Roads stay quiet with less than half of last year's 17m Christmas drivers travelling

2 months ago 9

The great Christmas getaway looked very different today with just a quarter of drivers planning a journey by car over the Christmas period.

Only 7.9million cars are expected to take to the roads when compared to around 17million who planned to travel last year, according to a recent AA survey. 

The Christmas getaway is expected to begin in earnest on December 23 - from when people are allowed to travel and form their five-day Christmas bubbles.

The A14 in Cambridgeshire was quiet today with many discouraged from traveling amid a nationwide surge in coronavirus infections. 

Photos taken this morning showed very few cars on the three-lane main road, in stark contrast to last year when pictures showed it thronged with traffic. 

The Prime Minister announced on Thursday that swathes of the country would be placed into Tier 3 - the highest level of restrictions, meaning 68 per cent of England's population - 38million people - will be subject to the top bracket from tomorrow. 

The Cambridgeshire drivers may also have been discouraged by news that the county's city of Peterborough is one of the regions which will be going in to Tier 3, although the rest of the county will remain in Tier 2. 

It comes as a separate survey by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed more than half of UK adults are intending to spend Christmas at home with their family, rather than planning social activities such as meeting in pubs, cafes or bars - as they did last year. 

The Government has issued a five-day amnesty over the Christmas period, from December 23 to 27, allowing people from up to three households to mix indoors.  

The great Christmas getaway looked very different today with just a quarter of drivers planning a journey by car over the Christmas period. The A14 in Cambridgeshire was quiet today with many discouraged from traveling amid a nationwide surge in coronavirus infections

Only 7.9million cars are expected to take to the roads, compared to around 17million who planned to travel last year, according to a recent AA survey. Pictured: The A14 last year

Most drivers, around 46 per cent, said in the AA's survey they are not planning a car journey over the festive season.

But the 29 per cent who were undecided said they may be tempted by the announcement of five days of festive freedom.

For those planning a getaway, Christmas Eve is set to be the busiest day overall, with 48 per cent travelling on main roads and motorways. Of these, most, 28 per cent, will be visiting family and friends.

Of all drivers surveyed, over half, 57 per cent, said they had changed their Christmas shopping habits this year to avoid crowds.

Data from the RAC also showed how people are expected to take fewer journeys over the Christmas period this year compared to last

Photos taken this morning (left) showed very few cars on the three-lane main road, in stark contrast to last year when pictures showed it thronged with traffic (right)

The Cambridgeshire drivers may also have been discouraged by news that the county's city of Peterborough is one of the regions which will be going in to Tier 3, although the rest of the county will remain in Tier 2

The AA survey showed that most drivers, around 46 per cent are not planning a car journey over the festive season. Pictured: The quiet A14 this morning

Cautious shoppers have planned ahead, with 46 per cent finishing their Christmas shopping early to account for any delivery or supply issues.

What are the Tier 3 rules? 

Indoor entertainment venues such as cinemas, theatres and bowling alleys must close;Pubs, restaurants and cafes must close except for takeaway;Shops and hairdressers and salons will be allowed to remain open; Groups of six will be allowed to meet outdoors only; Crowds at live events will be banned;People should avoid travelling out of, or into, Tier 3 areas unless it is unavoidable;People from separate households cannot meet indoors and the rule of six applies outside. 

Edmund King, AA president, said: 'The question will be 'should I stay, or should I go?' as families weigh up Christmas over Covid.

'Two fifths of drivers who had already cancelled travel plans may still be wary of risk to their loved ones, or unable to choose who to include in their small Christmas bubble.'

The survey from the ONS, which was published on Friday, found that 50 per cent of 3,200 respondents across Great Britain plan to form a Christmas bubble.   

This compares with 38 per cent who said they are not planning to form a bubble over the festive period and 12 per cent who said they do not know.

The ONS poll also showed that the most popular social activity for the festive period will be staying at home with their household, with 55 per cent of all adults planning to do this.

This compares with 48 per cent of adults who said they did this during Christmas and New Year last year.

However, a smaller proportion of adults reported planning various social activities with their family and friends this Christmas than last year.

This included 26 per cent of people saying they plan to visit family and friends but not stay overnight, compared with 52 per cent last year; 19 per cent saying family and friends plan to visit but not stay overnight, compared with 39 per cent last year; 11 per cent said they are planning to stay overnight with family and friends, compared with 28 per cent last year; and 10 per cent saying they plan to have family and friends stay overnight, compared with 21 per cent last year.

Only 4 per cent of people said they plan to meet up in restaurants, cafes or bars this festive period, compared with 44 per cent who said they did this last year, the ONS added.

Fewer people said they are planning to travel more than 30 minutes by car or public transport this year, or go abroad, the survey found.

It said 16 per cent plan to travel for more than 30 minutes by car to visit friends or family this year, compared with 46 per cent last year, and only 2 per cent are planning a journey of more than 30 minutes on public transport, compared with 13 per cent in 2019.

A separate survey by the Office for National Statistics showed more than half of UK adults are intending to spend Christmas at home with their family, rather than planning social activities such as meeting in pubs, cafes or bars - as they did last year

Swathes of the Home Counties will join London in the highest tier tomorrow while Manchester and the North East were told they could not move down a grade despite recording fewer cases. Pictured: A map of England's tiers

Only 1 per cent of people are planning to travel overseas during the Christmas period, compared with 8 per cent last year.

Tim Vizard, principal research officer at the ONS, said: 'This week, we found that around half of adults planned to form a Christmas bubble.

'However, we can see that, even before the updated guidance about socialising over Christmas, people were already making significant changes to the way they normally celebrate Christmas.

'This included lower proportions of adults planning to stay overnight with others, travel overseas and travel by public transport compared to last year.'

The survey also showed that more than half (56 per cent) of adults in Great Britain feel it is very easy or easy to understand the rules around forming a Christmas bubble.

The ONS said this understanding seems to increase with age, with 48 per cent of those aged between 16 and 29 reporting this, compared with 55 per cent of adults aged 30 to 49, 58 per cent of 50 to 69-year-olds, and 61 per cent of people aged 70 and over.

The research also found that 51 per cent of people tend to strongly support or support government rules regarding travel or forming a Christmas bubble, rising to 57 per cent for those aged 70 or over.

The Christmas travel surveys come after the Government last month issued a five-day amnesty from Covid restrictions, allowing families to mix in groups of three households. 

However, Home Secretary Priti Patel yesterday warned about the risk of celebrating with loved ones amid a surge in Covid cases.

The UK recorded 25,161 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, adding to a total of 1,948,660

On Thursday Britain's daily case count surged by  35,383 after Wales added a further 11,000 infections that had previously been missed off due to an IT 'cock-up'.

Even if the extra cases from Wales are taken off the count, the figure is still higher than the 20,964 recorded last Thursday.   

Health chiefs also recorded another 532 deaths from the virus in the UK, a three per cent increase on this time last week when 516 deaths were announced. 

But Miss Patel said those planning to take advantage of the Christmas amnesty should 'make changes in the light of what we know' about the rapid spread of the virus in recent weeks.

Asked if that meant cancelling plans for long-distance trips, she said: 'I would urge people to change. 

'I won't be seeing my parents this Christmas. My parents live in a different part of the country and I will not travel to see them. 

'I want to protect them. I don't want to be spreading the virus. I feel I will take that responsibility and others will make that judgment too.'

Although the Christmas amnesty allows travel between areas in different tiers, she urged people to avoid it. 

'We're urging people not to travel,' she said. 'Why would you travel? If you're in a low tier area, why would you travel into a high tier area?'

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