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Christmas getaway will mean severe traffic jams after lunchtime, expert warns

PUBLISHED: 10:48 22 December 2017 | UPDATED: 10:48 22 December 2017

Stock photo of traffic queues on the A47 approaching the Hardwick Roundabout, in King's Lynn. Picture: Chris Bishop

Stock photo of traffic queues on the A47 approaching the Hardwick Roundabout, in King's Lynn. Picture: Chris Bishop

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Drivers embarking on the Christmas getaway have until lunchtime to avoid severe jams on many roads, a traffic expert has warned.

Dr Graham Cookson, chief economist at transportation analysts Inrix, said many motorists will find themselves stuck in long queues from Friday afternoon onwards.

An estimated 1.3 million drivers on leisure trips will fight for road space with regular commuters on the last working day before Christmas.

Dr Cookson said it will be one of the worst days of the year on the roads with “incredibly severe” traffic jams.

He told the Press Association: “After lunch most of the roads will get busier and stay busy into the evening.

“What we see is roads in congestion for most of the time, average speeds very slow, people crawling along.

“The pure weight of traffic means a lot of motorways will be much slower than normal so your total journey takes so much longer.”

The RAC is referring to the day as “Frantic Friday” and strongly urged drivers to avoid long journeys “if they possibly can”.

It estimates 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 taking place between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day as people take advantage of post-Christmas sales at shops.

Almost 400 miles of roadworks will be lifted by Highways England to ease journeys.

The “roadworks embargo” will be in place on motorways and major A roads from 6am on Friday until January 2.

Some 260 engineering projects on the railway will also disrupt journeys and could force more people to travel on already congested roads..

Many of Britain’s mainline routes will be partially shut as Network Rail carries out its biggest ever Christmas investment programme.

Airports, ports and international train stations are exceptionally busy with more than 4.5 million people heading abroad over Christmas and the new year.

The UK’s busiest airport, Heathrow, will welcome almost 130,000 departing passengers on Friday.

Travel trade organisation Abta advised people to leave extra time to catch their flight, boat or train.

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EDP motoring editor, journalist who loves wheels and engines but hates cleaning them.

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