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Easter getaway traffic creates 20-mile Good Friday motorway queues

Around 2.6 million car journeys expected on Good Friday, says RAC

Jane Dalton
Friday 29 March 2024 20:22 GMT
Queues at Dover as Easter getaway underway

Easter getaway traffic has caused “pretty horrendous” queues of up to 20 miles on key motorways, as millions of people took to the roads.

An estimated 2.6 million car journeys were expected to be made on Good Friday, and by lunchtime they had created “significant” congestion around the M25 and roads in the South West and South East.

The RAC said holidaymakers heading south were behind much of the congestion after forecasters predicted sunnier spells there over the next few days. Drivers were warned that journeys could take twice as long on some routes.

Queues of 15 to 20 miles built up on the M4 and M5 interchange near Bristol, which added 45 minutes to journey times.

The western side of the M25 London orbital motorway was described as “pretty bad” and “a lot worse than normal”, with 40-minute queues.

RAC spokesperson Simon Williams said: “Everyone’s heading to Devon and Cornwall – that’s the attraction, and there’s been a bit of better weather. It’s causing some pretty horrendous queues.”

Travellers at Liverpool Street station in London as the getaway continued for the Easter weekend (PA)

The M20 in Kent was also busy, with congestion approaching Folkestone on the coast.

There were also hold-ups on the A628 between Greater Manchester and South Yorkshire after two separate accidents, National Highways reported.

Tourist board VisitEngland said around 11 million people in the UK were planning an overnight Easter trip, generating an estimated £3.2bn for the economy.

Around 14 million trips by road could be made over the weekend, a survey by the RAC and transport analysis company Inrix suggested.

Tourists at the Port of Dover faced a wait of two hours to be let through.

Passengers queue for ferries at the Port of Dover in Kent (Gareth Fuller/PA Wire)

And ferry services by DFDS at Dover were running with delays due to strong winds in the Channel after Storm Nelson caused widespread disruption on Thursday when winds not far off gale-force were recorded.

Wightlink said ferries to the Isle of Wight were busy, but running on time.

On the railways, passengers faced line closures because of engineering work and unexpected chaos.

The closure of the West Coast Main Line between London Euston and Milton Keynes for an upgrade was flagged months in advance, and many people travelled late on Thursday to avoid it.

The main trans-Pennine route had buses running instead of trains between Manchester and Huddersfield.

Closed platforms at London's Euston station, as fewer trains depart over the Easter weekend (Jordan Pettitt/PA Wire)

Great Western Railway was forced to close the main line from London to Exeter after flooding between Newbury and Westbury damaged infrastructure.

Passengers heading for the UK’s fourth-busiest airport, London Stansted, faced problems getting there as the Stansted Express line suffered “major disruption”.

Airports reported high numbers of people flying, with 175,000 due to leave from Stansted, 105,000 from Luton, 160,000 from Manchester, 79,000 from Birmingham, and 89,000 from Edinburgh between Friday and Monday.

Passengers queue to enter the Eurotunnel site in Folkestone (Gareth Fuller/PA Wire)

Turkey, Dubai and the Canary Islands were popular destinations – and trips to Dublin were also in demand.

Storm Nelson brought gusts of up to 74mph on Thursday, while a Met Office yellow warning for rain and wind covered London and the South East, the South West and East of England.

More than 170 flood warnings and alerts remained in place on Friday.

But Met Office experts forecast higher temperatures for the Easter weekend than those of most of the week.

The forecaster said Britons can expect rising temperatures for their bank holiday weekend, with highs of 16C predicted for Sunday.

Deputy chief meteorologist Dan Harris said: “The weather is expected to gradually improve following the widely unsettled spell of the past few days, with a fairly typical mix of spring-like weather across the UK.

“There will be some sunshine, and it will feel increasingly warm for most as the winds become lighter.

“However, the West and especially South West is likely to see passing showers too, which could be quite heavy and frequent at times.”

Additional reporting by PA

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