Festive getaway traffic is expected to peak earlier than normal this year as Christmas Day falls on a Monday.
The AA predicted that Friday 22 December and Saturday 23 December will be the busiest days on the UK’s roads in the festive period.
Christmas Eve is traditionally the main day for getaway journeys, but this year many people are taking advantage of a weekend immediately preceding Christmas Day to make trips to friends and family.
The AA estimated that 16.1m car journeys will take place on 22 December and 16.4m on 23 December.
It issued an “amber traffic warning” for those days as it warned of “lengthy jams”.
The M25, the M5 between Bristol and Weston-super-Mare and the M6 around Birmingham were identified as motorway stretches where bumper-to-bumper conditions are likely.
Other potential hotspots include stretches of the M1 from Luton northwards, the M62 and M60 in the north-west and the M4, which connects London with south Wales.
Edmund King, the president of the AA, urged drivers to pack essentials such as water, high-protein food or chocolate, warm clothes and a hi-vis jacket in case they get stranded.
To avoid the chances of a breakdown, King recommended people carry out vehicle checks before setting off, such as on tyres, fuel, oil, coolant and screen wash.
He said: “While Friday 22 December and Saturday 23 December look set to be the busiest travelling days, the unsettled weather forecast could lead to additional delays so drivers should drive to the conditions and slow down where necessary.
“New Year’s Day will be the quietest day on the roads which is probably a good thing especially if drivers have been partying the previous evening.
“Drivers can still be breathalysed and lose their licence for driving over the limit the morning after.”
Rail services will also be disrupted over the festive period due to Network Rail carrying out engineering work.
London Paddington will be closed between Christmas Eve and Wednesday 27 December, meaning no mainline trains will serve Heathrow Airport during that period.
Long-distance services will start and end at Reading, with connecting trains to and from Ealing Broadway or London Waterloo.
London King’s Cross will be closed on Christmas Eve.
Southeastern services that usually operate to or from London Victoria will be diverted to Blackfriars, Charing Cross and Cannon Street between 23 December and New Year’s Day.
Outside the capital, an engineering project near Southampton will see some disruption to services, as will work to build the new Cambridge South station.
No trains will operate on Christmas Day and a very limited service will run on Boxing Day.
Lawrence Bowman, the network strategy director for Network Rail, said: “We understand how important this time of year is for our passengers for reconnecting with family and friends.
“With more than 96% of the network open for business as usual, we have tried as far as possible to design our investment projects around our passengers and keep disruption to a minimum.
“We are carrying out some significant projects, not as many as past years, but still £127m of investment ranging from laying new track, installing new bridges and making improvements to stations so that passengers can benefit from better and more reliable services and facilities.
“We plan our Christmas engineering programmes months and in some cases years, in advance and target the quietest times – overnight, weekends and Christmas Day and Boxing Day – to ensure we keep what disruption there is to an absolute minimum and will always looks to use diversions rather than put people on buses.
“But some routes will see disruption as we upgrade the railway, so it’s important that passengers check their journeys before travelling.”
Airports will also be busy with many people heading overseas for festive holidays or arriving in the UK for Christmas.
Heathrow Airport expects 6.5 million passengers will travel through its terminals this month, with tens of thousands departing on Christmas Day.
Source : The Guardian