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Long delays predicted on M1, M25, M5, M6

congestion, traffic, queue of vehicles.

Drivers are planning more than 31 million getaway trips by car before Christmas Eve bringing gridlock to UK roads, according to the RAC.

The roadside recovery company says 31.2 million separate leisure journeys will be taken between today (Tuesday, December 17) and Christmas Eve - the highest number since drivers were first asked about their festive travel plans in 2013.

As a result, the RAC is warning of pre-Christmas panic on the roads as many drivers look to complete their journeys to see family and friends well ahead of the big day.

It says that 25 million leisure trips by car are predicted to be taken between today and the end of Sunday, with Wednesday and Thursday set to be the worst for traffic delays as leisure and everyday commuter traffic combine.

Looking forward to the start of next week, an estimated 5.6 million getaway trips are planned for December 23 and Christmas Eve, and, with fewer commuters on the roads these days, motorists will be hoping for trouble-free journeys as they drive home for Christmas.

Data provided by transportation analytics specialists Inrix indicates the M1 in Bedfordshire and Northamptonshire, the northern and western sections of the clockwise M25 and M6 in the West Midlands are set to bear the brunt of the festive traffic.

Two of the longest delays are expected on Sunday, 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.

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

“While Christmas Day is still a little way off, it looks as though millions of drivers are planning to complete their getaway trips this week.

“Unfortunately, when you add in the prospect of unsettled weather, with heavy rain and strong winds in some parts, these are likely to be pretty unpleasant drives for many of us.”

INRIX transportation analyst Trevor Reed added: “It does look as though this week is going to see a marked rise in traffic volumes on major roads in the UK, with Thursday expected to see the largest increase in vehicles compared to a normal December day.

“Drivers desperate to get away for Christmas are going to find themselves competing with commuters and shoppers for road space, so we recommend keeping tuned in to the changing traffic conditions on local radio and via in-car apps.”

Highways England says that more than 800 miles of roadworks will be completed or lifted for the festive period.

The vast majority of roadworks will be removed from the motorway and major A-road network from 6am on Friday (December 20) until 12.01am on Thursday, January 2.

Highways England’s customer service director Melanie Clarke said: “We’re doing everything we can to make journeys as smooth as possible and that’s why we’re keeping around 98% of the road network we manage, free from roadworks.”

Looking ahead to traffic between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day

A separate RAC survey of drivers’ intentions suggests as many as 33 million separate leisure journeys will be taken by car between Christmas Day and the last day of the year, as people criss-cross the country to meet up with friends and family members, wherever they happen to live.

Boxing Day and December 27 look to be the busiest, with nearly 6m trips by car expected each day, followed by Saturday with 5.6 million and Sunday with 5.3 million journeys.

Beat the queues: An at-a-glance guide to travel in the run-up to Christmas

Expected worst day for delays over this period is Thursday 19 December


Leisure trips by car

Major roads likely to be particularly busy between

Major roads likely to be less busy between

Expected longest delays on major roads (breakdowns or collisions can significantly increase journey times across the road network)

Thursday 19 December


Between 3pm and 7pm

After 8pm

M25 clockwise J23 Hatfield to J28 Chelmsford: 56-minute delay around 7.15pm

M25 anticlockwise J17 Maple Cross to J12 for M3: 48-minute delay around 8pm

M5 north J11 Cheltenham to J1 West Bromwich: 33-minute delay around 2pm

Friday 20 December


Between 12pm and 7pm

After 8pm

M6 north J5 Sutton Coldfield to J10A Wolverhampton: 57-minute delay around 8.15am

M25 clockwise J15 for M4 to J19 Watford: 46-minute delay around 2.15pm

M1 south J16 Northampton West to J6 Watford: 43-minute delay around 3.45pm

Saturday 21 December


Between 10am and 3pm

After 4pm

M40 south J11 Banbury to J9 Bicester: 42-minute delay around 1.15pm

M1 north J12 Flitwick to J16 Daventry: 37-minute delay around 2.15pm

Sunday 22 December


Between 10am and 4pm

After 5pm

M1 north J12 Flitwick to J16 Daventry: 97-minute delay around 12pm

M25 clockwise J7 for M23 to J16 for M40: 58-minute delay around 12.15pm

M5 south J15 for M4 to J23 Bridgwater: 48-minute delay around 3.30pm

M40 north J12 Gaydon to M42 J3A: 41-minute delay around 6.45pm

Monday 23 December


Between 10am and 3pm

After 4pm

M25 clockwise J15 for M4 to J19 Watford: 69-minute delay around 2.45pm

Tuesday 24 December


Between 2pm and 6pm

Before 10am


Source:RAC and Inrix 

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