Travel chaos predicted on road and rail as festive frenzy begins

Gridlock: Traffic snarl-ups are certain as travellers start driving home for Christmas
Gridlock: Traffic snarl-ups are certain as travellers start driving home for Christmas

‘MAD Friday’ was set to bring mayhem and misery to travellers in Lancashire this afternoon as the great Christmas getaway began early.

Traffic analysts predicted today would be the busiest of the festive period with an estimated 14m drivers clogging up the nation’s road network.

Trains were expected to be standing room only – although tomorrow is due to be the biggest day for rail travellers.

And airports were bracing themselves for their busiest day of the big Christmas rush with the first of around five million passengers jetting off for the holidays on the last day of the school term.

With partygoers set to hit the pubs and clubs for tonight’s ‘Mad Friday’ celebrations, and shoppers due to join the last-minute gift scramble on ‘Panic Saturday’ tomorrow, the festive frenzy was beginning in earnest with Santa’s visit still seven days off.

But for those caught up in traffic gridlock it is certain to be a testing time, with motoring organisations predicting long tailbacks on major roads and some journeys taking three times as long as normal.

Highways England says it is lifting almost 400 miles of roadworks to ease traffic flow over Christmas and New Year. But work on the M6 near Lancaster is not due to be halted.

Train services over the holiday period are likely to be hit by the country’s biggest-ever rail engineering project - the West Coast mainline service between Preston and London one of those closed between Crewe and Stafford for five days. Manchester Airport is expecting 400,000 passengers to pass through departures between today and Christmas Eve.