Drivers told to prepare for ‘busy roads’ as 21 million journeys are expected over Christmas weekend

Driving home for Christmas is busier than the song makes out.

Christmas is the season for car journeys across the country.

And in preparation for a busy weekend of driving, the RAC has issued fresh guidance to those driving home for Christmas.

The Manc reports that drivers are being told to prepare for long queues across the UK, as millions are set to take to roads over the extended Christmas weekend.

With the festive season generally known to make roads nationwide busier than usual, travel warnings have now been issued to all those making Christmas getaway trips for the holidays – with a study of 2,100 drivers by the RAC and INRIX suggesting that 21 million journeys are planned before Christmas Eve arrives.

With Christmas falling on a Monday this year, figures show that leisure traffic levels will climb slowly this week, before it jumps by a whopping 43% from 2.2 million journeys on Thursday 21, to 3.2 million on Friday 22 December.

The period covering Friday 22 and Christmas Eve is expected to see the most leisure journeys by car, according to the RAC – with an estimated 13.5 million this year, up 20% from the same period last year.  

While Christmas Eve getaways match what’s been dubbed ‘Frantic Friday’ trips at 3.2 million, the reality is Friday will be “far busier”, the RAC warns, as those heading off for festivities share the roads with commuters and parents collecting the kids from school. 

Roads will also be busy on Christmas Day and Boxing Day, as you’d probably expect.

RAC and INRIX figures show that an average of 3.5 million trips are expected on these two days, but any travel experts say serious delays should be “less of a risk without the normal mix of commercial, commuter, and school traffic”.

So, what kinds of delays are we talking then? And which motorways across the UK should motorists be most expecting to come up against traffic and long queues?

Well, data from transport analytics specialists indicates that there are likely to be daily delays of around 40 minutes between Friday 22 and Christmas Eve on the M25 clockwise west of Greater London, while the worst queues – which could be up to an hour – is expected along the M25 clockwise between the M23 for Gatwick, and the M40 for Birmingham on the Saturday 23 December.

A nearby Greater Manchester motorway has been identified as a ‘festive getaway’ hotspot / Credit – Vladimir Proskurovskiy (via Unsplash)

Looking further afield, the M1 north between Woburn to Daventry, and the M6 south from Wigan to Stafford, is predicted to be “hit the hardest with delays” in the run-up to Christmas Day.

When it comes to the busiest times of day on the UK’s roads, 12pm to 2pm has been identified as the the most hectic time to travel across most major routes during the pre-Christmas weekend – with both the RAC and INRIX urging drivers to avoid lunchtime journeys.

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The best times to travel will be before 11am and after 6pm on both the 22 and 23 December, as this is when it’s hoped drivers will be able to make it home for Christmas with slightly fewer tailbacks.  

Featured Image – RAC

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