Christmas getaway nightmare: Millions told to stay off roads as rail strike wrecks holiday plans - 'So selfish!'

UK travel warning issued as train strike sparks chaos on roads...and Boxing Day could be even worse!

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Millions of people are braced for disruption to their holiday plans this weekend due to severe road traffic and strikes decimating train services.

The AA predicted that nearly 17 million cars will be on UK roads, leading to severe congestion on major routes.

Pressure on the roads will be raised due to industrial action on the railways. A walkout by thousands of members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) at Network Rail means trains will stop running early, and some routes will have no services all day.

The RAC urged drivers to avoid parts of the M25 completely and motorists were warned of “life-threatening” delays for assistance in the event of a motorway breakdown, as frontline National Highways staff also walk out until Christmas in London and the South East as part of an industrial dispute.

Transport analytics company Inrix highlighted a southbound stretch of the M6 from junction 27 (Chorley, Lancashire) to junction 13 (Stafford, Staffordshire) as the most likely location for long queues.

Christmas travel chaos: Euston Station in London is almost abandoned as rail strikes hit
Christmas travel chaos: Euston Station in London is almost abandoned as rail strikes hit

National Highways said a 10-mile queue built up due to the M25 being closed from junction 11 (Woking, Surrey) to junction 12 (the M3) while standing water was cleared in the wake of fierce downpours.

Heavy traffic stretched for three miles on the M20 as the westbound section of junction 4 (Leybourne, Kent) was closed after a serious crash.

The AA reported “severe congestion” on several motorway stretches heading into the weekend, including the north and west sections of the M25, the M1 around Luton, Bedfordshire, the M4 and M5 near Bristol, the M5 north of Birmingham, the M60 west of Manchester and the M8 near Glasgow.

AA president Edmund King said: “We’re expecting Christmas Day to be quieter with shorter local journeys.

“But on Boxing Day traffic will pick up again with approximately 15 million trips as people head out to see friends and family.”

Network Rail said trains will stop running at around 3pm on Christmas Eve. The early closure means the last departures on some long-distance routes will be before 1pm.

Passengers were furious, with many claiming it had wrecked their festive plans.

Joanne Kilby, 28, a physiotherapist, said: “They are ruining Christmas. I need to travel back to my parents up north on Christmas Eve. It’s so selfish.

“There was some sympathy but the goodwill from the public is disappearing.”

Dinah Trent, 48, who works in a hospital, said: “How are nurses supposed to get to work?".

Examples of last train times include 10.45am for Leeds to London, 11am for London to Edinburgh and 12.48pm for London to Manchester. East Midlands Railway will only run an “extremely limited service” between London St Pancras and Corby, with no trains on routes such as London St Pancras-Sheffield and London St Pancras-Nottingham.

No South Western Railway trains will run on several routes to and from London Waterloo, including Reading, Twickenham and Dorking. Chiltern Railways will not operate any trains to or from Oxford, or north of Banbury.

No trains operate on Britain’s railways on Christmas Day.

The normal limited Boxing Day schedule has been scrapped due to the strike - just as heavy traffic hits the UK's struggling road network - while services will start later than usual on December 27.

Christmas is a key period for maintenance work on the railways. Network Rail planned a £120 million programme of more than 300 projects over the festive period this year. It said “around 85%” of this work will still go ahead despite the RMT action.

Border Force strikes continue at six UK airports but there was minimal disruption on the first day of the walkout on Friday as armed forces personnel were deployed to check passports.

The chaos on Britain's roads is expected impact Boxing Day as rail workers stage a walkout
The chaos on Britain's roads is expected impact Boxing Day as rail workers stage a walkout

The getaway chaos comes as the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) accused ministers of “abdicating their responsibility” to sort out the industrial unrest.

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch has claimed the Government is blocking rail employers from making a deal. Since meeting a minister last week there have been no further scheduled negotiations to try to prevent upcoming strikes on Network Rail, said the RMT.

Mr Lynch said: “The union remains available for talks to resolve this dispute. “But until the Government gives the rail industry a mandate to come to a negotiated settlement on job security, pay and condition of work, our industrial campaign will continue into the new year, if necessary.”

A Department of Transport spokesperson said: “Far from blocking a deal, the Transport Secretary and rail minister have facilitated talks and ensured a fair and reasonable offer was put forward, which the RMT rejected despite a significant number of members voting to accept.

“After two years of virtual Christmases, the British public deserve better than to have their festive celebrations impacted by strikes.

"We urge them to step back, reconsider and accept the fair offer put to them, so we can start 2023 by ending this damaging dispute.”