In Brief

Christmas travel: how to avoid the traffic and strikes

Today is set to be the busiest travelling day of the festive period

Britons heading off to visit friends or family over the Christmas break are facing serious delays on the roads and railways.

Cars are expected to be “bumper to bumper” on the nation highways, while rail passengers are being hit by a triple whammy of engineering works, a new timetable and strikes, says The Daily Telegraph.

The RAC and traffic data company Inrix say an estimated 4.7 million “leisure” journeys will be made by car today alone, with major jams as Christmas traffic mixes with commuters, adds the BBC.

Friday is also expected to be the busiest day for people jetting off abroad for the holiday, according to the Association of British Travel Agents (Abta).

So when are the best times to travel in order to beat the crowds?

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Road

Ben Aldous from the RAC said: “Our figures suggest many more drivers are planning leisure trips by car in the run-up to Christmas this year, so bumper-to-bumper traffic on some motorways and A-roads is near-guaranteed.”

Aldous warns that “it looks as though millions of drivers are planning to complete their getaway trips this week”, the London Evening Standard reports.

HuffPost says that the M1 in Bedfordshire and Northamptonshire, the northern and western sections of the clockwise M25, and the M6 in the West Midlands, are “likely to be the busiest in the run-up to Christmas”.

“Two of the longest delays are expected on Sunday 22 December, with drivers facing queues of more than an hour and a half northbound, between Flitwick and Daventry, and nearly an hour on the M25 clockwise between the junctions for the M23 and M40,” the news site adds.

But today after 4pm is expected to be the worst time for driving, The Guardian says, citing analysis showing that more than 17 million drivers on main roads and motorways between commuter traffic and people driving home for Christmas.

Rail

On Monday the UK switched to new train timetables in a move that was fraught with issues. The i reports that commuters “faced travel chaos as a combination of staff shortages, signalling problems, ongoing industrial action and a landslip blighted the first day” of the new schedules.

But while the Rail Delivery Group, the industry body, said the performance problems were “unrelated” to the new timetables, delays and cancellations are expected to continue into the Christmas period.

There are 386 engineering projects scheduled for Christmas, although Network Rail insists it has minimised disruption compared with previous years.

The Telegraph reports that most of the £111m upgrades will take place on Christmas Day and Boxing Day, when traditionally lines are either shut or running a minimal service.

As a result of the engineering works, Great Western has no trains between London and Reading from 24 December to 27 December, and between Bristol and Cardiff from 27 December to 2 January.

Furthermore, services on South Western Railway (SWR) are affected by strike action until 2 January.

The operator is running a reduced timetable, warning peak services are likely to be busier than normal and replacement buses will be needed on some routes.

The BBC reports that the strikes “may mean Great Western Railway services are busier than normal as SWR passengers use them as an alternative”.

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