We apologise for the late-running of any road and rail chaos

After days of doom-laden forecasts of transport misery, the outcome is smoother than anyone had predicted
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The Independent Online

Britain yesterday enjoyed the start of the August Bank Holiday as only Britain can - paying homage to the Beatles, Lord Byron and Jimmy Savile, and complaining about the railways.

There were rock, pop and dance festivals in Reading, Rochdale, Leeds and Liverpool, while at Headingley, England's more rabid cricket fans dressed up during the Test match against South Africa, some as the Incredible Hulk, others as local Yorkshire hero Jimmy Savile. The former DJ and children's TV presenter, famed for his trademark cigar, gold jewellery and blond hair, jumped into the crowd to present a £100 prize to the best lookalike.

In Liverpool, about 500,000 Beatles fans were expected to listen to scores of Fab Four tribute bands from more than 20 countries this weekend, including groups from Peru, Moldova and Kazakhstan.

Several miles away in the Liverpool suburb of Speke, around 50,000 dance fans attended the Creamfields dance music festival. In Lancashire, Lord Byron enthusiasts from across the globe descended on his home town of Rochdale to commemorate the aristocratic poet's life, for an event hosted by the present Lord Byron.

The Leeds rock festival, at Bramham Park, was marred late on Friday when 22 people were slightly injured asthe crowd surged forward while the act System of a Down was on stage. Three people were taken to hospital, two with broken ankles.

At the event's "twin" festival in Reading, the police reported a relatively peaceful and crime-free event, with only about 15 arrests - well down on last year's figure.

In west London, tens of thousands marked the start of the annual Notting Hill Carnival, which is expected to attract one million people today, by watching a steel band competition and children's festival.

Meanwhile in Kent, 80 microlight pilots took to the air from Headcorn airfield near Tenterden yesterday afternoon, to celebrate 100 years of powered air flight by crossing the Channel. The organisers said the event was the largest peacetime aerial crossing of the Channel.

Despite gloomy predictions of chaos on the motorways, there was little of the expected disruption. Motoring organisations said that traffic was moving far more easily than expected, although drivers on parts of the M5, M25 and M4 endured heavy traffic and occasional tailbacks. AA Roadwatch said the M1 was far less busy than normal.

But this weekend's closure of sections of three of Britain's busiest rail lines - the West Country mainline, the East Coast mainline and parts of the London-to-Birmingham route - left delayed rail travellers angry and resentful.

At a near-deserted Euston station, Virgin Trains handed out free hot drinks and "goodie bags" containing playing cards, word games, a snack and a signed letter of apology from company chief executive Chris Green.

Kate Dale, 33, and friend Emma Martin, 22, faced a three-leg journey to Cardiff for a hen night. Ms Dale said: "We want to have a stress-free weekend but it's just not happening. Getting to work, getting to play - it's all a nightmare."

Fiona Campbell, who was at King's Cross trying to go to Edinburgh, was facing a seven-hour journey home. "It's just ridiculous doing this today - why can't they do it midweek? Usually I fly - it's only £70 return. If you don't book a train ticket it can cost over £100 and it takes far longer."

Although many travellers avoided major problems yesterday, the AA warned that tomorrow was likely to be far worse. Journeys by day-trippers are likely to swell the six million or more extra cars expected on the roads as holidaymakers head for home.

However, the airline Bmi said Britons are now increasingly reluctant to travel on the August Bank Holiday. An opinion poll it commissioned suggests that nearly half prefer taking long weekends at other times of the year in order to avoid the traditional crush.