Blizzards, gales and travel chaos– the Great British Easter weekend

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The Independent Online

Forecasters are predicting a cold and windy Easter weekend, with snow, gales and heavy downpours in some regions.

With snow expected to blanket the north, temperatures will drop as low as -8C in some areas, with particularly treacherous conditions possible over the Scottish mountains.

Meteorologists did predict, however, that bright sunshine would compensate somewhat for the chilly weather.

"The whole of the Easter weekend looks like being cold. There will be some sunshine at times by day, but also showers, and some of these will be heavy and wintry, with snow over high ground, and perhaps to lower levels at times in some regions, especially in the north and east," said a Met Office spokesman.

"Winds are likely to reach gale force at times, perhaps even with severe gales for exposed eastern parts at first," he continued, adding that the winds should ease by Sunday or Monday though it will remain frosty.

Millions of rail passengers are likely to be left frustrated by delays and cancellations due to the customary bank holiday engineering programmes. Network Rail has announced it is to invest £75m and 300,000 man hours over the course of the weekend.

The west coast main line is set to be affected again with Euston station closed to Virgin West Coast services from Saturday to Monday. The country's busiest station – Clapham Junction – will also be affected by a major project to renew the track.

National Express East Anglia services from Liverpool Street station in London will be among several other train companies disrupted.

After serious New Year overruns which led to fines of £14m, Network Rail is under intense pressure to ensure this new batch of bank holiday projects are completed on time.

Fewer people than usual are expected to travel this Easter because the holiday falls early this year and does not coincide with the school holidays.

A spokesman for the AA said the rail engineering could have an impact on the roads though it hoped that the usual traffic jams would not be evident this year should people choose to stay home because of the bad weather. The association was expecting only a fraction of the 18 million people who migrate on a normal Easter to jump into their cars. "I suspect a lot of people will be travelling into town centres or to leisure facilities rather than down to Cornwall," said a spokesman.

The situation is likely to be further improved by the fact that the Highways Agency will be removing almost two-thirds of road works from England's motorways and major A roads in time for the holiday. To help drivers make smoother journeys and ease congestion over the weekend, 38 sets of road works will be completed and a further 47 will be suspended between 6am on Thursday and midnight on Monday.

Despite the fact that British Airways pilots have called off a strike planned for the holidays, the website predicted long queues. It said time wasted clearing some security controls had doubled or trebled over the past year. A spokesman for BAA, however, said it was not expecting any particular problems.