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Holiday off to jammed start

THE RARE, and heady, mix of a good weather forecast and a long weekend was last night creating traffic hell for Britain's motorists.

Roads and ports around the country were packed as people began an attempt to enjoy a few interrupted days of sun. Forecasters have predicted that by the end of the weekend temperatures may have risen to 24C (75F) - perhaps not sweltering, but after this dismal summer enough to tempt many out of their winter clothes and on to the beaches.

"The evening rush hour has begun early, with routes out of major cities and to the west country particularly busy," an AA Roadwatch spokesman said last night. "There are a number of events on around the country and, with the weather set fair, we expect roads to be crowded - especially near coastal areas."

For those hoping to avoid road-rage, on what is traditionally the busiest weekend of the year, he offered the usual advice: "Drivers should set out early, expect some jams and be patient."

The Highways Agency said roadworks had been lifted on most important routes, though the usual congestion blackspots are likely to be as hellish as ever.

The worst of these include the M5 in Worcestershire between the Frankley services and Dudley, and at Bristol between the Gordano services and Avonmouth. Other roadworks unlikely to be lifted include the M62 between Morley and Thorpe, the M20 in Kent between Ashford and Maidstone and the M4 between Usk and Newport.

Well more than a million people are expected to fly out of Britain this weekend through Gatwick and Heathrow airports. The numbers are in line with a new survey that suggests more people than ever before - more than 20m - are now taking foreign holidays.

Up to 250,000 of those are expected this weekend to take cross-Channel ferries or Eurotunnel shuttle services. The survey, by Mintel, says consumer confidence and favourable exchange rates are behind the development as much as the desire for better weather.

Organisers at the Reading Festival are expecting capacity crowds. More than 130,000 music fans are expected to turn out for New Order, the Beastie Boys, Prodigy, Supergrass and Plant and Page during the three-day event.

"The event is going to be a sell-out and we would advise people to get here early and to slap on the sun cream because it's going to be hot," said organiser Cassy St Luce.