The Christmas getaway has begun and travellers hoping for a speedy journey have been warned to expect delays on railway lines and almost 200 miles of major roads. Some 4.1m motorists are expected to hit Britain's roads on Christmas Eve as rail companies announce major engineering works on their lines.
While the Highways Agency said it had lifted 400 miles of non-essential roadworks over the festive period, lane closures and temporary speed limits remain at 43 locations across England (see map below). Two rated "severe" are on the M1 (junction 11 and 12 near Bedfordshire; junction 28 and 29 near Derbyshire). A full list of other roadworks still in place can be found here.
Rail passengers can also expect to face a difficult journey over Christmas with major engineering work being carried out on the network, including to the UK's two biggest airports. The Gatwick Express, running from London Victoria to Gatwick Airport, will be closed from Christmas Eve to January 4 as engineering works take place. A revised Southern and Thameslink train and replacement bus service will operate from Boxing Day, with journey times from London expected to be 90 minutes.
The Heathrow Express will also be closed due to Crossrail works, with the last train at 8.55pm on Christmas Eve. There will be no service until 29 December and an inter-terminal transfer service will run between all Heathrow terminals from 5am to 10.55pm.
Other railway works over the Christmas period include (click links for more details):
Network Rail said it would be undertaking "one of the biggest Christmas and New Year investment programmes ever carried out on Britain's rail network". More than 20,000 workers will be spending their Christmas Day and the days that follow carrying out works on 500 projects. Some 2.2m people are expected to use the rail network between Christmas and New Year.
Mark Carne, Network Rail chief executive, said: "Passengers have shown themselves to be incredibly understanding of planned improvement work and I'd like to thank them in advance for their support and understanding as we deliver the big improvements that the travelling public want to see."
The Highways Agency said 98% of its 9,534-mile network would be free of roadworks over the festive holidays. Its director of customer operations, Melanie Clarke, said: "This Christmas, we're clearing roadworks across the majority of motorways and major A-roads in England to help people make important journeys to see family and friends.
"Where possible, we've completed or lifted roadworks, leaving more lanes open and lifting many of the associated speed restrictions to help people travelling over the festive period. Drivers can do their bit to make their festive journeys run smoothly by planning longer journeys ahead of time and checking weather and travel conditions before setting out."
The map below shows the location of all roadworks in place across England over Christmas and New Years: