Millions on roads and railway shutdown threatens to disrupt Christmas getaway

The next two days will see heavy traffic on the roads despite a scheme to remove roadworks.
The next two days will see heavy traffic on the roads despite a scheme to remove roadworks.
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Millions are bracing for the transport network to descend into chaos tomorrow as they set off on their annual festive getaway.

The RAC predict Christmas Eve will be the busiest day for traffic at 4.1 million journeys as people head to their Christmas destinations.

The bulk of roadworks in Yorkshire have been removed, but motorists may encounter problems as they head south.

According to an AA-Populus poll of nearly 30,000 AA members, 36 per cent of people expect to drive over 20 miles tomorrow.

Network Rail said 20,000 of its workers will carry out almost 500 improvement projects, including a £100m investment programme in North and North East Lincolnshire, over the festive season.

Passengers are being urged to check before they travel from Scunthorpe, Cleethorpes, Lincoln Central, Doncaster and Barton-upon-Humber, from tomorrow until January 11.

Buses or taxis will replace trains, although not all routes will be closed for the full 17-day duration.

The project, which has been two years in the planning and includes replacing 100-year-old signalling along 60 miles of track as well as upgrading 16 level crossings, is focussing on Immingham from tomorrow, where the rail operation will close down for five days.

Cargo ships with rail-bound containers will enter the UK through ports, including Hull, until the railway serving Immingham reopens on December 30.

Mark Tarry, route managing director for Network Rail: “With the majority (of the work) being carried out over Christmas - a relatively quiet time on the railway - ultimately we will reduce the amount of disuption caused.

“The result will be a state of the art rail network that can not only cope with today’s passenger and freight numbers, but tomorrow’s too.”

Rail links will also be severed to Britain’s two busiest airports.

From tomorrow evening for the next 10 days there will be no Gatwick Express service, with travellers warned it could take an extra hour to get to the airport.

At Heathrow the normal one-day closure on Christmas Day will be extended by three days due to Crossrail works, meaning neither Heathrow Express nor Heathrow Connect trains will run from London Paddington station.

Leeds Bradford Airport is also expecting its busiest Christmas and New Year, with some 70,000 passengers jetting off for a break, with popular destinations including the Canary Islands, and for skiing breaks in the Franch Alps, Geneva.

Max Holdstock, from the AA, said: “Christmas Day falling on a Friday will help stagger the getaway traffic, but it is still going to be very busy at peak times on the major getaway routes.

“Try to travel when it is quieter or, if you have no choice, take an alternative route during peak times to beat jams.”

Nearly 400 miles of roadworks were removed ahead of the rush.

A total of 184 schemes will remain in operation over the festive period, compared to 219 last year.

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said officials were “determined to apply common sense” in a bid to minimise disruption.

Some of the worst routes for congestion are likely to include the Merstham Interchange on the M25 in Surrey, the A4 westbound from Earl’s Court to Reading and the M5 southbound from Stroud to Gordano, according to traffic information supplier Inrix.

Inrix also highlighted the M1 Northbound, junction 32 (M18) to junction 42 (M62), where drivers could face 15 minute delays.