Heavy traffic is expected across the UK on December 23 and Christmas Eve amid the threat of rail strikes. According to research from the AA, almost 17 million cars are expected to hit the roads on those two days alone, and the motoring organisation has warned that planned Network Rail strikes may add to the chaos.

The AA’s survey of 12,000 people found most drivers will stop business travel after December 16, when 24 percent said they would be travelling for work. However, a fifth (20 percent) of those quizzed said they would be Christmas shopping on December 17, while one in 10 (12 percent) will make some last-minute purchases on Christmas Eve.

As a result, roughly half of respondents said they would be on the roads on December 23 (51 percent) and December 24 (50 percent), so the AA expects to see well over 16.5 million cars grace UK roads on both days. And that number could rise if the trains are heavily impacted by strike action planned for Christmas Eve.

Traffic jam

The motoring organisation says delays are expected on several stretches of motorway, including the M25, the M5 between Bristol and Weston-Super-Mare, and the M6 around Birmingham. In addition, drivers are also urged to check the traffic before travelling on stretches of the M1 ‘smart’ motorway from Luton northwards, as well as the M62 and M60 in the North West. Both the M4 and the M27 are also set to suffer from significant delays.

With such significant delays already predicted, the AA is cautioning drivers to ensure their cars are ready for their journeys, reducing the chance of breakdowns and extra delays.

Car loaded on breakdown lorry ready for transport

“Many breakdowns are preventable, so checking your vehicle before you set off is very important,” said Edmund King, the AA president. “Tyres (including the spare, if you have one), fuel, EV range, oil levels, coolant and screen wash checks should be made as a minimum. Likewise keeping water, high protein food or chocolate, warm clothes, coats and a hi-viz jacket will help keep you going should the worst happen.

“While December 23 and Christmas Eve look set to be the busiest travelling days, planned industrial action by rail service staff may lead to increased levels of cars on our roads. If you do plan to use the rail network, keep updated by checking train company websites to prevent your trip home for Christmas from hitting the buffers.

“Our Which? recommended expert patrols will be working throughout the holidays to help fix cars that suffer, while providing assistance to drivers, regardless of their insurer, should they be involved in a crash. As well as providing up-to-the-minute traffic information, our free app allows people to book and track a patrol, a bit like the Santa Tracker children use on Christmas Eve.

“New Year’s Day will be the quietest day on the roads which is probably a good thing especially if drivers have been partying the previous evening. Drivers can still be breathalysed and lose their licence for driving over the limit the morning after. So, remember if you are going to drive, don’t drink, and if you are going to drink, don’t drive.”

Drink Driving