LONDON: Motorists are warned to expect the busiest day of the festive season on UK roads as the Christmas getaway combines with the end of the working week. The AA motoring group estimates that about 12 million cars will drive at least 20 miles each as Christmas journeys and commuter traffic mix. On the rail network, a record number of engineering works begin later. And there is also the threat of disruption in most of the UK as Storm Barbara approaches. The Met Office said the worst of the weather was expected on Friday and Saturday, with gusts of up to 90mph forecast in parts of Scotland. It has issued an amber warning for northernmost Scotland to “be prepared” from midday. The AA predicts Northern Ireland will have the busiest roads, with 55% of its members there saying they plan to drive at least 20 miles on Friday. Wales follows with 47% and Scotland and the north-east of England with 46%. According to the AA, London is least likely to suffer from an early Christmas traffic surge on Friday, as only a third of its members there say they will drive 20 miles or more. John Snowling, from the AA, said: “It’s likely to be very busy at peak times on the major routes as the Christmas getaway coincides with commuter traffic. “Check the traffic reports before you leave and try to travel when it’s quieter or, if you have no choice, consider an alternative route to beat the jams.”
On the railways, record numbers of staff will be working on 200 engineering projects. Paddington station in London will be shut from Christmas Eve until December 29 to complete building work on the Crossrail line. Services are also being scaled back at stations including London Bridge, Charing Cross and Liverpool Street in London. There will be no trains late on Christmas Eve between Cardiff Central, Bridgend, Newport and the Valleys, for a major re-signalling job. The shortage of trains means the roads are expected to be busier in coming days, but 450 miles of roadworks are either being finished or removed over the holidays to ease congestion. Meanwhile, planned strikes by British Airways cabin crew on Christmas Day and Boxing Day have been suspended. Staff had been due to walk out in a row over pay and conditions. Talks at conciliation service Acas led to a revised offer, which will be put to a ballot of union members.