Drivers have been advised to begin journeys later on Friday amid predictions the day will be the busiest on Britain’s roads this Christmas, and as delays mount.
Motoring organisations said some 19 million people are expected to hit the roads as many workers leave the office for the last time in 2018.
The RAC predicted that 11.30am GMT to 6.30pm would be the worst time to travel by car, with the best time to travel being after 7.30pm.
It said there would be an additional 2.8 million journeys by car.
Live traffic information on Friday showed delays on major routes around cities as the getaway began, including:
- Long delays on the M11 at junction 11A for the Channel Tunnel at Folkestone.
- Slow traffic on the M25 clockwise after junction 28 Brentwood caused by the sheer volume of cars on the road.
- A stalled vehicle on the M6 southbound near junction 17 Sandbach to junction 16 Stoke-on-Trent saw one lane closed and heavy traffic near a construction area.
- And an accident between a car and a lorry on the M5 southbound between junction 1 West Bromwich to junction 2 Oldbury closed one lane and led to queues.
Meanwhile, the AA said Northern Ireland could see the busiest roads, with 72% of its members there saying they planned to make a significant journey. By contrast just over half its members in London said the same.
Highways England planned to lift more than 200 miles of roadworks on motorways and major A-roads by 6am on Friday.
Though around 3% of the road network will still be affected by essential works during peak travel times.
It comes after the RAC’s “patroller of the year”, Mark Souster, advised motorists to give their cars a once over before setting out.
“It’s vitally important every driver planning a trip gives their car a once-over to make sure it’s up to the job,” he said. “A single breakdown can bring some roads to a grinding halt, slowing down the Christmas getaway for all of us.”
What is the best to time to travel on the roads this Christmas and where will the worst jams be?
Friday 21 December
Estimated trips: 2.8 million
Worst time to travel: 11.30am to 6pm
Best time to travel: After 7.30pm
Tailback hotspot: M40 south from M42 (Warwickshire) to J8A (Oxford). Up to 110-minute delay.
Saturday 22 December
Estimated trips: 2.2 million
Worst time to travel: 10.30am to 4pm
Best time to travel: Before 9.30am or after 7.30pm
Tailback hotspot: M40 north from J8A (Oxford) to M42 (Warwickshire). Up to 61-minute delay.
Sunday 23 December
Estimated trips: 1.9 million
Worst time to travel: 4pm to 6.30pm
Best time to travel: Before 11am or after 8pm
Monday 24 December
Estimated trips: 2.5 million
Worst time to travel: 11am to 1pm
Best time to travel: Any other time
Tailback hotspot: M1 north J21 (Coventry/Leicester) to J26 (Nottingham/Ripley). Up to 22-minute delay.