Mildest day ends in jams

Bank Holiday: The pleasures of spring for some, road congestion and fog diversions for others
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The Independent Online
Motorists faced frustrating delays last night as the Easter rush home brought many roads to a standstill.

The weekend ended with the mildest day of the year so far in many areas, particularly in eastern areas of England, Scotland and Ireland as breezes from the south-west grew warmer as they crossed the land. The London Weather Centre said the temperature in Belfast reached 17C (63F). There was fog in some areas and more was expected overnight.

The Automobile Association reported that more than 5,000 vehicles an hour were leaving the West Country and Wales - double the normal weekend load - causing congestion eastbound on the M4 and northbound on the M5.

In the north, traffic on the M55 was nose-to-tail southbound as thousands of people headed home from Blackpool, Lancashire. In Cheshire, travellers using the M6 faced gridlock at junction 21A, where it meets the M62. And a six-mile queue on the A12 awaited London-bound motorists leaving the east coast.

Both the AA and the Royal Automobile Club said that since children were still on holiday from school the rush back could be spread over the week, easing the situation.

Keith Booker, duty manager at Gatwick airport, West Sussex, said business over the two-week Easter period was up 15 per cent on last year with 950,000 people passing through. Some 380,000 were arriving or departing over the four-day weekend. "Next weekend is the peak, with 83,000 expected to pass through on Saturday and 87,000 on Sunday," he said.

A spokesman for Heathrow airport said 150,000 people passed through yesterday. The busiest day of the Easter period was last Thursday, with 165,000.

t The Health and Safety Executive is to investigate reports of nitric acid escaping yesterday from an industrial waste plant in east Sheffield owned by Yorkshire Water plc. The M1 motorway had to be closed for more than two hours, rail services were halted and people were advised to stay indoors. Police said an "accidental venting of gas" at Global Environmental Services, resulted in a yellow cloud rising above the plant.

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