Driving home for Christmas: 20m UK car journeys expected this week

First Covid-free Christmas in three years plus rail strike means this year’s festive getaway ‘set to be biggest ever’

Journey times are expected to be 14% longer compared to last year
(Image credit: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

UK drivers are expected to make an estimated 20 million car journeys over the next week as they travel to visit family and friends for the first Christmas without Covid restrictions for three years.

This is a “higher rate than normal due to strike action”, reported the Daily Mail, with this year’s Christmas getaway “set to be the biggest ever”.

The RAC, the automotive services company, has predicted that traffic will rise steadily across the UK from today before peaking on Friday 23 December and Christmas Eve.

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It has estimated that 7.9 million car journeys will be made over the two days immediately before Christmas Day, with the worst congestion expected to be between 10am and 7pm on Friday, and between noon and 1pm on Saturday.

The AA has issued an amber warning for both those days on the roads, with transport analytics company Inrix predicting journey times to be about 14% longer compared with the same period last year.

Yahoo News reported that roads “likely to be hit by congestion this week” include the M25, the M60 near Manchester, the M6 in northwest England and the M40 in Oxfordshire.

Pressure on roads will be heightened due to a strike by thousands of members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union that is due to begin from 6pm on Christmas Eve and last until 27 December.

Train passengers are being urged to complete journeys as early as lunchtime on Christmas Eve, “meaning many people will opt for car or coach travel instead”, said The Guardian.

The warnings of increased pressure on roads came as Cabinet Office minister Oliver Dowden vowed the government will be “resolute” in facing down unions as he urged striking workers to think about military personnel missing Christmas to cover their roles”.

It was widely reported over the weekend that the government is preparing to deploy 1,200 troops to cover striking ambulance workers and border staff.

However, the head of the armed forces, Sir Tony Radakin, warned that troops must not be treated as “spare capacity” to cover for striking workers.

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