When is the best time to travel by car or train in the UK this Christmas? | transport

It’s that time of year when millions of people travel to visit friends and family, take a well-deserved break, or rush to the shops at the last minute for a Christmas present.

The festive getaway could be more difficult than usual this year as the UK has been hit by wide-ranging labor disputes across the transport network.

Based on planned strike dates, here’s an indication of when is the best time to get away this Christmas.

When are the streets busiest?

The AA estimates that 17 million cars will be in motion on December 23 and Christmas Eve and that people will face traffic jams and long delays – so it’s best to avoid those two days if possible.

The automotive group’s survey of more than 12,000 drivers shows that the two days in the run-up to Christmas when the fewest cars will be on the road are likely to be Sunday, December 18th and Monday, December 19th.

These two days also do not coincide with strike action that could affect roads or rail, so an early escape would be best if possible.

Members of the RMT union at Network Rail have planned industrial action from late Christmas Eve through December 27, which will primarily affect engineering work.

However, Great Western Railway has warned travelers that the train network will “close early” on December 24 and there could be “significant disruption” due to the industrial dispute.

South Western Railway has urged customers not to travel on December 24-27 unless it is “absolutely necessary”.

The AA has warned that the planned Christmas Eve strike action “could add to the flight chaos” as more people take to the streets.

On December 22nd, 23rd, 24th and 25th, members of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union who work for National Highways as control room staff and traffic officers will go on strike in London and the South East.

The PCS said the action “risks bringing the road network to a standstill.” National Highways said no roads would be closed as a result of the industrial action and there are “well-rehearsed resilience plans.”

Which roads will be busiest?

The AA predicts these could be the most congested roads:

  • M25

  • M5 between Bristol and Weston-super-Mare

  • M6 around Birmingham

  • Sections of the M1 intelligent motorway northbound from Luton

  • M60 and M62 in North West England

  • M4 and M27 in Hampshire.

What should you do before you start driving?

AA President Edmund King said “many breakdowns are preventable” and “checking your vehicle before you drive” is the number one thing you should do.

He said: “Tires (including the spare wheel if you have one), fuel, EV range, oil levels, coolant and windshield washers should at least be checked. Likewise, water, protein-rich foods or chocolate, warm clothing, coats and a high-visibility vest will help you stay alive in an emergency.

“While December 23 and Christmas Eve are expected to be the busiest days, planned industrial action by railway staff could result in an increased number of cars on our roads.”

What about the rail?

As mentioned above, strikes could affect services in the lead up to Christmas. Despite this, Network Rail said 95% of the rail network would be open for travel during the festive period.

However, a number of major infrastructure upgrades will take place during the holiday season, so passengers should try to plan their trips in advance.

Network Rail Chief Executive Andrew Haines said: “We have been working closely with our train operators to ensure that the vast majority of the network is open for operations over the holiday period to allow people to travel by rail to spend time with to spend with their families and friends.

“However, some of these important upgrade projects will impact services, so we ask passengers to plan their journey before travel.”

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