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Easter travel – live: Bank holiday chaos as drivers face 20-mile queues on M4 and M5 and delays at Dover

Travel disruption faces the millions of Britons hitting the roads and jetting abroad on Good Friday

Athena Stavrou,Simon Calder,Tara Cobham
Friday 29 March 2024 16:07 GMT
Queues at Dover as Easter getaway underway

The bank holiday travel chaos continues as drivers face up to 20-mile-long queues on major motorways as well as two-hour delays at the Port of Dover.

Around 2.6 million car journeys were expected to be made on Good Friday as the Easter getaway got underway, with holiday traffic causing “significant” congestion around the M25 and roads in the South West and South East by lunchtime. Queues of 15 to 20 miles were seen on the M4 and M5 interchange near Bristol, which is adding 45 minutes to journey times.

Meanwhile, the Port of Dover warned of two-hour delays on Friday afternoon. Huge queues could be seen building up there after ferry company DFDS reported on Thursday that its services were running with delays “due to strong winds in the Channel”.

And once again there are long waits for French passport control at the Kent port, where frontier formalities are carried out before boarding ferries to France. Since Brexit, officials are required to scrutinise and stamp UK passports.

It comes after plans were dashed as strong winds from the Spanish-named Storm Nelson hit the start of the wet long weekend, forcing the cancellation of trains, with almost 200 flood warnings and alerts remaining in place across the UK on Friday.


Warning over Easter ‘carmageddon’ traffic chaos – which day will see the worst traffic?

Drivers are being warned of chaos on roads over the Easter weekend, with as many as 18.5 million car trips planned at the start of school holidays.

Those setting out on their journeys are likely to encounter delays from Thursday 28 March, when children break up at the end of term, into Good Friday, with one specialist warning that it could be “carmageddon” for those making their getaways.

The overall travel picture should not be as bad as in 2023, when the Easter weekend coincided with strikes that led to the cancellation and delays of dozens of flights and widespread rail engineering work.

These are the worst days for Easter traffic after ‘carmageddon’ warning

Drivers can expect lengthy queues as millions take to the roads over the long weekend

Maryam Zakir-Hussain28 March 2024 00:30

14 million to hit the road this Easter bank holiday weekend

Drivers have been warned of huge traffic delays as millions of people are set to hit the road this bank holiday weekend.

The RAC warned journeys on the road could take up to twice as long as usual as 14 million people are expected to set off.

“With Easter falling earlier than usual at the start of the school holidays, it could be carmageddon for holidaymakers,” an RAC breakdown spokesperson said.

Journeys on the M25 between the M23 for Gatwick and the M1 in Hertfordshire are expected to take more than two hours, while the M5 southbound between Bristol and Taunton is also likely to be congested.

(Getty Images)
Athena Stavrou28 March 2024 09:25

Welcome to our liveblog

Good morning and welcome to The Independent’s liveblog on the Easter bank holiday traffic.

Huge delays are expected on the roads this afternoon as many head off on their weekend getaways.

Rail passengers have also been affected by cancellations and engineering works.

We’ll be bringing you the latest news as it happens.

Athena Stavrou28 March 2024 09:41

Windy weather in Cornwall as millions head off on getaways

Around 14 million Britons are due to hit the road today as many head off on their Easter getaways.

Many will be heading for staycations in popular UK holiday spots such as Devon and Cornwall. However, pictures from Cornwall this morning show some windy and gloomy conditions.

The Met Office has issued a weather warning for wind today in some parts of the south of England and showers are expected throughout the weekend.

(Matt Keeble/PA Wire)
Athena Stavrou28 March 2024 10:07

Easter travel chaos: how bad will it be?

The great Easter getaway could see travellers caught up in delays by road, ferry, rail and air.

In a normal year there would be a gap between most schools breaking up and the long weekend. But with Easter falling so early the two are combined.

My colleague Simon Calder has explained the Easter travel situation and how bad it might be:

Athena Stavrou28 March 2024 10:09

Chaos on Great Western Railway

On one of the busiest days of the year for rail travel, flooding is causing chaos on the Great Western Railway between London Paddington, southwest England, Bristol and South Wales.

The line between Reading and Taunton is partially blocked with disruption expected until the rest of the day. GWR said: “We are sorry for the delay to your journey today. Flooding on the railway between Reading and Taunton has resulted in some signal failures along this route. Network Rail are working to rectify the faults. This means that our high speed services between Reading and Taunton have to run at reduced speeds through the affected areas. The line towards Taunton is now blocked due to further flooding.

“Our high speed services from London Paddington towards Devon and Cornwall will be diverted between Reading and Taunton which will add delay to your journey.”

Unfortunately the main diversion route is also experiencing problems. High-speed trains heading west from Swindon in Wiltshire to Bristol and Cardiff are having to reduce their speed from 125mph to just 5mph as a result of flooding on the line.

“Trains may be delayed by up to 30 minutes, cancelled or diverted as a result,” says National Rail.

Simon Calder28 March 2024 10:39

Severe delays on the M1

There are reports of severe delays on the M1 northbound between junctions J25 and J27.

According to AA, motorists are facing delays of 44 minutes with an average speed of five mph.

It is expected to clear later this morning.

Athena Stavrou28 March 2024 11:21

Further train cancellations and delays

Extreme flooding is wreaking havoc in the South West today as several lines are forced to close on one of the busiest travel days of the year.

Great Western Railway said all lines are closed between Westbury and Swindon until at least 2pm.

“Due to flooding across the railway network this morning, we need to reutilise the Melksham line for other purposes,” it said.

“As a result trains between Westbury and Swindon via Melksham are suspended until further notice.”

There have also been delays and cancellations between Swindon and Bristol Parkway, Westbury and Weymouth, Reading and Taunton and Sindon and Chippenham.

(PA Archive)
Athena Stavrou28 March 2024 12:18

Rail passengers warned not to travel as London Euston shuts over bank holiday weekend

Rail passengers have been warned to “travel either side of the Easter weekend” as London Euston is set to shut for the entire weekend.

Major improvements to track mean the busy station will be closing for all but Overground services from Good Friday to Easter Monday.

Network Rail has advised travellers to avoid the West Coast main line during the bank holiday, adding that engineering works between London and Milton Keynes. will also impact southern routes to and from London.

Replacement bus services will be in effect on various routes, and passengers have been urged to check their journeys in advance as they might face longer travel times.

(Lucy North/PA Wire)
Athena Stavrou28 March 2024 12:45

Full list of Avanti West Coast disruptions

Here is a helpful list of all the affected Avanti West Coast services and stations impacted by engineering works this bank holiday weekend.

No trains will be running from London Euston as the busy station will be closed for all but Overground services.

Athena Stavrou28 March 2024 13:30

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