Drivers have been urged to prepare for delays as almost 17 million drivers take to the roads for the Christmas rush.

An amber traffic alert has been issued by the AA and it is thought this year could be busier than usual with more people travelling by car due to the railway strikes taking place from 6pm on Christmas Eve.

Train passengers are being urged to complete journeys as early as lunchtime on that day, meaning many people will opt for car or coach travel instead.

Eastern Daily Press: An amber alert for heavy traffic has been issued by the AA An amber alert for heavy traffic has been issued by the AA (Image: PA)

The breakdown company predicts Friday, December 23 and Christmas Eve to be the busiest days, causing lengthy jams at hotspots.

It said traffic will build between 10am and 6pm on Friday, while the main congestion on Saturday could fall between 10am and 4pm. 

Jack Cousens, head of roads policy for the AA, said: “As people start driving home for Christmas, we are advising those heading out in their cars to be prepared for some congestion, especially on popular routes heading out of London.

“The rail strikes have convinced more people to travel by car this year, and while hundreds of miles of roadworks have been removed to ease the pain, it might not be enough to keep the queues away."


Which roads will be worst hit by congestion? 

Roads expected to be worst hit include major routes linked to the M25 and the M11/A14 junction north of Cambridge.

Hotspots for congestion in Norfolk will be along the A47 both in the east and west, as well as routes into Norwich including the A11.

Drivers travelling south along the A140 and A146 could also face heavy traffic.

In the north, delays are expected on the M6 in Cumbria, the M60 around Manchester, the A46 between Leeds and York and the M8 around Edinburgh.

To the west, the M4/M5 at Bristol and M6 in Birmingham is likely to experience heavy congestion throughout the period.


AA warns drivers to make checks to avoid breakdowns

The recent cold snap has seen a rise in breakdowns amid the icy conditions.

To avoid frustration, the AA has urged drivers to check their vehicles before travelling.

Mr Cousens added: "During the recent snow and icy weather, we attended numerous breakdowns which could have been avoided completely had their car been checked before leaving.

"While tyres and oil levels are common items to tick off the list, ensuring screen wash isn’t frozen and wiper blades are in good condition are just as vital, especially with more grit and dirt being kicked up off the road.

“Breakdowns add to traffic jams, so if everyone spent 10 minutes checking their car before leaving it could save everyone hours on their journey."


What will the weather be like over Christmas?

Milder conditions are on the way for much of the country compared to the past week, with temperatures expected to be about average for this time of year over the Christmas period.

Snowfall is possible in Scotland and northern England, and there is a chance this could reach further south to Norfolk depending on the conditions.

MORE: Will it be a white Christmas in Norfolk this year?

Meteorologist Dan Holley said: "While next week will see milder temperatures, it will get colder again by the Christmas period.

"It will be wet and breezy in the run-up and by December 25 temperatures will drop from double figures to highs of about 5-6C.

"Scotland and northern England could see quite a lot of snowfall which may cause travel disruption.

"There is a small chance these wintry showers could also reach us if conditions change, which will most likely fall in the northeast."

The Met Office long-range forecast predicts spells of rain and stronger winds at times, particularly in central and southern areas but with milder temperatures.