It’s that time of year again – millions of drivers will be hitting the roads to join family or friends for Christmas, or just to get away for a festive holiday.
The busiest travel days will be December 23 and Christmas Eve, and the AA estimates that each of these days will see almost 17 million cars on the road.
A survey of more than 12,000 motorists indicated that 51% plan to take a road trip on December 23, and 50% plan to take one the next day.
Business-related travel is expected to drop after 16 December until the New Year, while 17 December is expected to be the busiest day for high streets, retail outlets and shopping centres.
The most trafficked roads are probably:
• M5 between Bristol and Weston-super-Mare
• M6 around Birmingham
• M1 from Luton northwards
• M60 and M62 in North West England
• The M4 which runs between west London and south west Wales
• The M27 in Hampshire.
AA president Edmund King said: “Our expert patrols will be working throughout the holidays to help fix cars suffering from problems, while also providing assistance to drivers should they be involved in an accident.
“Many accidents are preventable, so it’s very important to check your vehicle before you set off.”
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Disruption to rail services due to industrial action and engineering will also increase traffic volumes, as many people are forced to resort to road travel.
Transport Secretary Mark Harper has criticized unions representing rail workers, who will stage two 48-hour strikes this week in the latest episode in their dispute over pay and conditions.
Mr Harper wrote for The Daily Telegraph: “This year many families may have no choice but to change their plans and have a virtual Christmas again.
“This is not because of another public health pandemic, but because of rail strikes, planned by the RMT union to cause misery over the festive period.”
He said the “horrendous” situation was not “inevitable” and called on the RMT union to call off the strikes.
RMT general secretary Mick Lynch has written to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak saying a meeting between them now is the best chance of progress.
But Mr Harper said the government had “played its part” in trying to end the dispute.
He wrote: “I want this dispute to end as soon as possible. We have agreed to continue our efforts to reach an agreement while remaining fair to taxpayers.
“In the first weeks of this new government being in office, we have shown that we are willing to be reasonable – to discuss issues with union leaders face to face and try to facilitate a solution to this dispute by enabling a new and improved wage offers from employers.”