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Drivers urged to be 'very savvy' as stormy weather hits Christmas getaway

People driving home for Christmas are urged to be "very savvy" about their travel plans as strong winds batter the UK.

Millions of people on Friday's Christmas getaway face a "nasty cocktail" of potential road disruption, the AA has warned, on what is expected to be the busiest day for traffic over the festive period.

The Met Office has issued yellow warnings of wind across vast swathes of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, with more severe amber warnings in place in northern parts of Scotland.

The warnings of gusts - ranging from 60 to 90 miles per hour - are in place until midnight on Friday.

An AA spokesman said: "Drivers are going to have to be very, very savvy about how they travel over the next four to six hours," adding: "All in all, it's a pretty nasty cocktail of potential road disruption."

The Met Office said there is potential for some structural damage - more likely across the northwest of the warning area - as well as disruption to power supplies and travel, with restrictions on bridges and disruption to ferries.

Heavy rain teamed with the strong winds in the afternoon will bring poor driving conditions, forecasters said.

The Met Office also issued yellow warnings of snow and ice for parts of Scotland.

Cumbria Police have warned of high winds and rain hitting the area, urging people to drive slowly and only if necessary.

The AA predicts about 12 million cars will be on the roads due to a combination of people visiting loved ones, shopping trips and holidays, as well as those travelling to and from work.

It commissioned a poll of more than 19,000 motorists which found that 41% expect to drive more than 20 miles on Friday.

Travel association Abta said Friday is expected to be the busiest day for airports as people jet off to spend Christmas overseas.

More than 4.5 million people will head abroad from the UK between December 18 and January 2.

Heathrow said the most popular day for flights in the week leading up to Christmas will be Friday, with more than 118,000 departing passengers.

Meanwhile, Network Rail defended its decision to bring swathes of Britain's train lines to a standstill for major engineering works over the festive period.

A number of lines will be closed for an extended period as Network Rail carries out up to 200 improvement projects costing £103 million.

Work on some schemes will begin on Saturday to give engineers and maintenance teams four days to carry out upgrades before the next working day.

This will hit rail passengers with added disruption, as the annual festive shutdown means no trains on Christmas Day and only certain services on Boxing Day.

The move was justified by Network Rail chief executive Mark Carne as preferable to other times of the year due to lower passenger numbers.

He told BBC Breakfast: "The reality is this is the best time of the year for us to do this sort of huge engineering project because the numbers of people travelling by train is about half of what it is on a normal weekend or a normal day.

"This is the time of year when we can do this sort of work with the minimum effect on the travelling public."

No trains will operate to or from London Paddington between Saturday and Thursday because of work to build Crossrail.

Passengers travelling in Manchester and Cardiff will also be among the worst affected by engineering work.

Southern has warned passengers to expect a severely reduced and disrupted service between December 31 and January 2 due to a strike by RMT conductors.

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