Motorways grind to halt as Bank Holiday hell begins

Motorways grind to a halt as Bank Holiday hell begins: 2.3million drivers hit roads at start of long May Day weekend which will see total of 17.2million motoring trips

  • Tailbacks on the M5 and M6 on what’s expected to be busiest day this weekend
  • Read more: Britons battle busy roads and airports at start of May bank holiday 

Motorways have ground to a halt as holidaymakers hit the roads in search of sun ahead of the first May bank holiday weekend. 

Friday afternoon was predicted to be the busiest time for travelling as workers looked to get away for the weekend early, causing queues to pile up across the country, with long tailbacks on the M5 near Exeter and northbound towards the M6. 

Drivers were urged to leave before 11am or to hold off until this evening to avoid the worst of the congestion, as 2.3million journeys were planned for today. 

The RAC estimates 17.2million leisure trips will be taken by car between today and Monday, making it the busiest early May bank holiday weekend since 2016. 

And more than 32million trips will be made by Brits seeking to make the most of the extra days off over the next two weekends, as people travel to celebrate the coronation with friends and family.  

Drivers going on leisure trips today were advised to set off before 11am – or wait until the evening – to have a better chance of missing the worst of the jams

The RAC estimates 17.2million leisure trips will be taken by car between today and Monday, making it the busiest early May bank holiday weekend since 2016 (congestion near Exeter today) 

The A46 in Warwickshire was closed northbound between the A428 (Binley, Coventry) and the B4082 due to a serious collision between a car and a motorbike. 

The A3 in Surrey was also closed in both directions between the A2344 and the A309 near Long Ditton after a serious collision.

On the M42 northbound between J10 and J11 one lane was closed after a crash.  

There are delays on the M60 clockwise between junctions J9 and J11 and on the M25 anticlockwise between J6 and J5. A lane was closed on the M25 clockwise between junctions J27 and J28 due to a broken-down car. 

Tomorrow will see a peak of 2.7million leisure journeys but it will be less busy because it is not a working day. 

Drivers going on leisure trips today were advised to set off before 11am – or wait until the evening – to have a better chance of missing the worst of the jams.

Transport data company Inrix warned of a potential for long delays on the M5 southbound between Junction 15 for Bristol and Junction 23 for Taunton, as well as the M6 northbound from Junction 18 for Chester to Junction 24 for Liverpool.

The AA identified a series of likely traffic hotspots over the three-day break, including the M4/M5 interchange in Bristol, the M5/M6 interchange in Birmingham, the M62 in Leeds, the M4 near Newport and the A720 in Edinburgh.

Traffic on the M5 between Bristol and Bridgwater is expected to be ‘double’ the normal levels this weekend

The roads around Bristol have been congested throughout the day as people rush to holiday destinations in the South West and Wales 

Long queues have formed southbound on the M5 as holidaymakers and day trippers head to the south west

Traffic this morning on the A102M Blackwall tunnel approach in Greenwich, South East London

Passengers queue at Bristol Airport as wait to get to the check-in desks this morning

Airports could also be hit by a walkout by Border Force officials who are among more than 130,000 civil service members of the PCS union who voted to strike today.

Temperatures are set to reach 21C (70F) in southern England over the coming few days with plenty of sunshine forecast – although some showers are predicted in the West tomorrow, all areas on Sunday and in the East on Bank Holiday Monday.

Pressure on the roads will be increased due to disruption to train services caused by Network Rail carrying out more than 600 engineering projects. London Euston will be closed on Sunday, adding several hours to many long-distance journeys.

The disruption at one of the UK’s busiest stations will be caused by work to make overhead electric wires more resilient against hot weather.

Network Rail said no London North Western Railway services will run to or from Euston tomorrow, while it will be closed to all mainline operators the following day.

The work on Sunday will cause chaos to journeys for thousands of Avanti West Coast passengers who planned to travel between London and destinations in the West Midlands, North West England and Scotland.

In hot weather, older overhead lines that provide power to trains can expand and sag, often resulting in delays.

Network Rail said its improvement work on the West Coast Main Line over the bank holiday weekend includes ‘overhead line work to prepare for hot weather’ at Euston and Kings Langley in Hertfordshire.

They are among more than 600 projects across Britain that will take place.

Major impacts include c2c services to and from Liverpool Street being diverted to Fenchurch Street on Sunday, disruption to South Western Railway and CrossCountry services tomorrow and on Sunday, and no ScotRail services between Glasgow and Edinburgh via Carstairs tomorrow and on Sunday.

Passengers sit down as they wait to board trains at London St Pancras railway station today

Passengers wait to board Eurostar train services at London St Pancras railway station today

Rail passengers with luggage board a Thameslink train at London Bridge station this morning

Passengers wait with their luggage while looking at departure boards to see what platform their train will be on in Euston Station this morning 

Jake Kelly, Network Rail’s system operator director, said: ‘The majority of the rail network will be open as usual for passengers travelling over the bank holiday weekend, but we do have some vital upgrade work taking place to improve journeys in some areas, so please check before you travel, either with your train operator or using National Rail Enquiries.

‘There’s never a good time to impact rail services, but with fewer passengers typically travelling over the bank holidays, we have the opportunity to complete vital work to provide better and more reliable journeys whilst minimising disruption for our passengers and freight users.’

Meanwhile there were already problems on the trains this morning, with a fault with the signalling system between London Paddington and Southall causing disruption to Great Western Railway, Elizabeth line and Heathrow Express services.

In South Wales, a points failure between Ninian Park and Coryton meant all lines were blocked; while services running between Birmingham New Street and Leicester were disrupted after a train broke down between Nuneaton and Hinckley.

Road congestion this weekend is expected to be worse than for the coronation weekend, when 14.6million leisure trips are expected to be made.

The reduction in journeys is believed to be due to millions of people staying at home to watch the royal events on television.

RAC Breakdown spokesman Rod Dennis said: ‘The weather might still be unseasonably chilly but this won’t stop drivers getting out and about over the double bank holiday weekends to make the most of some extra days off.

‘While we’d expect more short breaks and day trips to the coast this coming weekend, when it comes to the coronation it’s likely major routes are less likely to be congested.

‘The big variable, as always, is what happens with the Great British weather.

‘If temperatures finally increase and the sun makes more of an appearance, we could well see many more people jumping in the car for a quick trip.

‘In order to avoid any disappointment caused from cars letting their everyone on board down, we urge drivers to check tyres, oil and coolant levels as matters of priority before they hit the road.’ 

Inrix transportation analyst Bob Pishue said: ‘Travel times will likely peak on Friday afternoon with some areas seeing double the travel times as holiday travellers mix with commuters, but drivers should be prepared for added congestion throughout the holiday weekend.’

It comes as the AA issued a warning to drivers to avoid falling asleep at the wheel.

Its analysis of latest Government figures shows one in 33 casualties on roads in South west England – which includes many popular holiday destinations – were victims of crashes in which fatigue was a contributory factor in 2021.

Statistics also show drivers are three times more likely to drift off and cause collisions on motorways than on other roads.

The AA urged motorists to build regular rest stops into journeys during what is expected to be a busy bank holiday on the roads.

It commissioned a survey of more than 13,000 UK adults which suggested 12million trips by road are planned for May Day alone.

Nick Powell, AA Patrol of the Year, said: ‘If you plan to travel long distances, it’s better to set off early when you’re more likely to be refreshed after a good night’s sleep and traffic is at its lightest.

‘If you do feel tired, take a break at the next safe location, and have a coffee or caffeine drink, a short cat nap and a walk.’

Edmund King, AA Charitable Trust director, said: ‘A quarter of fatal crashes are sleep-related, so drowsiness is one of the most underestimated risks on the roads.

‘Crashes involving a drowsy driver tend to be catastrophic. If a driver has fallen asleep at the wheel they do not brake before an impact and make no attempt to steer away from a collision.’

The AA survey was conducted by research company Yonder between April 5 and 19.

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