Getaway relief as ports strike called off

Ferries berthed at the Port of Dover Photo: PA

A strike at French ports that would have severely disrupted cross-Channel ferry services at Dover has been called off as the great Easter getaway began in earnest.

French port control officers had been due to go on a 24-hour stoppage that would have hit ports such as Calais, Dieppe and Cherbourg.

P&O Ferries had warned its passengers to expect long delays today and on Good Friday and there were fears of traffic build-ups on routes to the port of Dover in Kent.

But at 2am the strike was called off after successful late-night talks in France.

"This is excellent news for British holidaymakers," said P&O Ferries spokesman Chris Laming.

Those now able to travel freely by cross-Channel ferry will be among around 1.7 million Britons escaping the continuing cold to holiday abroad this Easter.

Many have snapped up last-minute offers to get away from one of the coldest March months on record.

Hotspots abroad for sun-starved Britons this Easter include the Canary Islands, Majorca, Tunisia, Egypt and Turkey.

Top city break destinations are Paris, Dublin, Amsterdam, Rome and New York. France and Austria are the most-popular ski-destination countries.

From Thursday until to Tuesday, April 2, a total of 600,000 people will leave from Heathrow airport, 214,000 from Gatwick, 110,000 from Manchester, 110,000 from Stansted and 55,000 from Luton.

Those travelling by rail over Easter will have to contend with a number of engineering works, including major work at Reading in Berkshire and also work on the West Coast main line in the West Midlands.

On the roads, the Highways Agency has suspended roadworks for the Easter period on a number of England's motorways and major A roads.

But for safety reasons, works remain in place on some busy routes, including the M1 near Milton Keynes in Buckinghamshire.

On the railways, there were problems for passengers passing through Reading even before the engineering work was due to begin there.

This was caused by a broken-down train at nearby Maidenhead.

There were delays of up to 40 minutes between Reading and Paddington in London.

Another broken-down train in Sussex meant there were delays between Brighton and Lewes.