Almost 300 miles of roadworks are set to be lifted in time for Christmas as transport networks brace themselves for the festive lockdown relaxation. With indoor mixing allowed for up to three households between December 23 and 27, the government is expecting heavy traffic as people clamour to visit friends and relatives.

The Department for Transport (DfT), however, has confirmed it will try to alleviate traffic as much as possible by lifting 288 miles of roadworks ahead of the Christmas break. The department has already finished around 500 miles of roadworks, meaning a total of 778 miles of roadworks will be gone in time for the festive break.

Some roadworks will have to remain, though, but the DfT is promising to set speed limits at 60 mph where possible. That includes key routes, such as the M1 and M6, where the authorities are hoping to keep disruption to a minimum.

UK motorway services roadworks cones

Ministers have written to local authorities, too, urging them to lift as many roadworks as possible and ensure bus services run “reliably” over Christmas, in the hope that will reduce traffic. However, after being discouraged from using public transport for large parts of this year, it remains to be seen whether that tactic pays off.

Perhaps more importantly, ministers have also asked local authorities to make sure they are prepared for winter weather. In response to the request made last month, the DfT says around 70 percent of councils have agreed to modify gritting routes so roads to Covid-19 testing centres are covered.

“With many people carefully considering whether to travel to see loved ones this Christmas, we’re taking steps to try to ease journeys,” said Transport Secretary Grant Shapps. “Clearing 778 miles of road works and postponing rail upgrade works will ease congestion, minimise disruption and allow extra services to run.

“That action is backed by scrapping the admin fees for changing advance rail tickets, ensuring a strong staff presence to help people on their way. And I’ve asked former Olympics transport boss and Chair of Network Rail Sir Peter Hendy to carry out a rigorous assessment alongside transport operators to ensure everything possible is being done to help.

“We’re working with transport operators to help people see their loved ones, safely. We ask everyone to closely consider their journey, plan and book ahead, be patient, and be considerate of fellow passengers – and particularly staff who have worked so hard all year - by following the guidance carefully, including keeping space and wearing a face covering on public transport.”

UK Road Services Roadworks End sign on motorway