Strike dampens holiday spirit

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The Independent Online
A strike by train crews and heavy rain disrupted travel plans for thousands yesterday as the August bank holiday weekend began.

A spate of accidents in the wet conditions brought jams to roads heading north as the evening rush-hour began shortly after lunch. Motoring organisations reported most major routes as being extremely busy but said a poor weather forecast could cut down on the number of day-trippers over the weekend.

"There have been quite a few accidents because of the rain and they have caused problems on roads such as the M25," an AA Roadwatch spokesman said. "The evening rush-hour started early, with most roads heading north becoming very busy from shortly after lunchtime."

Among congested roads were the M25, M1, A1, M6 going south and the A34 near Newbury in Berkshire.

Hundreds of rail services were severely disrupted as the RMT transport union reported "solid support" for the walk-out at the seven train companies involved. It expects similar backing for another day-long stop- page next Tuesday.

The disruption affected most of the major conurbations but the hardest hit were the Bristol, South-west and south Wales areas. Operators affected were North London Railways; Scot- Rail; North West Regional Railways; Regional Railways North East; South Wales and West Railways; Merseyrail Electrics and CrossCountry Trains. Management at ScotRail are entering talks in an attempt to avert Tuesday's stoppage. A separate wave of disruption is threatened at Central Trains, Network South Central and the SouthEastern Train company where the RMT is holding strike ballots between next Thursday and 6 September.

At Gatwick airport - scene of long delays and passenger revolts last weekend - flights got away mainly on time, with Mediterranean hot-spots the most popular destinations over the long weekend.

Other major holiday airports reported generally prompt arrivals and departures, with only a handful of flights to Italy and Greece suffering slight delays.

At Gatwick, extra staff were on duty and entertainment was laid on as the airport was set to handle a total of 370,000 people over the bank holiday weekend, with 102,000 of them passing through tomorrow.

Two major domestic events expected to be visited by thousands of people this weekend are the Notting Hill Carnival and the Reading Rock festival.

Police urged revellers visiting the carnival to heed travel and safety advice to make it a trouble-free festival. Westbourne Park Underground was also likely to be very busy.

An estimated 40,000 rock fans began heading for the Reading Festival, where Black Grape, Stone Roses and the Prodigy are highlights of the three-day extravaganza.