Calder wasn’t convinced, asking “why should Fly Atlantic work when Wow Air failed?”. He says it would be quicker to fly to Dublin due to its US “pre-clearance” agreement and also warns if the Belfast route drew too much traffic from Ireland, Aer Lingus could soon lower its fares. Read what he has to say in the Irish Independent.

Have you seen our pictures: Our fantastic travel photos, which capture some of our favourite destinations around the world, are now available for sale on Alamy. Woohoo!

Be more explorer: If you are after true escapism this year, visit Peru. It has an impressive reputation with coast and deserts in the west, jungle in the north, and the Andes – the longest mountain range on Earth – in the east. Each region has its own soundtrack. In Lima you’ll hear reggaetón and salsa, in the Amazon bird song and in Cusco the sweet sound of pan pipes on every corner. It’ll make you glad to be alive. Where to go? Here are some ideas

Holiday in Wales: The first thing we noticed when we arrived at Swansea train station was that the signs and announcements were in Welsh. It instantly felt like a great adventure. This Welsh city has a glorious coastline, a rich history, and for the best food head to the main market. We feasted on fresh seafood and Welsh cakes – and we dare you to try the laverbread. See here.

What happened: The adventures of Robin Hood at Nottingham Castle ended this week after it closed down despite a £30 million revamp. The year was 1377 (probably earlier) when the medieval hooded hero set foot in Sherwood Forest in Nottingham, according to the legend. Tourists have been flocking to the Midlands ever since, hoping to see something like the Hollywood depictions – such as Robin Hood Prince of Thieves – of the man, who stole from the rich and gave to the poor. The real fortress, built in 1068, burned to the ground in 1841 and was rebuilt a few years later with a more stately-looking mansion. Tourism chiefs had wanted to turn it into a  “world class heritage attraction” and in 2018 work began. It opened only in June 2021 in the hope it would attract 400,000 tourists a year – rivalling York and Warwick. This week the doors shut. Bosses at Nottingham Castle Trusts said visitor numbers were low, and they’d been complaints about the management. In a final tweet on Monday they were “saddened” and “heartbroken” to announce it had gone into liquidation. Nottinghamshire Live had the full story.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas: Windsor Castle has been decked out for Christmas with a 6-metre (20-foot) tree, stunning wreaths and twinkling Christmas lights. It was here the Queen spent her last Christmas in 2021 having moved from Buckingham Palace to Berkshire during the pandemic. The Queen was then laid to rest beside husband Prince Philip, her father, King George VI and her mother Queen Elizabeth at St George’s Chapel in September. The festive doors opened to visitors yesterday. PA Media has the pictures. 

In case you don’t follow us on social media you really should. Here we are, here too and over here. Say hola muchacha! 

Air we go!

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