Planes, trains and, er, cars: Christmas travel update

Millions of people could be caught up in Christmas travel chaos as road and engineering works threaten to disrupt journeys by car and train.
Happy family driving in the car surrounded by snow.
Don’t expect a smooth journey on the roads. Motoring organisations are predicting a staggered getaway due to school closures and a mid-week Christmas, but there are major roadworks on many of the country’s busiest routes. The key will be to time your journey to avoid peak periods, if possible, or to choose a route that avoids an affected stretch.

Up the junction

Various stretches of the M1 are affected, but the area between junctions 29 and 31 near Chesterfield could cause particularly severe disruption. Watch out, too, between junctions 17 and 18. There could be trouble on the M18 between junctions 2 and 3, as well as the exit slip at junction 5. Motorists should also take care if they are traveling southbound between junction 1 and the M1.

Highway to hell

Problems are forecast on the M25 between junctions 24 and 28 in both directions. Disruption is also expected on the M5 southbound between Junctions 3 and 4A. There are full details of all current and planned road works at the government website www.highways.gov.uk
winter driving img

Slow train coming

Those of use using the train over Christmas may be robbed of a portion of cheer as Network Rail is warning travellers of major works on several lines during the festive period. Some 11,000 workers are scheduled to carry out £200m worth of essential engineering projects. The company has apologised to passengers but defends the timing of the shutdown, as the number of daily rail passengers drops from 4.5m to 2 million over the festive season.

London calling

Engineers will start to lay new track and replace two platforms at London Bridge on December 20 as part of the £6.5bn Thameslink programme. There will therefore be no Southern or Thameslink services calling at London Bridge between December 20 and January 5. The installation of overhead power equipment at King’s Cross will also result in changes to train services at the station. Work is due to continue on the upgrade of the signaling system at Watford, which means there will be no Virgin Trains to or from Euston station for four days over Christmas.

Reading between the lines

Commuters can expect disruption around Reading, too. The £45m Reading viaduct is one of the final phases of the redevelopment project that will separate fast moving trains between London and the west from slower moving freight trains travelling between the south coast and the Midlands. The viaduct should be in use by January 5, but train services will be affected over Christmas. You can find detailed information about train services over the festive season at www.nationalrail.co.uk.

Leaving on a jet plane

Crowds could be the problem at the country’s airports as record numbers of people are expected to jet out of the UK over Christmas. Airports are already getting ready for the festive flee when more than 5 million people are planning to arrive or depart the UK. Heathrow predicts that Friday will be its busiest day - and is hoping to avoid any more computer glitches. A city break to New York is the airport’s most popular trip, followed by winter sun in Dubai.

Come fly with me

Gatwick will want to avoid a repeat of the chaos of last Christmas when thousands of passengers missed their flights due to a power cut at the airport. It expects to handle 1.6 m passengers from Friday 19 December to January 5. Sunday December 21 is tipped as its busiest departure day with 63,000 passengers flying out of the airport. The most popular destinations are Geneva, Barcelona, Dublin, Amsterdam and Tenerife. You can check flight timetables and access any updates by contacting your flight operator, but always allow plenty of time for your journey.

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