Easter travel: Holidaymakers face more delays after ‘horrendous’ traffic queues

Easter travel: Holidaymakers face more delays after ‘horrendous’ traffic queues

Holidaymakers faced “horrendous” traffic queues and delays as the great getaway began with more of the same expected on Saturday.

Millions of people were expected to take to the roads and trains with two million holidaymakers set to jet abroad this bank holiday weekend. Drivers hoping for an early getaway on Friday faced two-hour queues for ferries from Dover, while storm damage caused chaos on train lines.

Photos showed queues of heavy traffic on the approach to the Channel crossing, the Port of Dover warned at midday it was taking “around two hours” for people to be processed.

But by the evening, the port’s chief executive Doug Bannister said they were “back on top of it” after the chaos caused by Storm Nelson earlier in the week with the processing time coming down to about an hour.

He told Sky News: “We suffered a bit of a backlog overnight because of the weather impacting on sailings but we've got back on top of it".

Holiday traffic also caused "pretty horrendous" 20-mile long queues on the M4 and M5 interchange near Bristol, adding 45 minutes to journey times, as around 2.6 million car journeys were expected to be made on Good Friday.

There were also significant congestion on the M25, with traffic especially bad on the western side, which faced 40-minute queues

RAC spokesman Simon Williams told the PA news agency: “Everyone’s heading to Devon and Cornwall, that’s the attraction, and there’s been a bit of better weather.

“It’s causing some pretty horrendous queues.”

Meanwhile damage to overhead wires caused by Storm Nelson left train services to and from London Liverpool Street - including the Stansted Express - delayed and cancelled on Friday morning and a ‘do not travel’ warning issued to rail passengers planning to use the services.

The disruption left thousands of passengers facing missing their flights. Lines reopened by around 11am, but disruption went on into the afternoon.

Two million British holidaymakers were set to jet abroad this bank holiday weekend, with many likely to be hit by the chaos in the Stansted Airport area.

Travel trade organisation Abta said airports were reporting “strong numbers” for the weekend, with 175,000 passengers due to leave from Stansted, 105,000 from Luton, 160,000 from Manchester, 79,000 from Birmingham, and 89,000 from Edinburgh between Friday and Monday.

There are also planned part-closures affecting large sections of the Underground, DLR and Overground across the bank holiday weekend.

Passengers on platforms at King’s Cross Station n Friday (Jordan Pettitt/PA Wire)
Passengers on platforms at King’s Cross Station n Friday (Jordan Pettitt/PA Wire)

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.

Long queues at Dover (Gareth Fuller/PA Wire)
Long queues at Dover (Gareth Fuller/PA Wire)

The worst of the weather was over by Friday which should help ease some of the congestion which was caused by the storm.

The Met Office’s deputy chief meteorologist Dan Harris said: “The weather is expected to gradually improve following the widely unsettled spell of the past few days, with a fairly typical mix of spring-like weather across the UK.

“There will be some sunshine, and it will feel increasingly warm for most as the winds become lighter.

“However, the west and especially south west is likely to see passing showers too, which could be quite heavy and frequent at times.

“Eastern coastal districts are also likely to feel increasingly cold as an onshore breeze develops, threatening persistent low cloud in some areas too.”

Turkey, Dubai and the Canary Islands are among the most popular destinations abroad and trips to Dublin are also in demand.

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.”

Passengers queue to enter the Eurotunnel site in Folkestone in Kent  (Gareth Fuller/PA Wire)
Passengers queue to enter the Eurotunnel site in Folkestone in Kent (Gareth Fuller/PA Wire)

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, which predicts 30,000 holiday trips on Easter Sunday alone, advised: “If travelling with Easter eggs, passengers are advised to keep any chocolate treats in your cabin baggage and to make sure they’re easily accessible as they may need to be opened for a quick check.”

Liverpool Airport expects around 60,000 passengers over the four days, which is around 7% higher than last year.

Meanwhile, around 20,000 cars are expected to travel through the Port of Dover between Thursday and Easter Monday.

Ferry firm Stena Line said bookings on Irish Sea routes are up 115% on an average weekend at this time of year and have increased by 26% on Easter weekend 2023.

Network Rail urged train passengers to check their journey details before they travel because some major routes will be closed due to engineering work.

Cars make their way along the A303 past Stonehenge in Wiltshire  (Andrew Matthews/PA Wire)
Cars make their way along the A303 past Stonehenge in Wiltshire (Andrew Matthews/PA Wire)

The West Coast Main Line between London Euston and Milton Keynes will be shut for four days from Good Friday.

There will also be disruption in the areas around Glasgow and Huddersfield.

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