The traditional exhaust fumes, swearing and rail replacement buses will accompany 11 million people on gridlocked roads this bank holiday weekend – but there should, at least, be some sunshine at the other end.
Economic pressures, the international shadow of swine flu and a cheery bank holiday forecast seem to have made staying in the UK the most attractive option, with the weekend forecast dividing the country.
A minority will seek sun abroad – 1.5 million are expected to pass through BAA airports this weekend, with Malaga, Dublin and Orlando the most popular overseas destinations – but those staying behind were promised bright weather today. The south of England is expected to be mostly sunny and warm, thanks to light, westerly winds, with temperatures reaching 19C.
There will be showers in Scotland and, later in the day, in the north-west of England. Sunday should be brighter everywhere with scattered showers. The hottest weather is expected on Monday in London and Brighton. But gloomy bank holiday Monday weather is forecast for the rest of the UK with rain across Wales, the Midlands and the east of England, and lower temperatures in the north. Blackpool is nevertheless expected to prove popular with tourists.
"UK weather is notoriously bad for May bank holiday Monday," conceded Andrew Sibley at the Met Office. "But the south-east and south-west will be largely dry and bright."
With about one-fifth of the population in cars at some point over the weekend, motoring authorities are urged drivers to take breaks on long journeys. Between 2pm and 6pm yesterday, the peak driving period for getaways, heavy traffic and a spate of accidents caused severe congestion, particularly on the M25, in Cambridgeshire and in Wiltshire.
Public transport is unlikely to offer any respite from long journey times on the roads. Engineering work by Network Rail over the bank holiday on many routes will leave passengers on tedious rail replacement bus services – heavily criticised by rail watchdogs.
Passenger Focus said that customers would rather endure a longer train journey, even leaving from a different station entirely, than have to ride on a bus. The shadow Transport Secretary Theresa Villiers said bus-replacement services were "often the worst and most unpopular option for rail users".
Virgin Trains services between London Euston and the Midlands will be affected, as will First Great Western services from Bristol Temple Meads and Taunton. Buses will replace trains on London Midland services between Watford Junction and St Albans.
Erik Nelson, a spokesman for the RAC, said this weekend's traffic was the beginning of a long summer of traffic jams as people are expected to choose holidaying in the UK instead of foreign breaks. "Holidays in the UK are popular at the moment and we're going to see increased traffic this summer because of it," he said.
Bank holiday: Transport disruptions
*Congestion blackspots include: the M4, M5, A303 into the West Country and Wales, M6 and A590 to the Lake District, M55 to Blackpool. The worst routes are likely to be: Bristol to Exeter (via M5), Nottingham to Sheffield (via M1), London to Brighton (via M23), London to Oxford (via M40) and Manchester to Blackpool (via M6/M55).
*Network Rail is conducting engineering on around 30 services, including Virgin Trains between Euston and the Midlands; First Great Western from Bristol Temple Meads and Taunton.Reuse content