Jingle Hell: Christmas travel mayhem enters third day as drivers told to brace for road closures and stormy weather

23 December 2023, 08:37 | Updated: 23 December 2023, 08:38

Nearly 14 million are expected to drive home this weekend.
Nearly 14 million are expected to drive home this weekend. Picture: Getty

By Jenny Medlicott

Travellers heading home for Christmas should brace for travel disruptions as millions take the roads amid stormy weather and delays.

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Drivers have been warned 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 has 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

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

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”.