Photography: Martin Godwin/The Guardian
Train drivers and passengers have been warned they face congestion and disruption over the bank holiday weekend, with motoring organizations predicting the biggest runaway in early May for seven years and a partially closed mainline railway.
The RAC said it estimated 17.2 million leisure trips would be made by car in the UK between Friday 29 April and Monday 1 May, the most for the May bank holiday since 2016.
Congestion is likely to be worse during the first bank holiday of the month than the following long coronation weekend, when the RAC expects fewer than 15 million leisure trips.
RAC spokesman Rod Dennis said: “While we would expect more short breaks and day trips to the coast this coming weekend, when it comes to the Coronation the main routes are likely to be less likely to be congested.
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“The big variable, as always, is what happens with Britain’s climate. If temperatures finally rise and the sun makes an appearance, we could see many more people jumping in their cars for a quick road trip.”
Despite the sheer number of cars on the road, transport analyst firm Inrix said a repeat of the delays seen in the worst of Easter traffic jams was unlikely. However, he said drivers should plan for possible long delays on the southbound M5 after Bristol and the northbound M6 after Chester and on major roads around greater London.
Bob Pishue, an analyst at Inrix, said: “Travel times will likely peak on Friday afternoon with some areas seeing double travel times as vacation travelers mix with commuters, but drivers should be prepared for increased congestion over the holiday weekend”.
The Port of Dover, which experienced long queues at the start of the Easter school holidays due to increased demand for ferry travel combined with post-Brexit border delays, said it did not expect a repeat of April’s traffic .
Fewer travelers are expected, while additional measures put in place by the port and French police for the Easter weekend that avoided further traffic jams will be re-implemented, a spokesman said.
Rail passengers were advised to check before travelling, as there are no trains leaving London Euston station on Sunday. Services from the London hub will also be severely restricted on Saturday, affecting Avanti and London Northwestern trains on the West Coast Main Line.
Network Rail has said 95 per cent of the railway will remain open, while carrying out £73m worth of engineering work across the country. Some South Western Railway, CrossCountry, C2C and Scotrail services will also be affected.
Jake Kelly, system operator director at Network Rail, said: “Most of the rail network will be open as usual for passengers traveling over the bank holiday weekend, but we have some key upgrade work underway.”
He added: ‘There is never a good time to impact rail services, but with fewer passengers typically traveling during bank holidays, we have the opportunity to complete vital work with minimal disruption. “.