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Road closure hits Easter getaway

Published 02/04/2015

Roads are expected to be busy as the Easter getaway begins
Roads are expected to be busy as the Easter getaway begins

Those leaving early on the Easter getaway were held up today by the part-closure of a major route to the West Country.

An overturned vehicle meant the A303 was shut between the junction of the M3 at North Waltham and the junction of the A34 at Bullington in Hampshire.

The A303 was picked out by traffic information company Trafficmaster as one of the likely top five busiest roads over the Easter holiday period during which around 15-16 million cars are set to take to the road.

While an estimated 1.8 million Britons head overseas for the holiday, those at home were enduring showery weather today, with the threat of more rain on Good Friday.

But forecasters predict warmer and sunnier weather for Easter Saturday and Sunday.

Spain and its islands are the most popular spots for those spending Easter abroad. Florida is the favourite long-haul destination, while city-break tourists are heading for Paris, Dublin, Amsterdam, Rome, Barcelona and New York.

Among the ski resorts for late-season winter sports fans are Zermatt in Switzerland, Val d'Isere and Tignes in France, Obergurgl in Austria, and Cervinia in Italy.

Nearly 400,000 are leaving from Heathrow Airport over the weekend, 153,000 from Stansted, 125,000 from Manchester, 70,000 from Luton, 64,000 from Edinburgh, and 51,000 from Birmingham.

Around 85,000 will leave with Channel Tunnel high-speed train company Eurostar.

Those using domestic rail services face disruption due to a large programme of engineering works, with the West Coast main line particularly badly affected.

Major work at Watford means there will be no Virgin or London Midland trains in or out of London's Euston station between Good Friday and Easter Monday.

Virgin trains will run no further south than Milton Keynes, Rugby or Northampton while there will be no direct London Midland services between Euston and Hemel Hempstead.

There will be improvement work on the West Coast line between Crewe and Warrington and between Carlisle and Glasgow which will severely restrict Virgin services to northern England and Scotland.

Virgin is "strongly recommending" that passengers do not travel between Good Friday and Easter Monday.

Network Rail (NR) route managing director Martin Frobisher said of the Watford project: "There is never a good time to carry out this type of work but we have liaised closely with the train operators to plan for it to take place at a quieter time on the railway."

Another area in which work is going on over Easter is between Manchester and Bolton, via Farnworth. Manchester Victoria station will be closed from Good Friday to the end of Easter Monday.

The Easter holiday will also see no Southeastern services to or from the London stations of Charing Cross, Waterloo East or Cannon Street.

Other disrupted areas due to engineering work include parts of Kent, lines running through Reading and some services from Paddington.

The pressure will be on NR to ensure its big engineering programme finishes on time. Last Christmas there was travel chaos in north London after work at King's Cross and Paddington stations overran.

Once Easter is over, there could be serious delays at ports when strict new passport exit checks are introduced on April 8.

Ferry companies have warned of long delays for the checking of passports for those leaving the country.

The companies have warned of hold-ups on roads to Dover with "coachloads of grannies" having to have their passports checked.

Immigration minister James Brokenshire has advised travellers to set off in good time.

But he said he did not recognise the "extreme" stories about how the changes could impact travellers and insisted there were contingency plans.

Breakdown company Green Flag said 54,000 breakdowns were expected over the weekend, with one puncture every minute.

It said the M4 is likely to be one of the worst-congested roads while the best times of day to travel over the holiday period were after 9pm and before 10am.

Ticket company thetrainline.com said more than 79,000 people were expected to travel through UK stations over the holiday period.

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