Traffic experts predict that motorway journeys will take up to three hours longer than normal this Christmas, with the worst delays most likely for those heading north.
And it’s not just people visiting family and friends for Christmas who will add to the road congestion - delivery drivers, last-minute shoppers and those travelling to and from work may get caught in the traffic.
With both rail engineering works and strikes occurring, traffic authorities expect chaos over the holiday period after determining Britain’s worst areas for traffic jams.
With 20 million festive trips expected this week, motorists are being urged to expect significant congestion on major roads such as the M25, M6, and M40.
Those driving on the M6 between Staffordshire and Greater Manchester on Thursday could get caught by delays of up to 181 minutes and, on Friday, using the M40 south from the M42 in Warwickshire to J8A at Oxford may add an extra 110 minutes to the journey.
The worst days for congestion, according to research by the RAC and the transportation data analysis company Inrix, will be Thursday and Friday, with between 2.5 million and 2.8 million vehicles travelling across Britain.
To make sure over 97% of roads are available for Christmas travel, Highways England intends to lessen disruption by removing over 200 miles of roadworks from motorways and major A-roads by Friday at 6.00 a.m. but large-scale roadworks will continue on the M1 between Milton Keynes and Northampton and on the M6 near Coventry and between Stafford and Crewe.
M5 J17-J18 (near Avonmouth) 4.2 miles
M62 J10-12 (near Manchester) 10.3 miles
M6 J16-19 (near Crewe) 20 miles
M6 J13-15 (near Stafford) 20 miles
M1 J13-15 (near Milton Keynes) 14.9 miles
M23 J8-10 (near Crawley) 11.5 miles
M20 J2-7 (near Maidstone) 15.9 miles
M6 J2-4 (near Coventry) 13.6 miles
M4 J3-12 (near Wokingham) 20 miles
A14 J31-28 (near Cambridge) 11 miles
M20 J10 (near Ashford) 1.6 miles
A1(M) J15-A1 Buckden (near Huntingdon) 6 miles
A14 J32-34 (near Cambridge) 5 miles
M20 J9-8 (near Ashford) 6 miles
M50 J1-2 (near Worcestershire) 3.8 miles
M6 J2-4 (near Coventry) 14.3 miles
M6 J13-15 (near Stafford) 13 miles
M6 J8-M5 J3 (near Birmingham) 7 miles
M5 J5-4A (near Bromsgrove) 2.6 miles
A1(M) J59-60 (near Newton Aycliffe/Coatham Mundeville) 3.5 miles.
The worst times to travel on Britain’s roads on the lead-up to Christmas
December 20th 11.30 a.m.-6.30 p.m.
December 21st 11.30 a.m.-6.00 p.m.
December 22nd 10.30 a.m.-4.00 p.m.
December 23rd 4.00 p.m.-6.30 p.m.
December 24th 11.00 a.m.-1.00 p.m.
To avoid the worst queues, drivers are being encouraged to use alternative routes or delay their journeys until 8.00 p.m.
Off the rails
Inrix data scientist Joshua Kidd, advises motorists to explore different routes to their destinations and to use the latest technology for real-time updates.
Kidd said: “Our data shows that compared to a normal day, Thursday, December 20th, will see the biggest increase in cars on the road.
“With most drivers setting out mid-morning, traffic will become heavier over the course of the afternoon and stay congested into the evening.”
Train passengers may not fare any better. Tens of thousands of passengers could have their travel disrupted over the Christmas break by Network Rail’s 330 planned engineering works.
Andy Thomas, Managing Director of Strategic Operations at Network Rail, said: “Most of the network is open for business as usual but some routes are heavily affected, so we strongly advise to plan ahead.
“A huge investment programme will deliver more reliable infrastructure and improved services for passengers.”
Strikes continue to affect the rail network and on Saturday, Northern Rail employees walked out at 7.00 a.m., as part of their disagreement over driver-only trains. Further strikes will happen each Saturday this month.
South Western Railway has strikes planned for the 22nd, 27th, and 31st of December. London Underground Central Line plus Waterloo and City Line plan to strike on December the 21st and 22nd and there will be strike action on the Bakerloo Line on December the 26th.
Planes, trains, and automobiles
With airline strikes looking set to carry on well into 2019, travel delays are affecting most modes of transport.
Four hundred of the 965 Virgin Atlantic pilots have arranged up to three lots of four-day strikes to occur over the Christmas and New Year holiday because of the airline’s unwillingness to include them in discussions over changes to pay and benefits.
But if your car remains your transport of choice this Christmas, and you have plans to drive anywhere further than your local area, give your vehicle a once-over to make sure it’s in good repair and not liable to break down, leaving you stranded.
Check your fuel, coolant, oil, and screenwash levels and examine the condition and pressure of your tyres. Make sure you also check the forecast before you travel. By knowing the forecast in advance, you can prepare for any hazardous weather and reach your destination safe and ready to put on that party hat and sip your mulled wine.