Festive ‘frantic Friday’ predicted as 20 million Christmas trips planned

Motorists stuck in traffic congestionMotorists should expect lots of traffic and “significant congestion” on the roads in the build-up to Christmas, beginning on Wednesday through to Friday.

The worst day will be Friday 21st December, with 2.8 million individual journeys predicted, on top of the usual commuter traffic.

The RAC and traffic analysts INRIX have dubbed it ‘frantic Friday’.

Thursday 20th will be almost as bad though, with 2.5 million festive trips planned. Indeed, on one section of the northbound M6, the two organisations say delays of up to three hours (see below) are expected.

The M25 and M40 will also be badly hit by traffic and delays.

Christmas 2018 - top traffic jam hotspots

Planned rail strikes will not helps with routes on both South Wetern Railway and Northern Rail set to be affected. Network Rail will also run engineering work on lines into London Paddington and Victoria.

The one saving grace is the fact motorists are expected to stagger their trips, rather than all heading away on the same day.

INRIX data scientist Joshua Kidd said that, compared to a normal day, Thursday will be the busiest. There will be the biggest increase in cars on the road and, “with most drivers setting out mid-morning, traffic will become heavier over the course of the afternoon and stay congested into the evening.

“It’s not just those off to see family and friends – commuters, last-ditch shoppers and online deliveries will contribute to clogging the roads.”

Highways England is doing its bit though, lifting roadworks from 97 percent of the road network.

After Christmas, traffic will peak on Boxing Day with 6.8 million trips planned. Thursday 27th December will be a little quieter, with ‘just’ 4.4 million journeys predicted.

Christmas getaway trips and traffic conditions

DatePlanned leisure tripsWorst times to travelBest times to travelWorst road for long delays
Wed 19th December2.8m3pm to 6.30pmAfter 7.30pmM25 clockwise from J20 to J28 from 3.30pm. Up to 80min delay
Thu 20th December2.5m11.30am to 6.30pmAfter 8pmM6 north J15 to J25 from 12.30pm. Up to 181min delay
Fri 21th December2.8m11.30am to 6pmAfter 7.30pmM40 south from M42 Warwickshire to J8A (Oxford). Up to 110min delay
Sat 22nd December2.2m10.30am to 4pmBefore 9.30am or after 7.30pmM40 north from J8A (Oxford) to M42 Warwickshire. Up to 61min delay
Sun 23th December1.9m4pm to 6.30pmBefore 11am or after 8pm
Mon 24th December2.5m11am to 1pmAt other timesM1 north J21 (Coventry/Leicester) to J26 (Nottingham/Ripley). Up to 22min delay

Source: Data from the RAC/INRIX

Roads expected to be worst affected

RegionLocationPeak congestion fromPredicted travel time (mins)Total delay (mins)
19th December    
Greater LondonM25 Clockwise J20 (Hemel Hempstead) to J28 (Chelmsford)3.30pm11479
Greater LondonM25 Anticlockwise J20 (Hemel Hempstead) to J11 (Woking)3.15pm8658
North West EnglandM62 West J27 (Batley) to J18 (Manchester ring road)6.30pm7648
South West EnglandM5 South J16 (Thornbury) to J19 (Portishead)5.30pm4131
North West EnglandM60 clockwise J6 (Sale) to J19 (Manchester)3pm4428
20th December    
West MidlandsM6 North J15 (Stoke-on-Trent) to J25 (Wigan)12.30pm229181
Greater LondonM25 Anticlockwise J20 (Hemel Hempstead) to J11 (Woking)5pm13186
South East EnglandM20 East J8 (Lenham) to J13 (Folkestone)7.30pm8256
South East EnglandM3 South J6 (Basingstoke) to J13 (Bournemouth)3pm6544
Greater LondonM25 Anticlockwise J4 (Bromley) to J30 (London E & C)2.30pm5439
21st December    
West MidlandsM40 South (M42) to J8A (Aylesbury)2.30pm157110
West MidlandsM40 North J8A (Aylesbury) to M4212pm8435
West MidlandsM6 South J20 (Macclesfield) to J16 (Newcastle-under-Lyme)5.15pm5833
West MidlandsM5 North J4A M42 to Ray Hall interchange7.45pm3921
ScotlandM8 West J12 (Riddrie) to J29 (Paisley)12.15pm218
22nd December    
West MidlandsM40 North J8A (Aylesbury) to M425.45pm10561
West MidlandsM6 North J15 (Stoke-on-Trent) to J25 (Wigan)7.15am10459
South West EnglandA303 West Salisbury Road to A3502.45pm4619
West MidlandsM6 South J20 (Macclesfield) to J16 (Newcastle-under-Lyme)12.30pm4318
West MidlandsM5 North J4A (M42) to Ray Hall interchange6pm3114

Planned national rail strikes and major engineering works

Saturday 22nd, Thursday 27th and Monday 31st December, all daySouth Western RailwayServices to and from London Waterloo
Saturday 22nd, Saturday 29th December, all dayNorthern RailFewer than 30% of normal number of services running, with very few after 5pm
Sunday 23rd December to 2nd January 2019SeveralNo services to or from London Victoria
Sunday 23rd and Monday 24th DecemberSeveralNo services to or from London Paddington
27, 28, 29 and 31 DecemberSeveralReduced service on some routes to and from London Paddington


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