Summer holiday traffic: The roads and travel times to avoid as millions set off on breaks

RAC data reveals congestion hot spots as English and Welsh schools break up

Wednesday, 21st July 2021, 9:03 am

More than 11 million leisure trips are set to be taken this weekend, leading to warnings of chaos and gridlock on the roads as the English and Welsh school holidays begin.

Observers are predicting a “perfect storm” of hold-ups, breakdowns and sweltering temperatures as millions begin their holiday getaways, leading to warnings for drivers to avoid key routes and times if they can.

Continuing uncertainty and restrictions around international travel have left to a spike in the number of people planning UK holidays this year and the RAC estimates that as many as 11.5m journeys could be made between Wednesday 21 and Sunday 25 July.

Summer traffic is expected to be worse than usual as many people opt to holiday in the UK rather than overseas

Working with traffic data specialists Inrix, the motoring group has identified the key hot spots for traffic problems along with the times when congestion is likely to be at its worst.

Predictably, the M25 features heavily in its list of trouble spots, with routes anticlockwise from junction four to junction one and clockwise from J7 to J16 expected to be among the worst. The A303 in Wiltshire, M4 in Wales and M5 through Devon and Somerset are also expected to see particularly high levels of traffic.

Wednesday is expected to be the busiest day, with a predicted 2.6m leisure trips. Drivers are being urged to travel before 2pm or after 6pm if they can to avoid the worst congestion. Friday is likely to be the second busiest day, with 2.3m trip contributing to a predicted 29 per cent increase in journey times over a regular July day. Drivers are being urged to avoid travelling between 11am and 7am on Friday.

Navigation specialists at Waze have also predicted higher than usual traffic levels on routes including the M6, A30 and A38, as holidaymakers look to travel further afield.

Major motorways and smaller routes leading to popular tourist destinations are likely to be most affected

The busiest routes and times

- Wednesday 21 July: M25 anticlockwise J17 to J12; M25 anticlockwise J4 to J1. Between 2pm and 6pm

- Thursday 22 July: M25 anticlockwise J4 to J1; M25 clockwise J7 to J16. Between 2pm and 7pm

- Friday 23 July: A303 West Solstice Park to A36; M4 east J29 to J24. Between 11am and 7pm

Graphic: Mark Hall/JPI Media

- Saturday 24 July: M25 clockwise J7 to J16; M5 south J15 to J23. Between 10am and 4pm

- Sunday 25 July: M25 clockwise J7 to J16; M25 Anticlockwise J4 to J1; A303 West Solstice Park to A36. Between 12pm and 6pm

Holiday hot spots

Previous research by the RAC found that almost a third of UK-bound holidaymakers planned to head to the West Country, ahead of 14 per cent heading to Scotland and 11 per cent heading to Wales.

Simon Williams, RAC breakdown spokesman, said that with the hot weather and busy roads, drivers needed to be better prepared than ever.

He said: “We seem to have all the elements of a perfect storm on the UK’s roads this summer – with millions of drivers having already planned their staycation trips, plus the very real prospect of huge numbers more booking last minute if their foreign travel plans end in tatters because of Covid travel restrictions.

“After the hot weather last weekend, the scene is really set for an incredibly busy few weeks on the country’s roads, whether that’s on motorways or on smaller, minor routes that take people to popular tourist destinations.

“With the roads likely to be so busy, we’re expecting the numbers of people needing our help to rocket, but it’s not too late to reduce your chances of breaking down. This is why we can’t stress enough how important checking tyres, oil and coolant levels is.

Bob Pishue, transportation analyst at INRIX, commented: “With the possibility of record numbers of people using the roads this summer, drivers – especially around major metro areas – must be prepared for more delays. Knowing when and where congestion will build can help drivers avoid the stress of sitting in traffic, and our advice is to leave as early in the day as possible and to avoid travelling on Friday afternoon if at all possible.”

Ru Roberts, Waze UK’s country manager, added: “Our data shows a huge eagerness to get back on British roads this summer, and there are already more cars than ever being driven following the initial relaxing of restrictions in April.

“Without proper planning, the UK motorway network will become gridlocked. Where possible, avoid travelling during peak hours, plan your journey ahead of time and consider a route which may be longer in miles but fewer in cars.”