Travel mayhem hits roads, rail and ports as 70mph winds forecast while shoppers make ‘last-minute Christmas dash’

23 December 2023, 15:33

Brits have been warned of travel disruptions due to the weather.
Brits have been warned of travel disruptions due to the weather. Picture: Getty

By Jenny Medlicott

Travellers have been warned ‘last-minute getaway trips’ could be disrupted amid stormy weather this Christmas weekend.

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Multiple yellow weather warnings were issued for rain and wind in England on Saturday, including snow and ice warnings in parts of Scotland.

The RAC has warned that due to weather-related disruptions to public transport, some Brits may be more likely to take to the roads on Saturday and Sunday.

Rod Dennis, a spokesperson for RAC Breakdown, said: “With this latest weather warning affecting a large area of Scotland and parts of northern England, there is the chance travellers' last-minute getaway trips could be disrupted.”

"If trains are significantly delayed people are more likely to shift to the roads, which could add to already exceptionally high traffic volumes. Nationally, we expect around 3.2m separate getaway journeys to be made today by car."

It comes as Brits have hit shops across the country on Saturday as they make the final preparations for Christmas Day.

Shoppers swarmed an annual meat auction at Smithfield Market, while others braved the crowds of Oxford Street and nearby supermarkets in a “last-minute dash”.

Brits should expect travel disruptions this weekend.
Brits should expect travel disruptions this weekend. Picture: Getty

Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium said: “As stores and delivery services become increasingly busy this weekend, it is essential that we all play our part in creating a friendly and enjoyable environment for other customers and staff this Christmas, and we ask for patience, kindness and consideration."

Drivers were warned earlier this week to travel before 11am or after 6pm to reduce the chances of being stuck in long queues.

Roads are estimated to see 13.5 million leisure drivers travelling home for Christmas this weekend - up 20% on the year previous, according to the RAC.

Congestion delays are likely to have peaked on Friday as drivers heading home for Christmas shared the road with commuters.

However, the Met Office warned that weather-related issues could cause further disruption this weekend, just days after Storm Pia hit on Thursday.

Christmas Eve is expected to be marred by heavy winds with gusts as high as 60-70mph in northern and central areas of England and the north of Scotland.

Two yellow wind warnings have been issued in England, as the Met Office warned people to expect travel disruption - including potential flooding of homes, interruptions to power supplies, as well as bus and train service delays.

Parts of Scotland have also been issued with snow and ice warnings.

Read more: Six tips to stay on top of your spending over Christmas - we’re still in a cost of living crisis

Read more: White Christmas 'likely' as Met Office issues fresh festive forecast

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.”

The A66 in Cumbria is closed in both directions between the A595 south (Bridgefoot) and the A595 north (Cockermouth) due to a serious collision.

The M20 in Kent has reopened between junctions 8 and 9 after it was closed due to the chaos caused by an unplanned strike at cross-Channel services.

On Friday, the Eurostar confirmed it was back to running as normal and would be providing an additional eight train services over the weekend to make up for the backlog.

Millions are set to take to the roads this weekend.
Millions are set to take to the roads this weekend. Picture: Getty

The Port of Dover in Kent reported delays on Saturday with queues of up to 60 minutes for drivers waiting to process their vehicles.

The delays are due to a surge in demand for ferries after the unexpected closure of the Eurotunnel on Thursday.

In a statement on X, P&O Ferries said: “We expect the Port to be busy today, due to the busy Christmas period. Please make sure the mobile number, email address and passenger details are correct on your booking, so that we can send you SMS sailing updates if there are any delays or disruptions to our services.

“There is an estimated wait time of 60mins to reach border control after entering the port. There are limited toilet facilities, we recommend stopping en route. Please come prepared with refreshments to make your wait more comfortable. Thank you for your patience.”

Network Rail has warned that the weather is also likely to impact some ScotRail services on Saturday, writing on X that “journeys on some routes will take longer for safety reasons”.