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