The UK government said today it will provide cash refunds for domestic rail and coach tickets for passengers who had booked to travel between 23 and 27 December, before a change in regulations banning them from doing so was announced by prime minister Boris Johnson over the weekend.
Johnson announced stricter COVID-19 measures in London, the South East and East of England amid concerns about the spread of a new strain of the virus which may be up to 70% more transmissible.
He introduced a fourth tier of coronavirus restrictions in the regions, as well as unveiling tighter plans around households gathering during Christmas.
COVID-19 rules were due to be relaxed across the nation between 23 and 27 December, with up to three households able to meet across the five days.
Johnson had previously said that cancelling festive plans would be “inhuman”, however, since then he had faced rising pressure to cancel relaxations amid rising infections and the new COVID variant.
The refunds announced today will apply to journeys in England booked on or after 24 November, when the Christmas travel window was announced.
“The government recognises that many people will have booked their coach and rail tickets in advance based on previous government advice. This announcement ensures that people are not penalised for following the new rules, protecting themselves and others from the virus,” the Department for Transport said in a statement.
Operators will be able to issue refunds immediately and passengers should check the website of their operator for how to claim.
“We urge people to be patient as rail and coach operators will be processing high volumes of refunds over the coming weeks,” the statement added.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps said the refunds ensure “no one is left out of pocket for doing the right thing – staying home in tier four, and elsewhere staying local and only meeting your Christmas bubble on Christmas day.”
Meanwhile, countries around the world have begun closing their borders to the UK, after the new strain of COVID-19 was detected. And airlines have rushed to amend flight schedules.
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