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Want to bazooka bank holiday jams? Avoid airports…

  • Monster traffic jams expected over August long weekend
  • Areas around airports likely to be hardest hit
  • Find out where to avoid if you absolutely must drive

Research published by traffic data provider Inrix shows that the areas around the London airports will be hit by an annual peak in vehicles over the August bank holiday weekend, which could leave many shift-working company car drivers stuck in endless queues around airports.

Fliers are expected to flock to terminals on last-minute package holidays before the UK’s children go back to school in September, and we're expecting traffic mayhem as these drivers meet so-called staycationers heading to their destinations in the UK.

The bank holiday weekend is notorious for nasty traffic queues, as regular road users are joined by throngs of holiday-makers heading away to enjoy some time with the family while the schools are off. Historically it's been worse on the first week the schools break up, but that trend now appears to have shifted towards the end of the summer instead. 

Where exactly are the delays likely to be?

The research is based on what’s happened in previous years in these areas. It’s expected that up to 35 percent more drivers will be using the roads in question – namely the M25 around the M4/A3113 near Heathrow and the M25 and M23 motorways around Gatwick along with the M1 near Luton – with the busiest period set to be Friday afternoon, leading motoring groups like the AA to issue warnings on the issue.

“We were surprised to see such a surge in traffic problems around airports in the week leading to the August bank holiday, assuming that the holiday season was likely to be tailing off then,” says Edmund King, AA president.

“There is a clear warning to drivers heading to Gatwick or Heathrow for a ‘last hurrah’ summer holiday or a long bank holiday weekend abroad. They need to build extra time into their journeys to the airport and check traffic conditions before they leave. There is nothing worse than sitting in a traffic jam within sight of the airport, watching the minutes until departure tick away.

“Other ‘London’ airports such as Luton have also seen an increase in localised congestion with some desperate passengers leaving their taxis to run the last half-mile to the airport.”

Worse traffic for UK's busiest airport

There’s a clear winner when it comes to congestion, however, because those heading to Heathrow are twice as likely to encounter problems as those heading to Gatwick.

In summer 2015 Inrix monitored traffic ‘incidents’ – jams – around both and saw 280 on the M4/M25/A3113 area surrounding Heathrow, as opposed to 130 around the West Sussex-based hub. In both cases the numbers were far higher than the week the schools broke up for the summer.

So should you take the train instead?

More bad news: unfortunately there are planned station closures across London, primarily for Network Rail's multi-billion-pound ThamesLink project, that are sure to have a knock-on effect on public transport too. That fact alone will force more people onto roads, so all the signs are there that it could be a biblically bad bank holiday where traffic’s concerned. 

Picture credit: Getty Images