Express & Star

Christmas getaway begins but 'frantic Friday' to bring worst delays

People heading home for Christmas are advised to expect delays in and around Wolverhampton, the Black Country and Staffordshire this week.

The longest delays are expected between 4pm and 8pm on Friday

The Christmas getaway is under way with an estimated 1.3 million drivers taking to the roads on Thursday in a bid to avoid 'Frantic Friday'.

Leisure journeys will peak at 1.87 million across the UK on Christmas Eve, but Friday is expected to see the worst delays across the country as people driving home from work battle for road space with 1.25 million motorists visiting friends and family, according to RAC figures.

Motorists should check which has all of the latest traffic information.

The worst jams on Thursday will be on the M6 southbound between Merseyside and Staffordshire, with hold ups predicted to reach four hours and 21 minutes, according to traffic information supplier Inrix.

Journeys are set to be even slower on Friday as the last of the year’s commuter traffic clashes with the Christmas getaway, amid a rail strike. Both Saturday and Sunday will be busy on road and rail too.

In addition to planning journeys in advance, drivers are being urged to check vehicle and tyre conditions before they head out on the roads to ensure they’re travelling safely.

The RAC expects traffic to peak between 4pm and 8pm on Friday.

Anyone using the train should also check for engineering works.

Work taking place between Wolverhampton and Birmingham will affect some train services through Staffordshire from Christmas Eve until January 2.

All train company service changes can be found at

Staffordshire County Council’s cabinet support member for highways and transport Helen Fisher said: “This weekend will be extremely busy on the roads and on the trains and if at all possible people may want to avoid travelling on ‘frantic Friday’.

"If main routes like the M6 and A38 are congested, this can displace traffic onto other county roads.

“We’re advising people to plan their journeys in advance over the next week. By accessing live travel updates we’d hope that people can remove some of the stresses of travelling and can enjoy Christmas and the New Year.”

RAC traffic spokesman Rod Dennis added: “Things tend to get worse on the last working day before Christmas, with ‘Frantic Friday’ this year falling on the 22 December.

“We strongly urge drivers planning long journeys to avoid this day if they possibly can.”

The RAC 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 12.01am on January 2.

A strike by rail workers on Virgin Trains on Friday will see a reduced timetable in operation, which could force more people to travel on already congested roads.

Some 260 engineering projects on the railway will also disrupt journeys.

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

Network Rail chief executive Mark Carne said: “We know that our railway is up to 50 per cent quieter than usual during the festive period so taking on and delivering these huge transformational schemes at this time of year minimises our impact on passengers.”

Coach operator National Express is running its largest ever Christmas schedule to meet increased demand from key locations such as Bournemouth, Cardiff, Leeds, Edinburgh, Portsmouth, Bristol, Glasgow and Manchester.

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

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