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Christmas travel: UK travellers hit by delays on roads and trains

Half of all UK drivers took to the roads on Christmas Eve to visit friends and family

Monday 24 December 2018 15:04 GMT
Victoria coach station shows Christmas Eve queues for 2018 festive season

Travellers making last-minute journeys home for Christmas had to contend with busy roads and reduced train services on Christmas Eve.

Half of UK motorists took to the roads on the day before Christmas, according to the AA, with one in five making festive journeys to see friends and family.

There is a reduced service on most train lines across the country, alongside closures at key stations for engineering works. Disruption on some train networks is expected to last until the start of January.


The RAC has reminded passengers that the roads will be extremely busy until 1pm today, and that the best time to travel by car is after this time.

There is congestion on the M60 anti-clockwise from junction 10 to junction 14, and on the M1 northbound between junction 13 and junction 14. Most other routes are coping well, says the RAC.

Cathy Adams24 December 2018 12:08

If you're driving home for Christmas today after a busy weekend, make sure you're not driving tired.

If you do feel sleepy, the AA Charitable Trust recommends that you stop, have two cups of coffee (or equivalent caffeinated drink) and a 20 minute nap before completing your journey.

“Driving home for Christmas can be one of the nicest drives of the year; the anticipation, the festive songs and treats all add to the atmosphere," said Edmund King, director of the AA Charitable Trust.

“But it’s also a busy time of year and can often leave you feeling more tired than usual.

“As well as ensuring your car is fully prepared for your festive journeys, it’s important the driver is also prepared.

"Plan your journey to include regular breaks to minimise tiredness, try and get a good night’s sleep the night before a long drive and, if you do feel tiredness creeping up on you when driving, stop and take a break.” 

Cathy Adams24 December 2018 12:15

There is a broken down vehicle at junction 11 of the M1 southbound, which has closed one lane of traffic. Highways England says the disruption should clear between 1-1.15pm.

Cathy Adams24 December 2018 12:43

Traffic on the M60 anti-clockwise is moving again after an accident closed one lane of traffic between junction 11 and junction 10.

Highways England advises that "delays on the approach will start to ease".

Three vehicles were involved in the smash, which happened near Manchester's Trafford Centre, according to the Manchester Evening News.

Cathy Adams24 December 2018 13:20

There's some good news for drivers planning to hit the roads after Christmas.

While the roads on Christmas Day won't be totally deserted (the AA estimates that more than a third of UK motorists will be on the main roads), Boxing Day will be relatively quiet.

The AA says that traffic will pick up a little on 27-28 December as people head back to work, and then quieten down again during New Year.

But 2 January will mark the return to work for UK commuters, with 25 per cent of drivers on the country's busiest roads. 

Cathy Adams24 December 2018 13:26

From The Independent's Simon Calder:

"A planeful of passengers in the Caribbean who were due to arrive back at Gatwick on the morning of Christmas Eve will now not touch down until Boxing Day. 

They are on TUI flight 45 from Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic.

A spokesperson for TUI told The Independent: "We would like to apologise to customers on flight TOM045 from Punta Cana to London Gatwick which is delayed due to technical issues.

'We know this is not the Christmas our customers were expecting and we are currently in the process of contacting all affected customers and updating them on the situation.'

Under European air passengers’ rights rules, each holidaymaker will be entitled to €600 (£540) in compensation, in addition to hotel accommodation and meals until their homeward flight."

If your flight has been delayed or cancelled for whatever reason, here's a handy guide to your rights as a passenger.

Cathy Adams24 December 2018 13:29

There is mayhem in Madeira as bad weather is disrupting flights, according to The Independent's Simon Calder:

"Passengers on the 7.10am easyJet flight from Gatwick to the Portuguese island have been delayed by six hours, with the airline saying: 'Your flight has been delayed so that it is planned to arrive in Funchal [the capital] when forecasted weather conditions are expected to be at their best.'

They are also warned that they may not make it at all for Christmas: 'If your flight is unable to land in Funchal then we have planned for it to divert to Porto for refuelling.

'In Porto you will have the opportunity to disembark and make your own onward arrangements or remain on board and return back to your departure airport where your flight would unfortunately be cancelled as weather conditions are not set to improve for several days.'"

Cathy Adams24 December 2018 13:41

Those heading off by car to get home for Christmas, or who'll be driving during the festive period, could unwittingly eat themselves over the drink-drive limit, according to new research.

According to an Inchcape survey, 49 per cent of UK drivers don’t consider the alcohol content of the food they eat before getting behind the wheel.

Over a quarter (28 per cent) are also unaware of how alcohol lingers in food, incorrectly believing it’s burned off during cooking.

The combination of food containing alcohol and the odd glass of wine or beer could see an individual unwittingly consume 8.2 units; that’s around triple the legal drink-drive limit for women and double the limit for men, according to the RAC.

"The easiest way to remain safely below the limit this Christmas period is to not consume any alcohol at all if you’re planning on driving," it advises.

helen.coffey24 December 2018 14:02

The Border Force has issued its top tips for passing swiftly through security and passport control during the peak Christmas period at UK airports:

  • If you are travelling as a family, make sure you go through passport control together.

  • If you have a chipped passport, use the e-gates for faster entry back into the UK. Just remember to remove the Santa hat and ski mask so the camera can recognise your face!

  • Please save the mobile phone conversation or Instagram posts until after passport control to avoid holding up the queue for you and other passengers.

  • If you are an EEA citizen travelling to the UK, it can be faster to travel using your EU passport rather than an ID card which cannot be used in the e-gates.

  • If you are travelling with a child (under-18) who is not your child- for example a family friend, or you share a different family name from your child, Border Force may ask a few questions to establish your relationship with the child. Carrying evidence such as a copy of a birth certificate, or a letter from the child’s parents giving permission for you to travel with their child will help speed up vital child safeguarding checks carried out by Border Force. 

  • If you are travelling through Gatwick, Stansted, Manchester, Edinburgh, Birmingham or East Midlands airport, it is possible to pay a small fee (around £7) to Fast Track passport control checks. This means you can whizz through passport control in a dedicated lane with a restricted number of passengers per hour.

  • If you are bringing large sums of money to the UK, equivalent to 10,000 Euros or more (even in different currencies), you will need to declare it on your arrival in Customs. Border Force will require an explanation about the source of the income and why so much cash is needed for your visit. This is to rule out any links to criminality.

  • If you are travelling with a child with autism, or you have a medical condition, some airports will fast-track your security to make travelling easier for your child and your family. Check ahead of your trip to see what facilities your airport can offer. Visit this link for more information:

  • And finally please be patient and understanding – as peak winter holiday season approaches, Border Force officers will be busier than ever carrying out vital checks on an increased number of passengers. In the same period last year there was an increase of half a million passengers.

helen.coffey24 December 2018 14:29

It won't be a typical white Christmas this year, but there could be fog patches tomorrow that could hamper festive journeys tomorrow morning.

The Met Office warns that thick fog in the forecast will be the main issue for drivers on Christmas morning, especially in the eastern and southern parts of the country.

It will slowly start to shift throughout the day, according to the weather agency.

Cathy Adams24 December 2018 15:20

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