Bank holiday starts with heavy rain and massive traffic jams

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The Independent Online

The Bank holiday weekend got off to a wet and frustrating start yesterday as thousands found their attempts to make an early getaway obstructed by torrential rain, traffic jams and delayed flights.

The Bank holiday weekend got off to a wet and frustrating start yesterday as thousands found their attempts to make an early getaway obstructed by torrential rain, traffic jams and delayed flights.

Predictions that the heavy rain and high winds which swept across much of the country would give way to brighter, drier weather today were little consolation to motorists caught up in massive delays throughout southern and south-western England exacerbated by spray on rain-soaked roads.

A spate of accidents led to major delays on London's orbital M25 by lunchtime. The A39 in Devon had long queues and the M61 in Lancashire had unusually heavy traffic.

In Scotland, the Kessock Bridge in Inverness in the Highlands was closed to high-sided vehicles as it was buffeted by winds of up to 55mph. Near Edinburgh, the Forth Bridge had 40mph speed limits.

Roadworks on some major routes, including the western section of the M25 near Heathrow and at Spaghetti Junction on the M6 in Birmingham, are expected to cause further delays. While work on some major trunk roads has been suspended for the weekend, roadworks will remain in place on the M1, M2 and M5.

Around 15 million Britons were forecast to be heading for seaside resorts over the weekend with temperatures in some parts expected to reach 23C (73F) in some parts of southern England.

Travellers hoping to let the train take the strain were warned that major engineering work will mean disruption to services on the West Coast Main Line and Great Western Main Line.

Much of the West Coast Main Line - Hemel Hempstead to Lichfield and Manchester to Stockport - will be shut while direct services betweenLondon, Manchester and Birmingham will be available via St Pancras and Marylebone. The Great Western Main Line will close between London Paddington and Reading, Berkshire.

A planned strike today by some Eurostar employees, who are members of the RMT rail union, is not expected to disrupt schedules.

British Airways was struggling yesterday after six domestic flights were cancelled due to aircraft problems and staff shortages. The airline said it was impossible to predict what would happen over the weekend. The chief executive, Rod Eddington, and 11 other directors have been drafted in to work at Heathrow over the break.

¿ The wet weather has also caused such poor harvests that it is doing more financial damage to farming than the foot-and-mouth crisis, the Government's rural adviser said yesterday. Lord Haskins said: "For arable farmers it is much worse, because there is obviously no compensation from the Government,.".

He added that the damage caused was "disastrous" in some parts of the country.

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