CHRIS REA’S understandably looking a tad clueless this year. He will be driving home for Christmas – but there’s a 70 per cent chance that he won’t know what the plan is.
That’s the not-entirely-surprising headline result from research carried out by the Institute of Advanced Motorists this week, following Boris Johnson’s announcement that we’ll be able to shed a few tiers and get all emotional about seeing loved ones for Christmas. As you’ll probably have read, you’ll be allowed to form a Christmas bubble from three households – but seven out of ten British motorists haven’t made any firm plans for the festive break, because nobody really seems to have a clue what to do.
Leaving the lockdown politics aside, this sounds like a recipe for disaster – it’s hard enough trying to coordinate millions of British motorists all hellbent on making their own particular Christmas getaways, but this year you’ve got the added complication of the trains and coaches having to take on a smaller, socially distanced set of festive wellwishers, meaning that plenty of people who’d normally head up the West Coast Main Line are going to hop into the family Focus or Astra instead.
So that’s more people hitting the roads, squeezed into a shorter timeframe, when days are at their shortest and the conditions are normally at their worst. Rea’s refrain of there being red lights all around seems more apt than ever this year.
My own festive getaway – well, chance to see my family for the first time in five months – involves edging out of where I’ve been spending lockdown in Lincolnshire, darting across the Fens, up the A1 to Yorkshire, and then a long slog over the M62 towards Southport. It’s a journey I’ve done hundreds of times over the years, but the idea of tip-toeing through an enormous snake of slow-moving traffic entirely of the government’s making fills me with dread. Especially because most of those cars won’t have done more than a few hundred miles over the last few months, and I’m willing to bet a fair number won’t have been given a proper once-over for their first long voyages in weeks, possibly months.
Just about the only crumb of comfort is that Boris has appointed an expert to look specifically at the issue of transport over the Christmas break this year – Sir Peter Hendy, who oversaw Londoners getting to and from the 2012 Olympics – but so far all the talk’s been about preventing a socially distanced rail network from buckling at the seams.
Surely what we need, and there’s roughly three weeks to get it right, is a proper plan for all those cars that are going to be hitting the roads too. If you live in Southport and your family’s over in Ormskirk, then I suspect you probably won’t notice, but for those of us who have parents in Plymouth or children in Carlisle it’s not going to be much fun. I’ve got to travel from Lincolnshire to Southport for the first time in five months, and even though it’s a journey I’ve done hundreds of times, I’m dreading doing it in a preordained festive ferver.
Alternatively, I could do my bit, stay put and change the record.
All together now. It’ll be lonely this Christmas…
David Simister is the editor of Classic Car Weekly