Don’t drive until 6pm, motorists warned as millions join Christmas getaway and train services disrupted

22 December 2023, 12:54

Further travel delays are expected this Christmas weekend.
Further travel delays are expected this Christmas weekend. Picture: Alamy

By Asher McShane

Millions of drivers are being advised to stay off the UK’s roads until after 6pm today to avoid long queues.

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It comes as the Christmas travel getaway begins, with long queues at Dover as ferry travel demand surges - after Eurotunnel strike action in France caused chaos yesterday.

Between today and Sunday, around 13.5m leisure journeys are predicted to take place. A 20% increase on last Christmas.

On the roads, the M62 is closed in both directions between junctions 21 and 22 after a crash.

Yesterday trains were left in chaos with all lines to and from London Euston blocked and Eurostar and Eurotunnel services cancelled.

Trains are expected to be very busy today.

Drivers have been warned this weekend will be the busiest time to travel during the festive period, as analysts have predicted roads will be 20% busier than last year.

Congestion on roads is likely to peak on Friday with 3.2 million taking to the roads, the RAC said.

Drivers have been warned they will face “daily delays of around 40 minutes” between Friday and Christmas Eve on the M25 clockwise west of London, according to transport analysis company Inrix.

The M25, M1, M6 and M4 are expected to be the motorways hit by the most congestion, Inrix said.

A total of 21 million are expected to travel on the roads over the weekend - including 13.5 million leisure journeys.

Drivers have been advised to travel before 11am or 6pm to reduce the likelihood of being stuck in long queues - as between 12pm and 2pm is expected to be the busiest window for drivers.

The port of Dover has been hit by particularly severe traffic delays on Friday morning following last-minute Eurotunnel strikes on Thursday.

The Eurotunnel was hit by a last-minute strike on Thursday.
The Eurotunnel was hit by a last-minute strike on Thursday. Picture: Alamy

Read more: Christmas getaway chaos with Eurostar trains cancelled, key line to Manchester blocked and ‘do not travel’ alert issued

Read more: Christmas getaway chaos as 'do not travel' alert and entire railway line blocked issued amid 80mph Storm Pia gusts

Most of the roadworks on England’s motorways will be paused for the festive period from Friday, meaning 98% of roads will be clear of these obstructions.

Drivers aren't the only ones facing delays this Christmas weekend, as trains are also expected to be hit by disruptions due to planned engineering by Network Rail.

London Paddington will be closed between Christmas Eve and December 27, meaning no mainlines will be travelling to Heathrow Airport, which is expected to see tens of thousands depart on Christmas Day.

London King’s Cross will be closed on Christmas Eve.

GWR services between south Wales and Southampton also face disruptions between Christmas Eve and December 20 due to rail replacement work.

As with every year, no trains will operate on Christmas Day and a very limited service will run on Boxing Day.

Some 21 million are expected to travel on the roads this weekend.
Some 21 million are expected to travel on the roads this weekend. Picture: Alamy

It comes after Christmas travel plans were thrown into chaos on Thursday after Eurostar cancelled all trains amid a ‘last minute strike' and London Euston stopped all trains leaving the station.

Flights were grounded, and 'do not travel' alerts were also issued as Storm Pia battered the UK.

Devastated passengers trying to head north for Christmas flooded London Euston Station, where they were told to go home due to overhead wire damage exiting London at Watford Junction.

All train lines were blocked through the area, London Northwestern Railway said, as passengers were told to return tomorrow.

Eurostar confirmed that travel would continue as normal on Friday with an additional six trains operating between Paris and London over the weekend to make up for the backlog from the strikes.

Storm Pia also battered the UK on Thursday, as British Airways grounded some flights, with a spokesperson saying: "As a result of Air Traffic Control restrictions put in place because of Storm Pia, we have had to make some adjustments to our schedule today."

Commuters were told to avoid travel as Storm Pia's 80mph winds forced a weather warning to be issued for northern England, north Wales, the Midlands, Scotland and Northern Ireland for most of the day.