Motorway jams and train disruption for millions of Brits in Xmas Eve dash

24 December 2021, 14:33 | Updated: 24 December 2021, 18:03

Traffic jams and train disruption emerged on Christmas Eve
Traffic jams and train disruption emerged on Christmas Eve. Picture: Alamy

By Will Taylor

Brits journeying to visit loved ones for Christmas or racing to stock up on last minutes gifts are contending with travel chaos.

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Some motorways were brought to a standstill and rail services have been thrown into turmoil by strikes in the Christmas Eve dash.

There has been severe congestion on routes including the M25, M4 and M6, with the RAC estimating 5.3 million people are making day trips or heading for overnight stays.

With many having missed out on normal Christmas plans last year, with the spread of coronavirus leading to limits on gatherings, Boris Johnson pledged earlier this week that no more restrictions would be in place before December 25.

He has insisted tomorrow will be "significantly" better than 2020's festive period.

RAC spokesperson Rod Dennis said previously: "Despite the increasing prevalence of the Omicron Covid variant, our research shows that the vast majority of drivers are still determined to do Christmas properly this year – in sharp contrast to 12 months ago.

Read more: Christmas travel explainer: Latest on roads, rail and air as millions set for festive getaway

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"We're expecting the biggest Christmas getaway for five years, including a 'Frantic Festive Friday' on Christmas Eve. But with overall traffic volumes in the run-up to the big day set to be down slightly on normal given the current 'work from home' guidance, there's reason to hope there won't be too many queues as millions get away to see friends and family.

"As well as adding to the traffic jams, just a single breakdown has the potential to ruin Christmas which is why we're urging drivers to make sure their vehicles are 'road ready' before they set out."

Thousands are also travelling by train, but CrossCountry warned it is only operating a "very limited service" on Friday because of strikes by train managers and senior conductors who are members of the RMT union.

There was also major disruption to some Avanti West Coast, Northern and Transpennine Express services after a person was hit by a train between Stockport and Manchester Piccadilly.

Staff shortages caused by Covid have ravaged rail companies this week, and hundreds of train services have had to be cancelled across the UK.

Meanwhile, more people are heading abroad than last year, when the UK was experiencing rapid spread of Covid and got plunged into tiered restrictions.

Though levels are less than half of what would be seen before the pandemic, Gatwick Airport said it expected 750,000 passengers between December 18 and 31.