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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Gwyn Topham Transport correspondent

Drivers warned of busiest bank holiday in years with 20m UK journeys forecast

Traffic queues, 26 May 2023, for ferries at Dover, Kent
Spring bank holiday ferry queues at Dover, Kent, in 2023 as the late May bank holiday began. Photograph: Gareth Fuller/PA

Drivers have been warned to expect one of the busiest bank holiday weekends on UK roads in years, with more than 20m leisure journeys forecast over the next four days.

Despite more unsettled weather, days out and staycations are expected to push up the numbers of vehicles on the roads over the break to the highest level for late May since before the Covid pandemic.

The motoring organisations RAC and AA said research suggested there would be about 20m leisure trips made, meaning more than half the nation’s cars would be on the road during the long weekend, which coincides with the beginning of half-term for most schools in England and Wales.

The worst time to travel was expected to be Friday evening, with commuter traffic combining with bank holiday and half-term getaway traffic.

The transport analytics company Inrix forecast delays on the M25 clockwise between the M23 and M1 junctions of more than 90 minutes in the late afternoon on Friday.

The firm warned of hour-long delays on the 45-mile southbound stretch of the M5 from Bristol towards Taunton and the south-west, a popular holiday route.

Alice Simpson, an RAC spokesperson, said: “Our research suggests this weekend could be the busiest of the year so far on the roads, with millions of people embarking on getaway trips to make the most of the three days and, for those with school-age children, the start of the half-term holiday.”

Inrix advised drivers to travel as early or as late in the day as possible.

The AA said Sunday was likely to be the busiest non-working day, while traffic on the bank holiday itself would exceed normal Mondays.

Rail passengers can look forward to an easier time, with Network Rail carrying out fewer big disruptive engineering projects than on previous bank holidays, although some train services will be affected.

Services on the West Coast main line linking London and Scotland will be reduced because of work near Crewe and Carlisle.

Passengers using the northern end of the line experienced disruption on Thursday owing to unseasonal flooding blocking the line between Carlisle and Lockerbie. Operators affected include Avanti West Coast, TransPennine Express, ScotRail, and Caledonian Sleeper.

Network Rail has said significant work will be needed to increase drainage and maintain routes, given wetter weather caused by climate change.

Airports will be busier than at Easter his half-term, although not quite reaching summer season peaks. EasyJet, the UK’s main airline by passenger numbers, said it would run up to 1,850 flights a day throughout the May bank holiday weekend, up from 1,700 flights at the start of Easter.

The travel association Abta said Spain, Greece, Turkey and Portugal were expecting significant numbers of visitors from the UK.

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