Holiday travellers had to contend with snow and ice as the Great Christmas Getaway began yesterday – and more of the same weather is expected this weekend.
Delays and disruptions affected some of those people setting off, many of whom were in pursuit of warmer weather abroad.
Several centimetres of snow fell across much of the UK yesterday and freezing conditions are expected throughout the country over the weekend. The Highways Agency has 500 gritters on standby to keep roads clear of ice. Warmer conditions are forecast for the beginning of the week, but the respite is likely to be short-lived as gales are expected next week.
Up to 18 million people are expected to be on the roads over the holiday period, with this Thursday and Friday to be the busiest. More than four million people are booked to travel abroad over Christmas with 1.7 million of them flying from Heathrow, 750,000 from Gatwick and 425,000 from Stansted.
A further 340,000 will leave from Manchester, 165,000 from Birmingham and 120,000 from Glasgow. Tens of thousands more will sail across the Channel or take a train underneath it.
For those left behind, even if the weather eases there is the challenge of negotiating a succession of engineering works on road and rail networks. But much of that will be completed by next weekend and rail chiefs have said that the number of replacement buses has halved compared with the 2010-11 festive period and about 54,000 more trains will be running this year than last, when Britons experienced the coldest December since records began a century earlier.