Easter travel: misery for many on roads, railways and flights

Stansted Airport evacuated after dramatic shuttle bus fire, leading to delays and cancellations

Simon Calder
Travel Correspondent
Friday 30 March 2018 20:33
Swan causes travel chaos on motorway north of Birmigham

Travel disruption is the norm on bank holidays, but the Good Friday rush was even more chaotic than usual – with a swan causing a partial closure of the M6 at one of the busiest locations in Britain. It landed in the fast lane near the M5 junction north of Birmingham and chose to stay. West Midlands Police launched a “rolling road block” and sent a crew being to “politely encourage” the bird to move on.

Motorists on other major routes faced problems. The M62 motorway was closed near Rochdale for six hours after a motorcyclist was killed in a crash with a car.

Drivers heading for France using the main ferry crossing from Dover to Calais encountered severe congestion. With tens of thousands of people heading across the Channel, queues at check-in and border control quickly built up. Initially, motorists travelling with P&O Ferries, the biggest operator, were told to arrive 90 minutes before the booked sailing time. But as queues built up on the A20 and A2 routes, it became clear that many would miss their planned sailings.

P&O Ferries tweeted: “Rest assured, if you are held up in any queues throughout the night, we’ll accommodate you on the next available sailing.”

Its rival, DFDS, tweeted: “We apologise for any delays in check-in lanes, we will accommodate you on next available sailing.”

Airline passengers at Stansted missed flights and encountered delays and cancellations after a shuttle bus caught fire outside the terminal and was destroyed in a serious blaze. No one was hurt, but as smoke infiltrated the terminal parts of it were evacuated – including passengers who had already passed through security.

In a statement, Stansted Airport said: “Due to the earlier evacuation of the terminal, all passengers are now in the process of being re-screened through security.

“While we’re working on returning to normal operations, we advise all passengers due to depart this evening to contact their airline directly for the up-to-date flight information.”

Ryanair cancelled 15 flights, including departures to Copenhagen, Lisbon and Milan. Other flights departed up to four hours late.

The airline told passengers: “We have been forced to cancel a number of flights at London Stansted this evening, due to extensive disruptions caused by an earlier fire outside the terminal building.

“Unfortunately, further flight delays and cancellations are likely.”

Eurocontrol in Brussels warned of delays at Heathrow and Luton caused by the dismal weather.

After a day of massive disruption for passengers on Air France, thousands more travellers with the airline will experience cancelled flights on Saturday.

A strike by pilots, cabin crew and ground staff led to one in four flights being cancelled on Good Friday, including at least 10 services linking Heathrow, Manchester and Edinburgh with Paris Charles de Gaulle. Those who made it to the the airline’s hub found many long-haul flights cancelled, including departures to Delhi, New York and Buenos Aires.

With aircraft out of position, a large number of flights on Saturday morning have been grounded, including the first two departures from Heathrow to Paris and the early-morning flight from Edinburgh.

Another strike has been called by unions representing Air France personnel for Tuesday 3 April, which is also the first day of a series of rolling stoppages by French railway workers.

Many rail passengers in the UK encountered problems because of scheduled engineering work. Bristol Temple Meads, the busiest station in the west of England, is closed until Wednesday for work to upgrade signalling.

Manchester Victoria station is closed until Tuesday for electrification work.

The line between Glasgow and Carlisle closes from Saturday to Monday, due to signalling work at Motherwell. Buses will replace trains.

In the London area, lines to Essex and East Anglia from Liverpool Street Station are blocked, while London Euston, the fifth-busiest station in Britain, will close all day on Easter Sunday for work in the Wembley area.

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