London holiday transit disruptions

By Stephen O. Addison, Jr.
This item appears on page 12 of the May 2016 issue.

London is a popular destination during the Christmas holidays and deservedly so. My wife, Paula, and I flew out of Charlotte on Dec. 25, 2015, arriving at London’s Heathrow airport on Dec. 26, and we returned from London on Jan. 1, 2016. While we expected schedules for attractions would be affected by the holidays, we discovered that transportation options were significantly reduced as well.

My pre-trip research enabled us to avoid nasty surprises; however, the holiday season may have been more disrupted than usual because Christmas Day and New Year’s Day were each on a Friday, creating long weekends, and because of Crossrail construction. (See for information regarding this huge infrastructure project, which is scheduled to be completed in 2019.)

My first surprise was discovering, online, that the entire Tube system would not operate on Christmas Day. The Tube’s Waterloo & City line and the London Overground were also shut down on Boxing Day (Dec. 26).

In addition, large portions of the Tube’s Metropolitan, Circle and Hammersmith & City lines were closed Dec. 26-30 due to Crossrail construction. As if those closures weren’t enough, bus service in these areas was diverted for the same reason. 

In addition, there were unscheduled closures and delays due to “track failure” on Dec. 29 and signal problems on the afternoon of Dec. 31 plus at least one instance of an unfortunate person hit by a train. The city-run organization Transport for London ( did an excellent job of communicating the above information on their website.

Do not arrive in London or depart from London on Christmas Day! My second surprise was finding, online, that virtually no public transportation operates between Heathrow (and, likely, other London airports) and the city on Christmas.

In addition to the Tube’s being shut down, neither Heathrow Express ( nor Heathrow Connect ( trains were in service Christmas Day. (Heathrow Express stopped its service a bit earlier the evening of the 24th.) These two train services remained closed through Dec. 28 due to Crossrail construction. (Fortunately, Heathrow Express’s free service between London Heathrow terminals continued operations during this time.)

Adding to the pain, I read that Uber was (understandably) using surge pricing on Christmas. I don’t think National Express coaches and buses were running that day, but they were operating on Dec. 26.

Fewer disruptions occurred on New Year’s Day. The Tube remained in service, and Heathrow Express trains ran every 30 minutes (versus their usual every-15-minutes schedule), Dec. 29-Jan. 2 (again, this was due to Crossrail construction). Heathrow Connect trains were also operating, albeit with an amended schedule that omitted stops at Hanwell and West Ealing. It appears that National Express took New Year’s Day off but returned to service on Jan. 2.

So do your homework before finalizing your trip plans and choose your travel dates wisely. 

For those flying into Gatwick Airport in southeastern England who will be taking the Gatwick Express to London Victoria station, is a helpful website.

If you’re flying in and out of Heathrow Airport (, download their phone app. The app did a fine job of alerting me about transportation disruptions during our trip.


Charlotte, NC