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

Date Planned leisure trips Worst times to travel Best times to travel Worst road for long delays
Wed 19th December 2.8m 3pm to 6.30pm After 7.30pm M25 clockwise from J20 to J28 from 3.30pm. Up to 80min delay
Thu 20th December 2.5m 11.30am to 6.30pm After 8pm M6 north J15 to J25 from 12.30pm. Up to 181min delay
Fri 21th December 2.8m 11.30am to 6pm After 7.30pm M40 south from M42 Warwickshire to J8A (Oxford). Up to 110min delay
Sat 22nd December 2.2m 10.30am to 4pm Before 9.30am or after 7.30pm M40 north from J8A (Oxford) to M42 Warwickshire. Up to 61min delay
Sun 23th December 1.9m 4pm to 6.30pm Before 11am or after 8pm
Mon 24th December 2.5m 11am to 1pm At other times M1 north J21 (Coventry/Leicester) to J26 (Nottingham/Ripley). Up to 22min delay

Source: Data from the RAC/INRIX

Roads expected to be worst affected

Region Location Peak congestion from Predicted travel time (mins) Total delay (mins)
19th December        
Greater London M25 Clockwise J20 (Hemel Hempstead) to J28 (Chelmsford) 3.30pm 114 79
Greater London M25 Anticlockwise J20 (Hemel Hempstead) to J11 (Woking) 3.15pm 86 58
North West England M62 West J27 (Batley) to J18 (Manchester ring road) 6.30pm 76 48
South West England M5 South J16 (Thornbury) to J19 (Portishead) 5.30pm 41 31
North West England M60 clockwise J6 (Sale) to J19 (Manchester) 3pm 44 28
20th December        
West Midlands M6 North J15 (Stoke-on-Trent) to J25 (Wigan) 12.30pm 229 181
Greater London M25 Anticlockwise J20 (Hemel Hempstead) to J11 (Woking) 5pm 131 86
South East England M20 East J8 (Lenham) to J13 (Folkestone) 7.30pm 82 56
South East England M3 South J6 (Basingstoke) to J13 (Bournemouth) 3pm 65 44
Greater London M25 Anticlockwise J4 (Bromley) to J30 (London E & C) 2.30pm 54 39
21st December        
West Midlands M40 South (M42) to J8A (Aylesbury) 2.30pm 157 110
West Midlands M40 North J8A (Aylesbury) to M42 12pm 84 35
West Midlands M6 South J20 (Macclesfield) to J16 (Newcastle-under-Lyme) 5.15pm 58 33
West Midlands M5 North J4A M42 to Ray Hall interchange 7.45pm 39 21
Scotland M8 West J12 (Riddrie) to J29 (Paisley) 12.15pm 21 8
22nd December        
West Midlands M40 North J8A (Aylesbury) to M42 5.45pm 105 61
West Midlands M6 North J15 (Stoke-on-Trent) to J25 (Wigan) 7.15am 104 59
South West England A303 West Salisbury Road to A350 2.45pm 46 19
West Midlands M6 South J20 (Macclesfield) to J16 (Newcastle-under-Lyme) 12.30pm 43 18
West Midlands M5 North J4A (M42) to Ray Hall interchange 6pm 31 14

Planned national rail strikes and major engineering works

Saturday 22nd, Thursday 27th and Monday 31st December, all day South Western Railway Services to and from London Waterloo
Saturday 22nd, Saturday 29th December, all day Northern Rail Fewer than 30% of normal number of services running, with very few after 5pm
Sunday 23rd December to 2nd January 2019 Several No services to or from London Victoria
Sunday 23rd and Monday 24th December Several No services to or from London Paddington
27, 28, 29 and 31 December Several Reduced service on some routes to and from London Paddington


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