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Christmas 2017 traffic and travel: Day-by-day guide to roads, jams and works as you head away

Despite predictions of carnage on the UK’s streets Friday, December 22, so-called ‘Frantic Friday’, passed by with minimal congestion – but what does the rest of the festive season have to offer on the roads?

Christmas is coming – and so are the jams… find out how to beat them here. Credit: Thinkstock/Kichigin

Find out what to expect with our guide to Christmas travel on the UK’s roads…

Where and when are the festive traffic hotspots?

Here are the routes expected to bring the heaviest congestion and delays over the holiday period. Check out the dates, places and times to avoid here.

Wednesday 20th December – Friday 22nd December – UK’s most delayed routes (Source INRIX)

Date Route Predicted Journey Time Total Delay Peak Time
20/12/17 M25, Anti-clockwise 2hrs 28m 2hrs 2m 16:15
20/12/17 M25_Anti-clockwise 1hr 22m 54m 08:00
20/12/17 M4_Westbound 46m 30m 16:30
21/12/17 M6, Southbound 5hrs 20m 4hrs 21m 14:30
21/12/17 M3, Westbound 1hr 38m 1hrs 19m 00:45
21/12/17 M74, Southbound 50m 34m 18:00
22/12/17 M1, Northbound 2hrs 8m 1hr 15m 11:00
22/12/17 M1, Southbound 2hrs 12m 1hr & 30m 12:15
22/12/17 M1(Northern Ireland), Westbound 1hr 36m 58m 17:15
22/12/17 M1(Northern Ireland), Eastbound 1 hr 12m 35m 16:45
22/12/17 A720, Eastbound 31m 19m 12:45

Wednesday 27th December – Thursday 28th December – UK’s most delayed routes (Source INRIX)

Date Route Predicted Journey Time Total Delay Peak Time
27/12/17 M25, Clockwise 3hrs 41m 3hr 13m 12:30
27/12/17 M25, Anti-clockwise 2hrs 9m 1hr 55m 13:00
27/12/17 A303, Eastbound 2hrs 50m 1hr 33m 16:00
27/12/17 M4, Eastbound 1hr 11m 55m 17:00
27/12/17 M25, Anti-clockwise 1hr 1m 48m 14:15
27/12/17 M60, Anti-clockwise 1hr 4m 53m 13:30
27/12/17 A34_M40_ 1hr 5m 45m 12:30
27/12/17 M4, Eastbound 53m 41m 12:30
27/12/17 M8, Eastbound 59m 48m 17:15

Day-by-day guide to number of journeys expected over Christmas

Use this guide to help decide the best times to make car journeys over the festive period. Table shows how many leisure journeys are expected over the coming period.

Road travel from 17 to 24 Dec 2017 Road travel from 25 Dec to 1 Jan 2018
Sunday 17 December – 1.59 million Monday 25 December – 1.87 million
Monday 18 December – 1.59 million Tuesday 26 December – 5.30 million
Tuesday 19 December – 1.2 million Wednesday 27 December – 2.18 million
Wednesday 20 December – 1.25 million Thursday 28 December – 1.87 million
Thursday 21 December – 1.25 million Friday 29 December – 2.18 million
Friday 22 December – 1.25 million Saturday 30 December – 1.56 million
Saturday 23 December – 1.59 million Sunday 31 December – 1.56 million
Sunday 24 December – 1.87 million Monday 1 January 2018 – 935 thousand
Total for this period – 11.53 million Total for this period – 17.46 million

When is the worst congestion predicted?

Christmas Eve is expected to see most leisure traffic on the roads, with 1.87million journeys, but Friday’s clash of commuters and festive travellers is likely to result in most gridlocked roads.

The coming together of rush-hour drivers heading home and those on the festive getaway, will see the traditional tidal flow of traffic fail as opposing journeys could cripple the network.

When are the busiest times expected?

The following dates and times are predicted to see high levels of congestion.

Friday 22 December, between 4pm and 8pm

Sunday 24 December, between 10am and 2pm

Tuesday 26 December, between 10am and 2pm (Look out for later delays around cities with Boxing Day football matches)

When are the best times to travel?

Make sure you’re not at the wrong end of a jam this Christmas

Avoiding Christmas Eve and rush-hour periods on Friday, December 22, will help cut journey times.This will be assisted by the ‘big days’ falling on weekdays and schools staggering break-up dates across the pre-Christmas week.

Should I delay my journey until Christmas Day?

Data suggests the 25th will see 1.87million leisure journeys taking place – the joint-highest figure over the festive period. Make sure you leave plenty of time or risk tucking into cold turkey and fizzless fizz.

Will the roads be quieter between Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve?

Commuter traffic will be virtually non-existent, but the total pre-Christmas getaway traffic figures will be eclipsed by 17.5million leisure journey expected to be undertaken over the holiday week itself.

This will lead to congestion in hotspots, such as shopping centres and motorways, but in general, local roads should remain relatively free from delays.

What about rail strikes?

With rail strikes planned over the holiday period, there’s likely to be an increase in the risk of congestion on major routes between cities.

Rail disruption is expected on December 22, 23, 24, 27 and 31.

What about roadworks?

Highways England has stated that 99 per cent of the UK’s major roads will be free of road works over the festive period. This includes motorways and A-roads.


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