Congested roads, train delays and flight cancellations hamper Christmas getaway
The RAC called on drivers to avoid long journeys on “Frantic Friday”.
The Christmas getaway was hit by congested roads, disruption on the rail network and the suspension of flights at a major airport on Friday.
An estimated 1.3 million drivers on leisure trips fought for road space with regular commuters on the last working day before Christmas.
The worst affected routes were initially in London and the South East although many of the UK’s roads experienced severe delays, according to transportation analyst Inrix.
It published more than 1,500 alerts including traffic jams and accidents.
The M1 saw three serious incidents with a vehicle fire closing three northbound lanes, following on from an overturned lorry and a broken down vehicle blocking a carriageway.
A lorry fire completely closed the M40 southbound.
The RAC dubbed the day Frantic Friday and strongly urged drivers to avoid long journeys “if they possibly can”.
Santa is prepared for every weather and he's carrying a few snacks and a flask this Christmas. You should probably do the same. #santasleighchecks For more car checks, go to https://t.co/cu4ffh4nlU pic.twitter.com/OinthYI3SW— Highways England (@HighwaysEngland) December 22, 2017
It estimated that 11.5 million leisure trips will be made by car between December 17 and Christmas Eve, but this will be eclipsed by the 17.5 million between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day as people take advantage of post-Christmas sales at shops.
Almost 400 miles of roadworks have been lifted to ease journeys on motorways and major A-roads in England until January 2.
Thousands of airline passengers suffered delays and cancellations when Bristol Airport suspended flights after a BMI aircraft came off the runway while taxiing to the terminal upon landing from Frankfurt shortly after 11.30am.
Latest update 1/3 The recovery team are relocating the aircraft. The runway remains closed whilst the aircraft is removed before flights can resume. The runway is now unlikely to reopen until 21.00h this evening at the earliest.— Bristol Airport (@BristolAirport) December 22, 2017
2/3 We are sorry for the disruption and flight cancellations experienced and fully appreciate it is frustrating for our passengers at this time of year.— Bristol Airport (@BristolAirport) December 22, 2017
3/3 We thank passengers for their continued patience while we work to return operations to normal. In the meantime, all passengers are advised to contact their airline to obtain the latest flight information.— Bristol Airport (@BristolAirport) December 22, 2017
No-one was injured but at least 60 flights were cancelled or diverted while the recovery effort was completed.
On the rail network a number of operators reported delays and cancellations.
South Western Railway said around 30 services were at risk of being cancelled or cut short due to “sickness among train crew”.
A spokesman said: “We know how important today is for passengers travelling home for the holidays and we will cover as many of these as possible.”
Major delays were reported by CrossCountry, Great Northern, Greater Anglia, Southern and TfL Rail.
A strike by rail workers on Virgin Trains was called off on Thursday, but a 24-hour walkout went ahead by members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union on Merseyrail, leading to a reduced service across its network.
Many of Britain’s mainline routes will be partially shut in the coming days as Network Rail carries out its biggest ever Christmas engineering programme.
Great Western Railway is urging passengers to complete journeys by Saturday “at the latest” as London Paddington will be closed between Christmas Eve and December 27.
The West Coast Main Line will be halted between Preston and Lancaster from Christmas Eve to December 27, with buses replacing trains.
Passengers travelling between London and Glasgow during this time are advised to go via Edinburgh, adding around an hour to journeys.