MOTORWAYS have been brought to a virtual standstill in parts of the UK with traffic tailing back up to 17 MILES as desperate families try to get away for the Easter Bank Holidays.
Accidents on the M25 and M20 saw huge tailbacks on two of the country’s main roads – just hours after massive queues were forming at Heathrow Airport.
Huge tailbacks of up to seven miles and at least an hour of delays are facing drivers on the M20 after a car crashed into a lump of concrete.
The car’s tyres burst after it hit the concrete, which is believed to have fallen from the back of a van, but no one is thought to have been injured.
The crash happened around 1pm near junction five for Aylesford, Kent, but traffic is queuing back to junction three at Borough Green.
There was further congestion on the M5 at around 7pm around junctions 18 to 19 in the Bristol area following reports of a “severe accident”, as Highways England posted pictures of severe queues on the motorway which leads to the south-west.
Engineers are currently cleaning debris and diesel from the carriageway, and while the road has partially reopened, delays of up to an hour are expected.
This bank holiday can traditionally cause chaotic conditions on the roads as families pour onto the motorways ready for a jam-packed weekend away.
Heathrow Airport is expecting 868,000 passengers over the Easter weekend and 200,000 extra families than in a normal period.
Roads are already busy and airport queues had customers complaining on social media last night and this morning about delays.
Many of Britain’s roads have delays of 10 to 50 minutes as cars go bumper to bumper on the motorways as drivers are keen to get the bank holiday started.
Passengers at Heathrow and Gatwick airports aired their grievances on Twitter and slammed long queues.
People driving to Heathrow airport were affected by delays after a car and a bus crashed.
Some said they left their cars to walk to the airport but were turned away, only to find the cars they had been travelling in had moved on.
Today saw a 17-mile jam on Britain’s busiest motorway as motorists were left queuing for almost two hours after a car overturned on the M25 in Surrey, and a crash between a heavy goods vehicle and a car on the M6 near Corley also caused delays.
By planning ahead and knowing the busiest times and planned roadworks, travellers can hope to stay one step ahead.
Transport information supplier Inrix warned that the worst time to travel will be between 4pm and 6pm, when traffic is predicted to be 28 per cent above typical levels, as about 20 million car journeys will be made between Thursday and Monday.
Highways England advised drivers to allow extra time for their journeys and suggested they consider alternative routes.
Tourism body Visit England said 6.6 million Britons are planning a trip involving an overnight stay over the weekend, up from six million last year.
But temperatures will be a far cry from the summer-like heights across much of the country last week, instead hovering between 15C and 17C in southern England between Wednesday and Sunday, and between 11C and 12C in northern England and Scotland.
Inrix said the worst affected roads during the Easter getaway will be major motorways, with some journeys taking as much as three times longer than normal.
Drivers between junctions 9 and 21 on the M25 should expect delays of up to 90 minutes, extending a typical 40-minute journey to more than two hours.
Motorists heading in both directions on the M6 and southbound on the M5 towards the West Country should also prepare for hold-ups of almost an hour, according to the report.
Drivers have been advised to avoid motorways between 10am-2pm on Good Friday.
GEM road safety officer Neil Worth said: “The afternoon rush hour is sure to start early this Thursday. Traffic volumes are expected to peak at around 6pm.
“We’re expecting long queues at all the usual motorway and main road locations, including the approaches to the Dartford River Crossing, the M5 south from Bristol, the M55 approaching Blackpool and the A11 towards the Norfolk coast.
RAC Traffic Watch spokesman Rod Dennis said: “While many schools across the country have already broken up, we’re expecting millions of working families to make the most of the long weekend and jump in the car for a leisure trip.
“But things are a little different this year to last – with many schools having already broken up, a lot of traffic on Easter Sunday in particular will likely be families returning from trips.”
Easter Sunday is expected to be the quietest day on the roads with 25 per cent fewer vehicles than an average Sunday.
A number of rail services will be disrupted as Network Rail carries out more than 200 engineering projects.
Trains to London, Manchester, Bath, Edinburgh and Glasgow are among those affected.
The line between Liverpool Street and Essex will be closed, hitting TfL and Great Anglia services.
Network Rail said it is carrying out the work over the four-day weekend as fewer passengers use the railways on bank holidays.
Travel trade organisation Abta reported that two million British holidaymakers will head overseas during Easter, with Good Friday the busiest day for travel.
Airports will be busy, with 425,000 passengers jetting off from Heathrow, 250,000 from Gatwick, 153,000 from Stansted and 150,000 from Manchester.
A Stanstead spokesman said: “It’s a very busy period with hundreds of thousands of people getting away for a holiday, long weekend or visiting friends and family so it’s really important that those travelling allow themselves plenty of time for their journey to the airport and arrive at the terminal at least two hours before their scheduled departure time.”
Cross-Channel rail operator Eurostar is expecting its busiest ever Easter weekend with 163,000 passengers, up 12 per cent on last year.
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