Bank Holiday getaway chaos begins: Airports brace for their ‘busiest day’ since Covid while families hoping to beat the morning rush get stuck in long queues at Dover and on the M25 as more than 14 million journeys expected this weekend
- Motorists are being warned to avoid major roads between 10am and 7pm today
- Pressure on motorways will be increased further tomorrow amid RMT rail strike
Britain was plunged into getaway chaos today ahead of the August Bank Holiday weekend as the country endured its busiest day for flight departures in four years, hour-long queues at the Port of Dover and major delays on the M25.
Motorists were told to avoid major roads between 10am and 7pm today, and the RAC estimated more than 14million leisure journeys will be taken by car this weekend.
Pressure on motorways will be increased further tomorrow when rail services are disrupted due to thousands of Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) members at 14 train operators striking in the long-running dispute over pay, jobs and conditions.
There were delays for those heading towards Heathrow Airport after Surrey Police shut the A30 Staines Bypass in both directions for several hours between the M25 Junction 13 for Ashford and the A308 due to an accident involving a car and a van.
And those going to or from Gatwick faced rail disruption after a signalling fault meant trains between Reading and the airport were terminated early at Redhill.
More than 3,130 flights were scheduled to leave UK airports today – the highest number on one day since October 2019, according to aviation analytics firm Cirium.
And at the Port of Dover in Kent, motorists trying to cross the English Channel faced huge queues as officials reported an hour-long wait for French border controls.
Photographs also showed passengers waiting outside Bristol Airport, with officials confirming it was ‘busy’ but insisting the longest security queue was only 18 minutes.
Motorists face hour-long queues for French border controls at the Port of Dover in Kent today
Passengers arriving at Bristol Airport face lengthy queues at the check-in desks this morning
Rail passengers wait for trains near the Eurostar terminal at London St Pancras station today
Some Britons hoped to avoid the worst of the traffic as they left before the morning rush hour, with one tweeting: ‘Early start for a camping weekend down in Cornwall with the family.’
READ MORE Motorists heading to the seaside over the Bank Holiday weekend face paying up to £35 for parking as councils look to cash in on the rush
Meanwhile motorists braving the Bank Holiday weekend tailbacks to get to the seaside face paying up to £35 when they finally reach their destination, as councils running public parking in seaside destinations look to cash in on the rush.
Cirium said today is set to be the busiest day for UK air travel departures for nearly four years, since October 2019 which was before the pandemic.
Numbers are expected to rise even more over the coming week as 11,839 flights are scheduled to take off. This is up 10 per cent compared with the same period last year, and up 83 per cent compared with 2021.
The firm said Heathrow will see the most departures, followed by Gatwick and Manchester – while easyJet will be operating the most flights, followed by British Airways and Ryanair.
Meanwhile motorists were warned over long delays on major routes as more than 14million Bank Holiday getaway journeys by car are expected to take place this weekend.
Transport analysis company Inrix said the most congested motorway stretches today are likely to include the M1 northbound between junctions 12 and 16, the M25 clockwise between junctions four and one, and the M4 eastbound from junctions 29 to 24.
A survey commissioned by the RAC suggested that around 14.4million leisure trips by car are planned for between today and Monday, which is the last bank holiday in England, Wales and Northern Ireland until Christmas Day. This is 1.8million more than during last year’s summer bank holiday weekend.
Passengers arriving for flights at Bristol Airport wait in a queue at the terminal this morning
Traffic on the A102M Blackwall Tunnel approach in Greenwich, South East London, today
Traffic in Greenwich, South East London, this morning at the start of the bank holiday getaway
The RAC said fuel prices are not as high as the record levels seen a year ago, but are still more expensive than previous years.
Inrix advised drivers to avoid major roads between 10am and 7pm today, between 10am and 3pm tomorrow and on Sunday, and between 10am and 4pm on Monday.
When are the next rail strikes in Britain?
Strikes will hit National Rail services on various dates over the next few weeks.
Tomorrow (Saturday, August 26), RMT employees are expected to walk out at 14 train operators as part of a row over pay, jobs and working conditions.
There will be another RMT strike on Saturday, September 2.
And union Aslef will mount industrial action on Friday, September 1 – and then an overtime ban on September 2.
CrossCountry will be hit by further action on Saturday, September 9.
The national strike action will affect the following train operating companies:
- Avanti West Coast
- Chiltern Railways
- East Midlands Railway
- Gatwick Express
- Great Northern
- Great Western Railway
- Greater Anglia
- Heathrow Express
- London Northwestern Railway
- South Western Railway
- Stansted Express
- TransPennine Express
- West Midlands Railway
RAC spokesman Simon Williams said: ‘With fuel prices much lower than last summer’s record highs, it’s clear from our research that many more drivers are planning to make the most of what the UK has to offer over the last bank holiday of the summer.
‘And if the weather is kind, even more people may decide to take trips, swelling numbers on the road further still and possibly adding to the inevitable delays.
‘Those looking to have uninterrupted journeys should aim to travel very early to beat the jams, or if that’s not possible, much later in the day if they’re planning to be travelling on Friday.
‘With breakdown numbers already well exceeding previous years, we’re urging drivers to do all they can to avoid finding themselves broken down at the side of the road by carrying out a few essential vehicle checks before setting off.’
The RAC commissioned research agency Find Out Now to carry out the survey on August 16 and 17.
Inrix analyst Bob Pishue said: ‘We expect this bank holiday weekend to be very busy on major roads, with Friday and Saturday seeing the longest delays compared to normal.
‘While the most significant delays over the three days are going to be on the M25 and M1, routes to the West will inevitably be badly affected too.’
National Highways said it will lift nearly 1,000 miles of roadworks ahead of the bank holiday weekend to ease journeys.
Meanwhile, from tonight Tower Bridge in London will be closed to all traffic and pedestrians until late Monday night for repairs – although the visitor attraction will remain open.
On the rails today, a signal failure at Reading early this morning from about 5.30am affected services between Reading, Gatwick Airport and Basingstoke; between Greenford and West Ealing; and also between Twyford and Henley-on-Thames.
Reading and Gatwick services were revised to terminate or start back at Redhill, with Gatwick not served. However, National Rail said the disruption had ended shortly after 9am.
Separately, there was disruption for holidaymakers in Cornwall after a train that runs between Truro and Falmouth Docks required repairs, resulting in a reduced service.
In addition to disruption from the latest RMT strike tomorrow, train services will be affected by Network Rail carrying out around 500 projects across Britain’s railways over the long weekend.
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The busiest station affected is London Euston, where services will be limited from 8pm tomorrow until Tuesday due to track renewals and signalling upgrades.
No trains will serve London Charing Cross or Waterloo East tomorrow or on Sunday, while buses and coaches will replace trains on the East Coast Main Line between Grantham, Royston and Potters Bar/Hertford North from late Saturday until the early hours of Monday.
The disruption will affect a swathe of events including England’s Rugby World Cup warm-up game against Fiji, York Races, Manchester Pride and festivals such as Reading and Leeds.
There will be another RMT strike on September 2, with union Aslef mounting industrial action on September 1, followed by an overtime ban on September 2.
Jake Kelly, Network Rail’s system operator director, said: ‘As always, we’ve carefully planned our engineering work to ensure the vast majority of the railway will be open for business as usual this bank holiday, so passengers can rely on the railway to get them where they need to be as they make the most of the long weekend.
‘Disruptions to journeys on some routes is unavoidable when carrying out certain pieces of work however, so please make sure to check with National Rail Enquiries or your train operator before you travel.’
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