Journey times could triple on some of Britain’s biggest roads this weekend as millions of families take advantage of the last bank holiday before the summer break.
Experts are predicting that more than 19 million extra car journeys will be taken between Friday and Monday, bringing a spike in congestion, breakdowns and delays. Observers say that this weekend is on course to be the busiest late May holiday since before the pandemic as people make the most of settled weather and extra days off.
The RAC is warning of hectic times on the roads, with key routes including the M5, M6 and M25 all expected to see journey times stretched as holidaymakers race to get away. Travellers are being urged to avoid driving at peak times and to take alternative routes where possible.
Throughout the weekend, the M25 around London is predicted to be a flashpoint for hold-ups with the area around Junction 4 for the Dartford Crossing a key hot spot. Traffic analyst Inrix predicts that journeys around J4 and clockwise from J23 for Hatfield to J28 for Chelmsford could take three times longer than usual due to the extra traffic.
The M5 between Taunton and Bristol and the M6 between Manchester and Liverpool are also expected to be flashpoints for traffic throughout the weekend.
Traffic is expected to be worse in the afternoon across three of the four days, with drivers advised to avoid travelling between 2pm and 7pm on Saturday, Sunday and Monday. The worst of the traffic on Friday is expected earlier - between 11am and 2pm - but Inrix and the RAC warn that holiday travellers combining with regular commuting traffic could make it worst day for hold-ups across the whole weekend.
RAC breakdown spokesman Rod Dennis said: “With the travel restrictions imposed during Covid now thankfully a distant memory, it’s clear drivers’ desire to getaway has been reignited with our figures for this coming weekend suggesting leisure traffic volumes will be close to what we last saw in 2019.
“With the Met Office currently predicting largely settled weather with above average temperatures, we’re expecting this to be a hectic period on major roads as people aim to make the most of the last long weekend before August – and that means it will be a busy time for our patrols too.”
Dennis said that with so many households facing financial strain at the moment, the breakdown service was preparing for even more breakdowns than usual due to neglected maintenance.
He said: “We’re reminding everyone to ensure their cars are as ready for a getaway as they can be – if a vehicle hasn’t been serviced recently, this is the week to get one done by a qualified professional.
“And, whether a car’s been serviced lately or not, a quick look at oil and coolant levels, together with checking tyres are in good condition and inflated properly, can go a long way to avoiding an unwelcome stop at the side of the road this weekend.”