Roads busy with football fans and shoppers amid Boxing Day rail strike

The AA said it expected 15.2 million cars on UK roads on Boxing Day.

Aine Fox
Monday 26 December 2022 15:19 GMT
Many people took to the roads on Boxing Day amid rail strikes and sales (Aaron Chown/PA)
Many people took to the roads on Boxing Day amid rail strikes and sales (Aaron Chown/PA) (PA Wire)

Motorists faced disruption on Boxing Day as motorway traffic crawled along at 15mph in some places as rail strikes saw football fans and bargain-hunters take to the roads.

Thousands who might have travelled by train were forced to make other plans amid continued industrial action.

Hundreds of trains usually run on December 26 after the Christmas Day shutdown, but Network Rail said Britain’s railways would remain closed for a second consecutive day due to a walkout by workers in the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union.

The AA said it expected 15.2 million cars on UK roads on Boxing Day.

A spokesman for the motoring group said delays were building as early as 10am, with “some serious delays on the M25 and the M6” by noon.

He said while busy roads were expected, he was still surprised to see how much disruption there was.

He said: “When you look up the west side of the M25 and then up the M1, and then particularly from the north of Birmingham up the M6, it has been pretty unpleasant at midday.

“We expected heavy traffic but when you see it in reality, where the traffic information is talking about traffic moving at 20mph and 15mph, it just indicates unpleasant traffic conditions for anyone travelling on those particular motorways.”

Hold-ups on the A303 around Stonehenge were blamed on people heading back from Christmas Day celebrations and sporting events.

Many football fans will have been left with no option but to drive to Boxing Day matches, the AA spokesman said, “which means that on top of the 15.2 million people that we predicted would be driving around on Boxing Day, you’re going to get tens of thousands of football fans as well on the roads”.

But he said motorists in the UK are generally used to the “ritual” of busy roads at such times of the year.

He said: “I think the reality of driving in the UK is that you will run into congestion. It’s all part of what you might call the UK Bank Holiday ritual that you all get stuck in traffic at some stage.”

Meanwhile footfall figures for retail on Boxing Day morning appeared to suggest shoppers were out in force compared to the same time last year.

Central London saw footfall double up to noon, while UK high streets saw footfall up 59.4% on December 26 2021, according to industry analyst Springboard.

Shoppers were predicted to spend 4% less this Boxing Day and during the post-Christmas sales due to the cost-of-living crisis.

Passengers were warned about the impact of the rail strike a week ago – and heeded warnings appeared to lead to relatively smooth travel for most people on Christmas Eve, when services ended early.

Coach operators National Express and Megabus have experienced strong demand as people look to alternative modes of transport.

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