Rising fuel prices add to the cost of Christmas

Article date: 17 December 2009

  • RAC shares holiday congestion hotspots 

The cost of travelling to visit family and friends this Christmas will be higher than last year as fuel prices have risen steadily throughout 2009. With fuel prices nearing their record highs of July 2008 and VAT reverting back to 17.5% in January, it looks like motorists will continue to suffer at the pumps in 2010.

The cost of filling an average tank (55 litres) with unleaded petrol has risen 22% from £49.01* in December 2008 to £59.67* now. The cost for diesel car owners to fill up has also risen, currently costing £60.45* – a rise of 9% from £55.66* in December 2008. RAC advises motorists to plan their route in advance, to avoid wasting either precious time or fuel by taking a wrong turn, by visiting www.rac.co.uk/route-planner

David Hawes, RAC regional manager, says: “As it’s an extended holiday period again for many this year, people will be able to stagger their travel arrangements. The sheer volumes of cars on the road and chaos seen in previous years, on any one particular day, is unlikely to materialise. However, RAC predicts that Wednesday 23 December will be the busiest day as people start to make their getaway. But, with wintry weather forecast we suggest you allow plenty of time for your journey just in case driving conditions are poor.

“Motorists will also have to pay considerably more for their fuel this year – those with engines running on unleaded petrol will be paying over 20p more per litre this year so it’s worth shopping around to get the best price.”

Considerable congestion should be expected at many large retail locations over the weekend before Christmas (Saturday 19 and Sunday 20 December) as people look for last minute pre-Christmas bargains to complete their festive shopping.    

Motorists should be aware that although many of the roadworks will be suspended for the holiday period, speed restrictions and lane closures will still be in place, impacted further by holiday traffic.

Major roadwords that may impact on traffic include:

  • M11 in both directions between J8 Stansted Airport  – J9 for Saffron Walden
  • Widening works on the M25 – J16 (for the M40), J18 (for Chorley Wood), J26 (for Waltham Abbey), J28 (for Brentwood) all likely to cause disruption and delays
  • M80 – ongoing roadwords between junctions 4-5.

Traffic volumes are expected to rise again on Tuesday 29 and Wednesday 30 December as people either return home from their Christmas location or travel to catch-up with relatives or friends for New Year.

To find the latest traffic and travel information, visit www.rac.co.uk to view interactive realtime video and audio updates on the UK’s roads, ferry crossings and London Underground services.

Before heading off, RAC advises motorists to make the following checks:

  • Check tyre pressure (spare tyre too!), tread depth and oil level
  • Check all lights are working correctly and remember to keep them clean
  • Check front and rear wiper blades for wear or splitting
  • Screen wash additive should be added to prevent freezing
  • Make sure you have enough fuel for your journey. 

In addition, to make sure they have all eventualities covered, motorists should take some warm clothing, water, chocolate, de-icer and a fully charged mobile phone  with them in case they break down.

The predicted Christmas getaway congestion hotspots** to avoid include:

From the South East

  • To the North: M1, A1, A1(M)
  • To the North West: M1, M6, M6 Toll
  • To Wales and the West Country: M4 (also for Heathrow), M5
  • To the South West: M3, A303, M5
  • To Gatwick: M23
  • To Stansted: M11 

From London

  • All major routes from Central London to the motorways will be busy for the big get away, including:
    • A3 through Kingston heading out to the M25
    • A40 heading out to the M40, particularly the Marylebone flyover from Paddington
    • A316 through Twickenham and Kew heading out to the M3
    • Shepherd’s Busy – Hammersmith and Chiswick heading out to the M4
    • Hangar Lane to Gunnersbury heading to the M4
    • Finchley Road and Hendon Way (A41) heading out to the M1
    • A406 North Circular both ways heading for the M11
    • M2 heading out to the M2
    • A20 heading for the M20.

From Birmingham

  • To London and the South East: M1 or M42/M40
  • To the South Coast: M40/A34
  • To the South West: M42/M5
  • To the North: M42/M1 (also East Midlands Airport)
  • To Scotland & North-West: M6, A74M, M74.

North East 

  • Metro Centre - extra traffic on the A1, A19 through the Tyne Tunnel
  • A19 from Middlesbrough towards York
  • Middlesbrough - Teeside Park - extra traffic on the A66
  • A167M Central motorway Newcastle
  • A1 which becomes the A1M from Northumberland to the M1.

Yorkshire & Humberside

  • The A1237 York outer ring road, A64 to and from York, A171, A170 and A165 can often get busy because of Christmas shopping and the Christmas markets
  • Delays on the M1 at J34 for Meadowhall
  • A1079 between Hull and York - often affected by snow, especially around Market Weighton
  • A180 from Grimsby to the motorway
  • M621 towards Leeds
  • M62 over the Pennines between Leeds and Manchester – particularly in poor weather
  • M606 from Bradford to the M62
  • M62 around J27 Gildersome - often congested due to the Retail Park and Ikea
  • M18 towards the M180
  • A61 between Harrogate and Leeds.

North West 

  • M6 both directions around J32
  • M6 around between J16 - J19
  • M56 towards North Wales and Cheshire Oaks shopping outlet
  • Routes in and out of Chester
  • M60 around J9 and J10 for the Trafford Centre
  • A66 cross Pennine route between Penrith and Appleby particularly in poor weather as the route often gets a lot of snow.

South West

  • A303 Westbound from Bulford to Stonehenge
  • A30 from Devon to Cornwall
  • A38 across Bodmin Moor, Cornwall
  • M4 Westbound from J19 (Bristol) to J20 (Almondsbury Interchange)
  • M5 Southbound from J15 (Almondsbury Interchange) to J30 (Exeter) - whole stretch between Bristol and Devon with denser traffic flows over the split level section.

South Wales

  • M4 J29 St Mellons – congestion in both directions
  • A48(M) leaving Cardiff heading eastbound towards M4 J29
  • M4 – both directions around the Brynglas Tunnels J26 (Malpas)
  • M4 westbound into Wales approaching the toll booths.

North Wales

  • A55 Britannia Bridge in both directions, speed restrictions may be in place during adverse weather conditions.


  • M8 eastbound from J23 Dumbreck Road, over the Kingston Bridge to J16 Townhead
  • M8 westbound from J11 Stepps to J19 Charing Cross.


RAC Press office contacts:
Vicki Burn - 01603 684224 or 07800 692909
Lucy Haughey - 01603 688891 or 07800 690149
Erik Nelson - 01603 682264 or 07989 427086

Notes to editors:

* Fuel prices sourced from www.petrolprices.com

** Traffic hotspot data supplied by TrafficLink

About RAC
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