Driving home for Christmas? When and where the festive getaway delay hotspots are

18 December 2023, 11:13

The M25 is predicted to face delays of up to an hour over the Christmas weekend.
The M25 is predicted to face delays of up to an hour over the Christmas weekend. Picture: Alamy

By Ana Truesdale

21 million leisure trips are expected on UK roads this week, with major traffic hotspots predicted on the M1, M6, and M25.

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Getaway traffic is expected to peak on Friday and Saturday this weekend as drivers head home for Christmas.

Over 13 million drivers are expected to hit UK roads between Friday, December 22 and Christmas Eve, according to the RAC.

Friday could see the most serious congestion, as festive getaway drivers compete with commuters for the use of major roads.

Data from transport analytics specialists INRIX suggests 12pm - 2pm is the busiest time to travel over the weekend, so avoid lunchtime car journeys.

The best times to travel this weekend are in the morning before 11am and in the evening after 6pm.

According to INRIX, the major traffic hotspots to avoid this weekend will be:

  • M25 clockwise between J7 to J16
  • M25 anti-clockwise between J17 to J12
  • M1 northbound between J12 to J16
  • M6 southbound J27 to J13
  • A303 westbound near Stonehenge

RAC Breakdown spokesperson Alice Simpson said: "Since Christmas falls on a Monday this year, there’s no need for drivers to use annual leave for getaway trips as they can travel over the weekend before.

"For that very reason, our research suggests these days will be the busiest times to drive, so we urge people to set off as early as possible on Saturday and Sunday."

Delays are predicted on major A-roads and motorways this weekend
Delays are predicted on major A-roads and motorways this weekend. Picture: Alamy

Bob Pishue, INRIX transportation analyst, said: "On average, drivers could see travel times up to 20% longer this holiday season, while travellers around Greater London could experience more than double typical drive times. Our recommendation is to avoid peak commuting hours and use traffic apps to minimise holiday travel traffic frustrations."

National Highways said it will remove more than 1000 miles of roadworks by Tuesday this week.

It means over 98% of motorways and major A-roads in England will be free of roadworks in time for festive getaways this week. Roadworks will return on Tuesday, January 2.

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A spokesman for National Highways said: "It’s also good practice to make sure your vehicle is prepared for the journey ahead. Ensure you have plenty of fuel, the tyres are in good condition, and you have suitable clothing and snacks in the car in case you run into difficulties."

Network Rail is carrying out engineering works over the weekend, which could add to congestion on the roads.

Both Paddington and King's Cross train stations will be closed on Christmas Eve, with Paddington closing from December 24 to December 27.

Heathrow Airport will have no direct National Rail services to or from central London from December 24 to December 27.

Southeastern trains will not travel to London Victoria Station from December 23 to January 1 but will travel to alternative London terminal stations.

Network Rail said it will "target the quietest times" to carry out engineering works.

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