The good news is that you are less likely to get stuck in a traffic jam this Bank Holiday. The bad news is that it is largely due to the fact you cannot afford the fuel and the weather is looking decidedly dodgy. But, in a concerted effort to lift the national spirits, the powers that be are promising a Bank Holiday free of the customary chaos.
The RAC is predicting fewer vehicles on the roads, the Highways Agency is promising less roadworks and Network Rail is adamant that more trains will be running.
With fuel 20 per cent higher than it was two years ago – a third higher for diesel vehicles – the RAC estimated fewer people would leave home. "We think it is because of the high cost of fuel and the weather not looking very good, people may well stay at home and see what happens," said spokeswoman Vicki Burn. "If it improves it may be that they make a last minute dash for the coast or the DIY shop."
While the AA forecast that it would still be busy with up to 16 million vehicles on the roads, many heading off to big events such as the Reading and Leeds music festivals, it would depend on the weather. And the Highways Agency promised a smoother ride. It said more projects would be completed or suspended, meaning a 30 per cent drop in roadworks. That leaves more than 20 active ones.
"It is something that we do on the bank holidays where we know it links with school holidays and figures from past years show that there has been an increase in road traffic," a Highways Agency spokeswoman said. "It is a deliberate attempt to try to make it easier for those travelling on those particular routes."
The usual suspects were predicted to be difficult, with hot spots on the M4 from London to the M5 as well as the western M25 between the M1 and M3. Motorways to Devon and Dorset were also likely to busy as well as the A303 heading south.
Network Rail's managing director Robin Gisby added that 1,700 extra trains would be running compared to last year, promising about 95 per cent of the normal weekend service. But engineering still means 3,428 replacement buses will be operating.
ABTA said that 1.8 million people are expected to fly out, roughly the same number that travelled overseas last year, with Spain remaining the number one destination. The one black spot was Eurotunnel, with French workers threatening to strike from today, having demanded an 8 per cent pay rise. The company said it had suspended bookings on the Calais to Folkestone route and still hoped to run a full service.