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Britain’s Most Congested Roads During Christmas

2 December 2021

Christmas is fast approaching, and it’s easy to forget where so many of the things we rely on for a successful holiday come from and how they get to where they are. From the presents under the tree to the Christmas dinner on the table, it’s more than likely that these will have been transported to stores by HGV drivers. Therefore, it’s no surprise that UK roads experience a manic rush during the festive season. Commercial drivers are working hard to deliver your Christmas essentials on time, and of course, almost everyone will be travelling at some point to see loved ones to celebrate. Add in the typical winter weather conditions and it means HGV drivers – and everyone else – must take extra caution when driving during the holidays.

We analysed ONS data on road congestion between 2017 to 2020, as well as One Network data on planned roadworks across the most congested areas between now and the end of the year. Both of these allowed us to determine which major routes in the UK typically see the most delays for drivers, as well as which roads could potentially face more delays than usual.

If you’re driving home for Christmas or working during the festive season, you can find out more about the UK’s top 20 busiest roads in our interactive map below.

Tips: Staying Safe on Busy Roads

In 2020, 3399 HGVs were involved in road accidents, and these ranged from severe to fatal. Within this figure, based on involvement rates per billion vehicle miles, 81.7 occurred on motorways, and 267.8 occurred on A roads. Therefore, it’s important to be prepared ahead of any journey you’re taking this Christmas, whether it’s for work, or you’re driving home for the holidays – especially when driving in winter.

  • Plan your route in advance – without a plan in place for the route you’re going to take, it’s more likely that you’ll find yourself stuck in traffic delays. As well as this, you’ll spend more time on the road trying to work out where you’re going rather than staying alert. If you’re driving in London, check whether you’ll need to pay the Congestion Charge. And you’ll also need to check if your vehicle is affected by the capital’s Low Emission Zone (LEZ).
  • Perform regular safety checks – top up tyre pressures regularly as well as essential fluids (oil, screenwash, coolant, etc). By doing regular safety checks, you’ll not only be safer on the road, but breakdowns due to these factors are also less likely.
  • Be mindful of other road users – remember that your HGV is a lot larger than other standard vehicles you’ll be sharing the road with. Many road accidents occur due to careless driving, so make sure to be predictable when driving – indicate when you should and turn when expected. You need to ensure you’re doing everything possible, so other road users are aware of your next move.
  • Keep your distance – this is especially important when driving in winter. Make sure to leave more space for breaking as stopping distances in snow and ice can increase by as much as 10 times compared to normal weather conditions.
  • Monitor weather changes – when driving in winter, you may run into severe weather conditions so it’s best to check the forecast before setting off on any journey.
  • Prepare an emergency kit – if you’re doing a long-haul drive and get stuck in traffic, you’ll want an emergency kit at hand. Make sure to include things in the kit such as a mobile phone charger/portable charger, road map, extra food and water as well as extra warm clothing.

Planning ahead and knowing which roads to avoid this Christmas, will make driving home for the holidays, as well as working during the festivities a more smooth-sailing ride. And following our tips will help prepare your HGV if you happen to find yourself in a traffic jam this Christmas. From taking the correct safety measures to being mindful of other road users, you can reduce the probability of a road accident during this busy period. However, by having knowledge of the 25 busiest roads during the holidays, you can plan accordingly to deliver Christmas essentials, and get home promptly to spend festivities with loved ones.


Data was sourced using ONS data on road congestion in the last four years to determine:

  • Average delays (seconds per vehicle per mile) for major routes in the UK.
  • Average annual daily flow through count point on road number.

From this, we created a spreadsheet that showcased the top 25 busiest roads in the UK during Christmas. And for each road, we located which region they were in as well their local authority. We also used the One Network map to pull data on planned roadworks around the most congested roads before the new year.

Data from both sources allowed us to not only reveal which roads to avoid this Christmas, but whether these roads could see more delays than the usual due to roadworks.