Families could spend at least six days together over Christmas if ‘unforseen disruption to travel’ stops people from returning home.
Three households are allowed to mix indoors between December 23 and 27 under a festive bubble arrangement agreed between the four home nations.
New guidance published on Monday evening said the bubble could be extended ‘immediately after the Christmas period’ if there are problems with getting home.
It says the exception applies where ‘one or more persons at the gathering have not been able to return to their home because of unforeseen disruption to travel’.
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The document does not define what is classed as disruption to travel, with some critics suggesting this could be open to abuse.
Trains will be operating over the Christmas period but there are fears they will be overcrowded due to a surge in demand over the days the rules are relaxed.
Labour has urged the Government to suspend peak rail fares and introduce mass testing for transport staff to minimise disruption.
The opposition party said more than two million people used the rail network to travel over Christmas and New Year in previous years, while millions more took car journeys.
They have also called for planned maintenance works on the East Coast Mainline, which runs between London and Edinburgh via cities such as York and Newcastle, to be delayed until December 27, so people can return home safely.
London North Eastern Railway (LNER), which runs the line, said that planned engineering works will make alternative routes ‘very busy’.
The Department for Transport is expected to publish measures to ease travel disruption over the Christmas period this week.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said on Saturday that options being considered included running longer trains and relaxing rules to allow more coaches on the roads.
He added that 500 miles of roadworks had already been cleared on motorways and A-roads to ease congestion.
The new guidance was unveiled as the country prepares to exit lockdown, with the new tier system coming into force on Wednesday.
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