Thursday 19 September 2019

How to beat the traffic chaos - your guide to getting home this Christmas

Heading home by car, bus, train or plane? We've got you covered

Traffic chaos in Ringsend. Photo: Kyran O'Brien
Traffic chaos in Ringsend. Photo: Kyran O'Brien
Rachel Farrell

Rachel Farrell

Whether you're driving home for Christmas, catching a flight or just getting the bus after your last shift, it’s a well-known fact that there will be plenty of traffic in the days leading up to Christmas Day.

As people flock home to loved ones in their thousands, a surge on Irish roads and transport can be expected- especially on Friday 21st, when many people say goodbye to the office until the new year.

We’ve put together a guide to help you beat the traffic chaos and get home safely this Christmas.

By car:

According to AA Ireland, traffic levels in Ireland have been at their heaviest in recent years and are unlikely to relent over the season.

AA Rescue attended an average of 315 breakdowns a day between Thursday December 21 and Saturday December 23 last year.

While they expect commuter traffic to die down towards the end of the week, it is likely to be Christmas Eve before any major drop offs in traffic are visible.

Motorists are being warned that Friday 21 may be one of the busiest days of the festive season on commuter roads, while busy traffic can be expected at shopping centres in other towns around the country on Saturday 22 and Sunday 23 December while people search for last minute gifts.

“City-centre traffic in Dublin, Cork, Galway and Limerick is likely to peak on Thursday December 20th as commuters try to finish off the last of their Christmas shopping before the big day,” said Conor Faughnan, AA Director of Consumer Affairs. 

“However, Friday is likely to be the big story as we expect an exodus from cities across Ireland as the first wave of those travelling home for Christmas make their departure.”

After Friday, the AA expect that city-centre traffic will drop off quite significantly, although rural areas may see a slight uplift.

“With this in mind, we’re urging people to take extra precautions when driving over the coming days, as not only will traffic volumes be significantly higher on motorways and in towns across the country, but you will also have a much larger number of motorists driving on routes they’re less familiar with. 

“The key message is to slow down, allow extra distance between yourself and other traffic as those less familiar with a specific route could stop or turn unexpectedly, and of course be on the lookout for vulnerable road users when you are travelling this year.”

The M50 southbound, the M7, N11 and N20 are among some of the busiest routes AA are anticipating this weekend.

By plane:

Dublin Airport is anticipating its busiest festive season on record this year, with 1.1 million passengers expected to arrive and depart over Christmas.

A further 72,700 passengers are expected to come through Shannon Airport.

Like Irish roads, the airport is set to be at its peak on Friday 21 December as people fly home for Christmas.

“Friday December 21 is expected to be the busiest day before Christmas, with 94,000 passengers due to arrive and depart through both terminals,” Dublin Airport spokesperson, Siobhán O’Donnell said.

Flight operations will cease on Christmas Eve after the last flight departs to Moscow with Aeroflot at 10pm and they will resume on St. Stephen’s Day when Aer Lingus’ EI 104 from New York lands at 5am.

In advance of flights this week, DAA are advising travellers to allow extra time to get to the airport in the event of road congestion to ensure they comply with check-in and airport security regulations.

“Dublin Airport will have additional Customer Care staff on duty over the Christmas season to ensure passengers have an efficient and smooth journey through the airport, but we would also ask passengers to prepare for security screening by removing their outer jacket, belts, keys, coins and laptops from cases so that security searches are kept to a minimum,” Ms O’Donnell added.  

Also, if you’re planning to bring Christmas gifts by air this festive season, Dublin Airport is asking passengers not to gift wrap presents and to consider using an open gift bag instead- as you may be asked to open them up during security screening.

By bus:

A number of transport arrangements are in place across bus and rail services in Ireland over the Christmas period.

Services are running as normal until Christmas Eve, but delays can be expected with the possible rise in traffic on the roads.

On December 24, Dublin Bus will operate a Saturday timetable. with last services at approximately 9pm.

Bus Eireann services will operate as per normal weekday schedule but all city, commuter and rural services nationwide will run until 9pm, and in some cases, up to 10pm.

Last departures for Expressway services are between 5pm and 8pm on Christmas Eve, depending on the route.

In the east, late night services over the Christmas period will include Nightrider services from Dublin to Balbriggan and Drogheda until Saturday 22.

Additional late services will also operate this weekend in Cork, with the last bus departing St Patrick Street at 3am.

By train/Luas:

Late-night trains and DART services will operate with Irish Rail on Friday 21 and Saturday 22, with the last train at approximately 1.50am.

A Saturday timetable is also in place for most services on Christmas Eve, with a full timetable available on the Irish Rail website.

The last Luas will depart at approximately 8pm on Christmas Eve, but late-night services are available until 3am at some stops until Saturday 22.

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