The first day of strike action saw a surge in traffic on the roads and after talks between the RMT union and rail bosses broke down on Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday’s strikes are expected to bring another surge in traffic as travellers take to the road while services are disrupted around Britain.
Major motorways as well as rural and suburban routes are expected to bear the brunt of added traffic, according to the AA as commuters seek alternative ways to get to work and festival goers and sports fans make their way to a series of major events.
Drivers in Scotland and Wales are expected to face long queues as most railway lines there will be closed during the industrial action on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.
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The M74, M8 and A9 in Scotland and the M4, A55, A5, and A483 in Wales could see severe traffic, according to the AA, while the RAC is predicting that roads in the home counties will also be far busier.
On Tuesday morning, the AA’s traffic monitoring service showed major congestion on the M25 around London, the M6 near Birmingham and the M60 on the outskirts of Manchester.
Location technology firm TomTom said congestion levels at 11am were higher than at the same time last week in a number of urban areas, including in London where they were up from 38% on 14 June 14 to 51% on 21, Cardiff (4% to 29%), Liverpool (4% to 30%), Manchester (7% to 34%) and Newcastle (18% to 20%).
There were also long queues on outer London sections of the M1, M4, A4 and A40.
Drivers are also being urged to avoid routes around venues set to host major cultural and sporting events this week. Glastonbury Festival begins in Somerset on 22 June while Goodwood Festival of Speed gets underway in West Sussex on Thursday 23.
An AA route planner spokesman said: “Even though the strike is for three days, many travellers will give up on the trains for the whole week.
“It coincides with big events like Glastonbury and the Goodwood Festival of Speed, so drivers not going to those locations are advised to give the areas a wide berth.
“Generally we predict a big increase in traffic in Scotland, Wales and major routes across the UK.
“The impact will be slightly cushioned by record fuel prices deterring some and more commuters deciding to work from home but congestion will still be a problem.”
Cricket fans are set to descend on Leeds for a test match between England and New Zealand on 23 June, while Manchester is set to see an increase in traffic as it hosts the British Athletics Championships on 24-25. Concertgoers heading to gigs by Sir Elton John and the Rolling Stones in London’s Hyde Park on 24 and 25 June are also likely to be affected by major travel disruption, leading to busier roads.
RAC spokesman Rod Dennis said the strikes will “inevitably lead to the roads being used more”.
He commented: “Major city routes as well as those serving the home counties are likely to see some of the biggest increases in traffic volumes as, even if rail lines are still open, there will be significantly fewer trains running.
“With strikes like these planned it’s perhaps little wonder that so many drivers across the country are dependent on their vehicles.
“Traffic jams aside, using a car often turns out to be the most practical and reliable way of getting around.”