This Christmas getaway is set to be the biggest yet

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No signs could lead to more congestion

“With all these factors coming together and the way Christmas falls, potentially it could be the biggest Christmas getaway ever,” Mr King told The Telegraph.

“On a couple of the days you’ve got National Highways officials on strike and they look after the signs on the motorways so if you’re not having signs about delays and collisions, that could lead to more congestion.

“There’s a whole number – from the rail strikes, the Border Force, the highways officials, to people wanting to make the most of Christmas and some waiting until the worst of the sub-zero weather was over as well.

“A combination of all that means it could possibly be the busiest on the roads.”

An AA survey of 12,300 people found that 33 million motorists intend to take to the roads on December 23 and 24, rising to 45 million when travellers considering using the roads are included.

This would be “significantly higher” than 2016, the last time that Christmas Day fell on a Sunday, the AA said.

It is the first Christmas without Covid restrictions since 2019, which is also expected to mean more people travel to see family and friends.

Getaway traffic to ‘build steadily all week’

The public have been urged not to wait until the “frantic” weekend to set off on their journeys.

Rod Dennis, RAC spokesman, said: “Our research suggests getaway traffic will build steadily all week, culminating in two frantic days of travelling just before Christmas itself.

“By Friday, we fear it will be a case of jams today and jams tomorrow on the roads as millions of people jump behind the wheel to see family and friends – with last-minute Christmas shoppers as well as the impact of another rail strike also leading to an increase in traffic.

“If possible, drivers should try to make their trips on a quieter day earlier this week if they possibly can.”

Some 900 miles of roadworks have been lifted over Christmas by Highways England in an attempt to ease the disruption.

The worst traffic is forecast between 10am and 6pm on Friday and 10am and 4pm on Saturday. Mr King advised that “if people can, avoid both of those times”.

‘Bring water and high-protein food’

Journey times are expected to be around 14 per cent longer compared with the same period last year, transport analytics company Inrix said, with stretches of the M25, M60 near Manchester, M6 in the north-west and M40 in Oxfordshire set to see some of the longest jams.

Hotspots for tailbacks are also expected to be the M4, M3, M62, A69 and M1, with drivers told to avoid the M5 around Cribbs Causeway in Bristol, the M25 around the Bluewater centre and the A1 near Newcastle as last-minute Christmas shoppers flock for presents.

Mr King told drivers to bring “water, high protein food or chocolate, warm clothes, coats and a hi-viz jacket” and avoid waiting “until they are almost on fumes before they fill up”.

Under the amber alert, only four of which have been issued since the traffic-light system was introduced in the summer, the AA advises that tyre pressures, windscreen wipers and screenwash, oil levels and EV range should be checked before setting off.

Mr King added: “When we attend breakdowns, because many people jump into their car with heated seats and heated steering wheels, some of them don’t even bring a coat… prepare yourself.”

Red alerts are only issued in response to live incidents, such as when Folkestone in Kent saw huge Channel Tunnel queues in July.

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