How Sunderland AFC fans driving to Portsmouth and Blackpool have been handed an early Christmas present

Highways bosses have served up an early Christmas treat for Sunderland AFC fans as the Black Cats gear up for a gruelling festive period on the road.

Wednesday, 19th December 2018, 4:00 pm
Sunderland fans face lengthy treks to Portsmouth and Blackpool over the festive season

Supporters are set to clock up almost 1,000 miles between now and New Year.

Jack Ross’ men face a 676-mile round trip to table-topping Portsmouth’s Fratton Park this Saturday, then head for Blackpool’s Bloomfield Road on January 1, another 292 miles there and back, bringing the total distance to 968 miles.

But now Highways England has confirmed it is making the journey a little less painful, with the lifting of 200 miles of roadworks over the festive period.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

The agency says more than 97 per cent of motorways and strategic A roads will be roadworks-free in time for Christmas, meaning sports lovers and shoppers alike can get to their destination as smoothly as possible.

Where it is safe to do so, roadworks will be lifted or suspended on England’s motorways and major A-roads by 6am on Friday until 12.01am on Wednesday, January 2.

The decision was welcomed by English Football League Chief Executive, Shaun Harvey: “Football remains a much-loved staple of the festive period and EFL Clubs play a significant role in bringing together friends and families up and down the country as they follow their favourite team,” he said.

“With almost 150 EFL matches scheduled between Friday, December 21, to Wednesday, January 2, the EFL welcomes the decision taken to lift or suspend roadworks on England’s motorways and A-roads over Christmas and New Year – something that we hope will make the lives of thousands of fans travelling up and down the country that little bit easier.”

Highways England’s customer service director, Melanie Clarke, added: “We’re doing everything we can to make journeys as smooth as possible for this Christmas getaway and that’s why we’re keeping more than 97 per cent of our road network free from roadworks.

“We know that the Christmas period is one of the busiest times on our roads and we’d also like to remind people about the importance of checking their vehicle before setting off on their journeys.

“Simple things like checking your fuel and oil levels, tyre pressures and that all lights are working properly, can keep you moving and the network flowing.”

Highways England traffic officers will be working around the clock, patrolling the network to help those people who do get into difficulty and is reminding drivers to leave plenty of distance between themselves and the vehicle in front to avoid tailgating.