Families should be given extra travel days either side of the Christmas ‘bubble’ window to avoid travel chaos, a campaign group has urged.
It comes as the AA said that two fifths of drivers who had already cancelled travel plans may still be unable to choose who to include in their small bubbles so may just stay at home.
Under the current guidelines, three households can form a temporary Christmas bubble between December 23-27. They can mix indoors and can stay overnight.
The Campaign for Better Transport group has warned that forcing everyone to do all of their travelling in five days will create jam-packed roads and busy trains.
Edmund King, the president of AA, said: ‘One third of drivers still haven’t decided if they are going to travel at Christmas and this could make all the difference.
‘Two fifths of drivers who had already cancelled travel plans may still be wary of risk to their loved ones, or unable to choose who to include in their small Christmas bubble.
‘With tier restrictions in place, many may opt to stay local, so we’d like to see councils remove as many roadworks as possible to help ease the flow of local traffic.
Families should be given extra travel days either side of the Christmas ‘bubble’ window to avoid travel chaos, a campaign group has urged. Stock picture of the M25
‘We welcome efforts by Highways England to remove some 750 miles of roadworks on main roads and motorways. Drivers should also carry out essential car checks before travelling.
‘On balance, despite the reduced use of public transport and the five days of festive freedom, we don’t predict a total free for all on the roads…whilst the third of undecided drivers could make a difference, we think it will be more ”driving home for Christmas” than ”road to hell”.’
In Northern Ireland the Christmas bubble period is from December 22-28 and the campaign group is calling for the same timings to be allowed across Britain.
December 27 is expected to be the busiest day on trains because passengers only have one day to travel home as there are no services on Christmas Day or Boxing Day.
Engineering works will begin on Christmas Day which will close King’s Cross station until December 27 and limit services from Waterloo until next year.
Chief executive of Campaign for Better Transport, Paul Tuohy, told The Telegraph: ‘Currently, people will have to curtail their Christmas plans in order to get back before the window closes on December 27, especially those travelling long distances or on routes with engineering works.
‘That’s why we need a wider travel window to allow people to make journeys safely and to avoid overcrowding on the public transport network.
‘Without adequate measures in place so that everyone who wants to travel by public transport can do so safely, we will see travel chaos and yet more cars on our already congested roads.’
The campaign group still believes the roads will be congested even though the Government has announced additional train services and has cleared more than 770 miles of roadworks.
The speed limit on motorways with roadworks has also been raised from 50mph to 60mph.
Ministers are also in talks to make more coach services available.
The Campaign for Better Transport group has warned that forcing everyone to do all of their travelling in five days will create jam-packed roads and busy trains. Pictured: Commuters at Waterloo station
Research carried out for The Telegraph has found that many people are planning to travel outside of the Christmas bubble window anyway.
Zipabout, a company which advises the Government on overcrowding, found that in the four days before December 23 trains will be five times busier than usual.
Train tickets are already getting booked up, the cheapest LNER single on the morning of December 23 from London King’s Cross to Edinburgh is £74, but some trains are already sold out.
Those travelling from London Euston to Manchester on Avanti West Coast that morning can get a single for £30 if before 7am, but the price rises to £85 by 9.30am.
Some trains from Euston to Birmingham are already sold out, but more tickets will soon become available – and the Chiltern route from Marylebone is as little as £6.40.
On the same morning travelling from London Paddington to Cardiff the cheapest Great Western Railway single is £35.40, with decent availability on most trains
Most of the network has now been cleared of engineering works, but there will still be some closures taking place from December 23 to January 4.
LNER, which uses King’s Cross station for the East Coast Main Line, has warned that alternative routes will be ‘very busy and should also be avoided’.
The London Underground will operate a Saturday service on Christmas Eve, which will be reduced at 8pm and finish at Sunday times.
On Boxing Day, reduced services start from 7am, but there will be no service on sections of the Piccadilly and District lines and much of the London Overground.
Roads are expected to be busier over the Christmas period as many people shun public transport over fears of catching Covid-19 on overcrowded trains.
LNER has issued the above timetable for when people cannot travel to and from King’s Cross
To enable to rush to the roads, there are likely to be fewer roadworks than normal – with 500 miles of them cleared on motorways and A-roads to ease congestion.
The RAC has said its breakdown team expects the roads to be busy during the five-day period of December 23 to 27, but it is still unsure quite how busy they will be.
Highways England has said the ‘current plan’ is to remove ‘non-essential’ roadworks from December 20 this year to January 4 next year.
The Government has been contacted for comment.