Driving Home for Christmas?

Living Magazine Roadworks

National Highways will be working round the clock to remove almost 900 miles of roadworks ahead of the festive getaway.

This means nearly 98 per cent of motorways and major A-roads will be roadworks-free in time for those travelling to see loved ones or making other journeys for Christmas.

To help keep festive disruption to a minimum, the vast majority of roadworks will be removed from England’s motorway and major A-road network from 6am on Tuesday 20 December until 12.01am on Tuesday 3 January.

Transport Secretary Mark Harper said: ‘Being stuck in traffic can take the joy out of travelling home over the festive period.

‘Given the disruption expected from the transport unions’ strike action and cold weather, I’m pleased that we could act to remove these roadworks – reducing congestion and helping people with their important journeys this Christmas.’

The government-owned company, which operates and maintains a 4,500-mile network of motorways and major A-roads, is also working to ensure that any industrial action will not affect road users’ experience over the Christmas and New Year period.

Strikes will be staged by the PCS union within each National Highways region in December and early January. Action involving a minority of traffic officers and control room operators begins in the north of England on Friday 16 December, before taking place in other regions over the following three weeks.

National Highways can provide reassurance that there are comprehensive plans in place to minimise any potential disruption. For example, resources can be shared between control centres around the country to assist with call handling and the setting of signs and signals.

National Highways Customer Service Director, Andrew Butterfield said: ’We don’t want roadworks to spoil Christmas so we’re doing everything we can to make journeys as smooth as possible; that’s why we’re keeping almost 98 per cent of the road network we manage free from roadworks.

‘We know from experience that peak travel times can vary in the run-up to Christmas and so we’re encouraging drivers to check traffic conditions before heading out to help keep traffic flowing.

‘And we’re also asking motorists to be prepared before setting off. Almost half of breakdowns can be easily avoided if motorists carry out simple vehicle checks before their journeys.’

To make sure Christmas journeys go as planned, National Highways is encouraging drivers to check traffic conditions before they set off and to make sure their vehicle is ready for the journey ahead.

With much of the country experiencing sub-zero temperatures in recent days, National Highways, which operates England’s 4,500-mile strategic road network, is reminding drivers to take care during the poor weather while also giving gritting teams space to operate.

The government-owned company switched over to autumn and winter operations on 1 October, readying teams at 128 depots across the country to keep the country’s busiest roads open in the face of deteriorating weather.

Before setting off, motorists are encouraged to:

  • Check fuel: Make sure you have enough to get to your destination
  • Check tyres: Check your tyre pressure and the condition of your tyres, including the spare. Look out for cuts or wear and make sure the tyres have a minimum tread depth of 1.6mm, which is the legal limit
  • Check engine oil: Use your dipstick to check oil before any long journey, and top up if needed – take your car back to the garage if you’re topping up more than usual
  • Check water: To ensure you have good visibility, always keep your screen wash topped up so you can clear debris or dirt off your windscreen
  • Check your lights: If your indicators, hazard lights, headlights, fog lights, reverse lights or brake lights are not functioning properly, you are putting yourself at risk. In addition, light malfunctions can be a reason for your vehicle to fail its MOT

Essential advice for motorists this winter season

  • Stick to the main roads where you can and only travel if necessary.
  • Slow down – it can take 10 times longer to stop in icy conditions.
  • Use a high gear – this will help avoid wheel spin.
  • Accelerate gently, using low revs. You may need to take off in second gear to avoid skidding.
  • You may need up to 10 times the normal gap between your car and the car in front.
  • Try not to brake suddenly – it may lock up your wheels and you could skid further.
  • Be extra cautious at road junctions where road markings may not be visible.
  • Look out for gritters spreading salt or using snow ploughs, and only overtake if it’s safe to do so.

National Highways is also reminding people what to do if they have problems with their vehicle during their journey – and the key message is Go Left. The advice to anyone encountering vehicle trouble is to stay calm and try to exit at the next junction or motorway service area. If that’s not possible:

  • Go left – put your left indicator on and move into an emergency area, onto a hard shoulder, left-hand verge or A-road lay-by. Switch your hazard warning lights on, even during the day. If it’s dark, use side lights and in poor visibility use fog lights as well. On a motorway without a hard shoulder, in most situations a vehicle can be driven to an emergency area. These are spaced regularly and are marked with blue signs featuring an orange SOS telephone symbol, to indicate the distance to the next one.
  • Get safe – If it is safe to do so, and you can get out with any passengers, exit your vehicle on the side furthest from traffic. If it is not safe to do so, stay in your vehicle and wait for help. Keep well away from moving traffic and your own vehicle. Get behind a safety barrier where there is one, and where it is safe to do so. If you’re on a verge, be aware of any unseen hazards such as uneven ground or debris.
  • Get help – contact National Highways on 0300 123 5000 and then a breakdown recovery provider.

If unable to exit the vehicle and get to a safe place, have stopped in a live traffic lane or feel life is in danger, stay in the vehicle with seatbelts and hazard lights on and call 999 immediately.

For more information visit: nationalhighways.co.uk/breakdowns.

A series of vehicle checks videos are available to help people carry out basic vehicle checks before they set off on their travels.

National Highways has advice about traffic conditions on its website, Twitter feeds, and information line (0300 123 5000).