BY LEONARD SPALL
Good Friday proved to be nothing of the sort for thousands of Britons trying to enjoy the Easter sunshine yesterday, with multiple pile-ups and serious congestion on many holiday routes.
Temperatures reached 18C, encouraging holidaymakers to head for seaside resorts around the United Kingdom. But as motorists took to the Tarmac, traffic ground to a halt.
By midday there were more than 80 miles of traffic jams, which were exacerbated by accidents on the M4 at Reading and the A31 at Ringwood, near the New Forest.
Put end to end, the long lines of hot and bothered motorists would have stretched from London to Southampton, with total jams longer than the M3.
An RAC Roadata spokesman said: "People had a lie-in this morning, waiting to see how the weather would turn out. When they saw what a beautiful day it was they came out in their droves."
Several places enjoyed "very warm weather for the time of the year", according to the London Weather Centre.
Great Malvern in Hereford and Worcester, Doncaster in South Yorkshire and Leeds in West Yorkshire, all enjoyed temperatures that touched 18C (64F) - 6C above the average for this time of the year.
Ferry companies also enjoyed the early stages of a very busy bank holiday weekend. P&O ferries predicted it would carry more than 200,000 passengers during the weekend and a Stena Sealink spokesman said yesterday: "We have carried tens of thousands passengers with no problems."
Flight companies and tour operators benefited similarly as holidaymakers headed for Ibiza, Tenerife and other foreign resorts. Gatwick expects its busiest ever Easter weekend, handling 230,000 passengers - 20,000 up on last year - and Heathrow expects to handle a total of 500,000 passengers.
The great Easter getaway started on Thursday afternoon but there were no signs yesterday of any let-up.
An AA spokesman said: "Be prepared for delays tomorrow as well. Stay relaxed and grin and bear it. Just keep grinning." And the RAC warned of continued delays, particularly on Monday evening when people return home.Reuse content