31 million cars will join the great Christmas getaway

Ethan Jupp
Christmas journey UK 2019

A new study by the RAC and Inrix gives a snapshot of the season on UK roads, as drivers begin their festive getaways. In total, 31.2 million ‘leisure journeys’ will take place between today (December 17) and Christmas Eve. 

This week alone (December 16 to December 22) around 25 million of those trips will happen, with Wednesday and Thursday expected as the peak travel days.

Meanwhile, 5.6 million are expected to be late leavers, taking to the road on the 23rd (Monday) or Christmas Eve.

Christmas carriageways

Christmas journey UK 2019

Which roads will be travel hot-spots over the Christmas period? Data from Inrix suggests the M1 in Bedfordshire and Northamptonshire will be particularly busy.

The M25, perhaps unsurprisingly, will feel the pain, particularly the northern and western sections. And the M6 in the West Midlands is also set for tailbacks.

Here is the RAC’s prediction for which roads will be problematic over the Christmas period.

Date Leisure trips by car Major roads likely to be busy Major roads likely to be less busy Expected longest delays (breakdowns and collisions can significantly increase journey times across all roads)
Thursday 19 December 4.7m 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 4.7m 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 3.7m 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 2.5m 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 3.1m Between 10am and 3pm After 4pm M25 clockwise J15 for M4 to J19 Watford: 69-minute delay around 2.45pm
Tuesday 24 December 3.1m Between 2pm and 6pm Before 10am N/A


What about the weather?

Christmas journey UK 2019

The Met Office expects spells of strong winds and heavy rain, interspersed with clearer and showery conditions this week. There’s a potential frost due tonight (Tuesday Dec 17). The west should expect windy conditions on Wednesday, with a national yellow (severe) weather warning going into Thursday.

“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,” said RAC patrol of the year, Ben Aldous.

Christmas journey UK 2019

“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. 

“Drivers should remember that a small amount of preparation before setting out can dramatically cut the chances of breaking down in the first place – checking tyre tread and pressure, as well as ensuring oil and coolant are at the right levels, is a must before any long journey.”

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