'Car-mageddon': Millions hit roads for Easter getaways after Storm Nelson disruption

The Met Office has warned there is a 'small chance' of injuries and risk to life as a result of the strong winds and large waves this Easter

Queues have been building up at Dover, with an estimated 2.6 million car journeys expected to be made on Good Friday as Britons get away for the Easter bank holiday.

Some 14 million Easter getaway trips are expected to take place this weekend, with the RAC warning that journeys on some popular routes could take twice as long as normal.

Ferry company DFDS reported that its services at Dover were running with delays “due to strong winds in the Channel” on Thursday.

Around 20,000 cars are expected to travel through the Port of Dover between Thursday and Easter Monday, while two million Britons are expected to fly abroad, but travel conditions for the long weekend got off to a rocky start.

Storm Nelson arrived with gusts of 50mph expected quite widely, according to a Met Office yellow weather warning for wind covering London and the South East, the South West and east of England which has since been lifted.

Queues building up at Dover on Good Friday. Credit: PA

Great Western Railways closed a number of lines on Thursday due to flooding. All lines between Westbury and Swindon were shut and the main line from Paddington to Bristol Temple Meads was also closed. Travel trade organisation Abta said airports are reporting “strong numbers”, with 175,000 due to leave from Stansted, 105,000 from Luton, 79,000 from Birmingham, and 89,000 from Edinburgh between Friday and Monday.

Manchester Airport managing director Chris Woodroofe said: “It’s exciting that record numbers of people will be taking off from here this Easter: 320,000 people will travel (through the airport) over the bank holiday weekend – that’s up 7% on April 2023.” Glasgow predicts more than 90,000 passengers over the four days while Birmingham Airport said it expects a 27.2% increase in departures compared to last year over the full Easter period.

Bristol predicts 30,000 holiday trips on Easter Sunday alone, while Liverpool Airport expects around 60,000 passengers over the four days, which is around 7% higher than last year.

Around 20,000 cars are expected to travel through the Port of Dover between Thursday and Easter Monday. Credit: PA

Good Friday is set to be a day of sunshine and blustery scattered showers, coming after unsettled conditions which have seen hailstones hit parts of Cornwall. Elsewhere, in any sunshine it could feel warm, with highs of 14C expected in the south east of England but there is the risk of the odd thunderstorm, the Met Office said. The driest weather is expected in the far north east of the UK and there could be a windy start to the day in many regions. The bank holiday weekend coincides with the start of a two-week holiday for many schools, leading to a surge in traffic.

Rail travel is set to be disrupted as Network Rail carries out engineering work, with the southern section of the West Coast Main Line closed between Good Friday and Easter Monday.

Tourist board VisitEngland said around 11 million people in the UK are planning an overnight Easter trip, generating an estimated £3.2 billion boost to the economy.

The RAC and transport analysis company Inrix commissioned a survey which suggested 2.6 million leisure journeys by car will be made on Good Friday.

Some 2.3 million getaway trips are planned for each of Easter Saturday and Easter Sunday, with 2.0 million expected to take place on each of Thursday and Easter Monday.

A further 3.3 million Easter leisure journeys have been planned by drivers who are undecided exactly what day they will travel, leading to a total of around 14.5 million getaway trips between Thursday and Easter Monday.

Inrix predicted that the worst congestion on Thursday would be between 2pm and 7pm as people on leisure journeys competed for road space with regular commuters.

On Good Friday, the lengthiest delays are expected to be between 11am and 3pm, meaning drivers are advised to set off as early as possible in the morning or wait until later in the afternoon.

Two popular routes for holidaymakers – the M5 southbound between Bristol and Taunton, and the M3 between the M25 and the south coast – are likely to be congested, with estimated journey times more than double what they normally are.

RAC Breakdown spokesperson Alice Simpson said: “With Easter falling earlier than usual at the start of the school holidays, it could be carmageddon for holidaymakers.

“Anyone who can delay leaving on Thursday until much later in the evening or set off as early as possible on Good Friday is likely to have a better journey than those who travel during the peak periods of the day.

“Lengthy queues can be expected along routes to the usual hotspots like the West Country, the Lake District and the south coast, especially during the middle of the day when most people make trips.”

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