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Christmas travel: 20m car journeys expected this festive week – when will be busiest?

UK Drivers are set to make an estimated 19.6m separate trips by car to see friends and family run-up to Christmas Day.

With 40%,, that’s 7.9 million journeys in just two days, according to new predictions by the RAC and INRIX.

The RAC said traffic will build steadily from Monday before peaking on Christmas Eve, nicknamed ‘frantic’ Friday.

This will be heightened due to planned largescale walkouts from rail workers which the RAC is warning will only lead to yet more traffic on the roads that evening.

The increased traffic volumes are likely to cause far greater jams in and around cities and at key narrow-points on major roads.

Train passengers are being urged to complete journeys as early as lunchtime on that day, meaning many people will opt for car or coach travel instead.

Transport analytics company Inrix expects journey times to be around 14% longer compared with the same period last year.

The Major roads likely to be hit by congestion this week include the M25, the M60 near Manchester, the M6 in northwest England and the M40 in Oxfordshire.

National Highways said it will “ensure almost 98% of England’s motorways and major A-roads are fully open from 6am on Tuesday until the end of January 2 by either completing or lifting roadworks.”

When will it be the best time to travel?

RAC spokesman Rod Dennis 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.”

Urging drivers to take their trips on quieter days this week if possible.

The RAC’s traffic estimates are based on a survey of 1,886 UK adults conducted last week.

The AA, which issued an “amber traffic warning” for Friday and Saturday, urged motorists to carry out car checks such as levels of fuel, oil, coolant and screen wash, and ensuring tyres are correctly inflated.

The company’s head of roads policy, Jack Cousens, said: “Breakdowns add to traffic jams, so if everyone spent 10 minutes checking their car before leaving it could save everyone hours on their journey.”

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