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21 million festive getaways expected, causing MAJOR DELAYS on UK roads

As the festive season reaches its peak, UK roads are bracing for a significant surge in traffic, with a study by the RAC and INRIX predicting around 21 million leisure trips between this week and Christmas Eve.

This surge, intensified by Christmas falling on a Monday this year, is expected to culminate in severe delays on major routes, particularly in the last three days leading up to 25 December.

The study, involving 2,100 drivers, reveals a staggering 60% of these journeys will be concentrated between 22 December and Christmas Eve. Leisure traffic is set to climb gradually in the week preceding Christmas, with a sharp 43% increase from 2.2 million journeys on 21 Thursday to 3.2 million on 22 Friday. The weekend leading to Christmas Eve alone will account for an estimated 13.5 million car journeys, marking a 20% rise from last year.

'Frantic Friday' on 22 December is expected to be particularly challenging. Despite an equal number of trips planned for Christmas Eve, Friday will see a mix of holidaymakers, commuters, and parents picking up children from school, exacerbating traffic congestion. However, Christmas Day and Boxing Day are expected to be slightly less hectic, with an average of 3.5 million trips each day, but with reduced risks of serious delays due to the absence of commercial and school traffic.

INRIX, a transport analytics specialist, anticipates daily delays of around 40 minutes between 22-24 December along specific routes. The M25 clockwise, west of Greater London, is a particular hotspot, with the worst delays expected between the M23 for Gatwick and the M40 for Birmingham on 23 December. Motorists travelling anti-clockwise between J17 and J12 on the M25 are also advised to anticipate delays of about half an hour. Other critical areas include the M1 north between Woburn to Daventry and the M6 south from Wigan to Stafford, with significant delays expected in the days leading up to Christmas.

The RAC and INRIX have advised drivers to avoid travel during the lunchtime hours of 12pm to 2pm over the pre-Christmas weekend. For those looking to avoid the worst of the congestion, the recommended times are before 11am and after 6pm on both the 22 and 23 December. As families and individuals across the UK prepare to reunite with loved ones, careful planning and timing could be crucial in ensuring a smoother journey during this bustling holiday season.

RAC Breakdown spokesperson, Alice Simpson, said: “Since Christmas falls on a Monday this year, there’s no need for drivers to use annual leave for getaway trips as they can travel over the weekend before. For that very reason, our research suggests these days will be the busiest times to drive, so we urge people to set off as early as possible on Saturday and Sunday.

“Since festive trips to see friends and family are so important, drivers do everything they can to avoid their vehicles letting them down. We recommend using the ‘FORCES’ acronym to help remember the Fuel, Oil, Rubber, Coolant, Electrics and Screen wash checks you need to make before a long journey.

“This is especially important if your route involves a motorway or A-road, where most delays are expected this year. Although it’s positive that National Highways have removed the majority of roadworks from high-speed roads, an increase in drivers could mean an increase in breakdowns. To keep those who break down on motorways safe, two RAC patrols recently featured in a video advising drivers what to do and where to stand, which is available to watch on YouTube.”

Bob Pishue, INRIX transportation analyst, said: “On average, drivers could see travel times up to 20% longer this holiday season, while travellers around Greater London could experience more than double typical drive times. Our recommendation is to avoid peak commuting hours and use traffic apps to minimise holiday travel traffic frustrations.”


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