Drivers are being told to avoid embarking on a bank holiday getaway this afternoon as the RAC warns that nearly 17million motorists will be making trips between Friday and Monday to soak up 71F sunshine at seaside resorts, rural gems and music festivals across the country.
Transport analytics firm Inrix said drivers should set off in the morning or after 7pm to miss major traffic jams, adding that there could be a 25 per cent increase in delays on Friday compared with a typical August day.
The South West is expected to bear the brunt of the traffic over the weekend, with bottlenecks and delays likely on the M4 going west away from London, the M5 as it reaches Devon and Cornwall and the A303 around the Stonehenge area.
Officials are now braced for travel chaos on what could be the busiest period for roads and rail yet this year as the Met Office forecasts temperatures of up to 75F and dry and bright weather over the next four days.
It comes as the rail industry said ticket sales to seaside hotspots were already more than double the number sold over last year’s August bank holiday. On some leisure routes passenger numbers are even expected to surge past pre-pandemic levels, with research by consultancy WPI Economics suggesting rail passengers alone will on average spend £116 each per trip.
RAC Breakdown spokesman Rod Dennis said: ‘It’s been an incredibly busy summer on the UK’s roads with vast numbers of people on the move both for staycation holidays and for day trips to the sea and countryside.
Traffic on the M25 in Kent at the start of the Bank Holiday getaway
Ticket sales for trains to seaside destinations over the bank holiday weekend have surpassed pre-pandemic levels
These aerial photos show a sea of tents at Reading Festival in Berkshire which, with more than 90,000 people scheduled to attend, will be the biggest since the easing of Covid restrictions on July 19
Get ready for the road: tips for avoiding a breakdown this bank holiday
Always remember the word ‘FORCES’:
Fuel – Don’t risk running out of fuel, top up before you set out. More people heading onto the roads in the good weather can lead to traffic jams, especially on routes to the beaches
Oil – check it’s at the right level, and get your car booked in at a garage if you’re topping up more than usual
Rubber – tyres need to be properly inflated and in good condition to give your car a safe, sure grip on the road. The legal tread depth is 1.6mm, so change them well before they reach this point
Coolant – this does a vital job in the warmer weather, in ensuring the engine runs at the right temperature. If it’s not between the ‘min’ and ‘max’ levels, this could be the sign of a problem so contact a good garage without delay
Electrics – if your indicators, hazard lights, headlights, fog lights, reverse lights or brake lights are not functioning properly, you are putting yourself and your family at risk. Plus, you’ll need your lights on during any unexpected downpours
Screenwash – helps keep your windscreen clear of dirt and insects
‘Our figures suggest this is a trend that will continue, with bumper-to-bumper bank holiday traffic expected, especially on the most popular holiday routes.
‘While this weekend will see many people returning from summer holidays in the UK, the fine and settled weather will also be seen as an opportunity by lots of people to jump in their cars for last-minute trips – after all, this is the last bank holiday weekend in England, Wales and Northern Ireland before Christmas.’
Mr Dennis urged motorists to carry out essential checks on their car, such as ensuring tyres are properly inflated and have plenty of tread, and that oil, coolant and screenwash are at the correct levels.
The Met Office’s Grahame Madge said: ‘We’ll have high pressure largely in charge. That leads to generally fine and settled conditions.’
The RAC poll found most people plan to take to the roads today, with up to 4.3million cars setting off on leisure trips. A further 3.3million cars are expected on the road tomorrow, 2.6million on Sunday and 3million on Monday. Up to 3.6million will keep their powder dry to see what the weather does.
Inrix analyst Bob Pishue said: ‘Drivers hitting the road for one last getaway before the end of summer should expect long delays on key corridors. Knowing when and where congestion will build can help drivers avoid the stress of sitting in traffic.
‘Our advice is to avoid travelling in the afternoon. Leave early in the day or be prepared for some travel times to double.’
AA president Edmund King said: ‘Weather is always a big decider on where people spend their bank holiday. However, AA research suggests that local traffic may be heavier this time.
‘Covid’s disruption to people’s lives is still noticeable in the 10 per cent fewer long-distance trippers this August. The drop in longer trips might be due to the difficulty in booking accommodation away from home due to more families taking their holidays in the UK.’
National Highways, recently rebranded from Highways England, said around 98 per cent of England’s motorways and major A roads will be free of roadworks over the weekend.
A total of 988 carriageway miles of roadworks will be completed (833) or suspended (156) ahead of the Bank Holiday weekend. Some roadworks need to be kept in place for safety reason.
Ticket sales for trains to seaside destinations over the bank holiday weekend have surpassed pre-pandemic levels, according to new figures.
Industry body the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) said demand is more than double compared with last year August bank holiday, and up 17 per cent on the same weekend in 2019.
The organisation commissioned research by consultancy WPI Economics which estimated that passengers travelling to seaside destinations for leisure spend on average £116 per trip.
The mercury is set to hit 71F this weekend with a mixture of sunny and cloudy conditions forecast, according to the Met Office. Pictured: revellers arriving at Leeds Festival yesterday
Revellers were also pictured arriving at Leeds Festival (above) in Bramham Park yesterday, which, along with Reading, is one of the few large scale music festivals going ahead this summer
Pub industry warn six million fewer pints set to be served this weekend than pre-Covid – and lose out on £25m in revenue
Pubs will serve an estimated six million fewer pints this bank holiday than the same period in 2019, an industry body has said.
The British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) said its members expect to lose out on £25million in revenue from pint sales, down 10 per cent on revenue for the same bank holiday in 2019 before Covid arrived.
The BBPA is urging the Government to invest in the sector to help it bridge the gap in revenues now the majority of restrictions have been lifted.
It says the UK brewing and pub sectors are ‘grossly overtaxed’ and the Government must reform or cut taxes on the sector.
Earlier this week, the trade association said pubs will overpay on business rates by £570million a year from March 2022 unless the system is reformed.
The trade association is also calling for a permanent cut in VAT in pubs which extends to the beer sold in them, and a beer duty cut.
This includes £40 on food and drink, £31 on accommodation, £23 on shopping, £13 on other travel and £10 on entertainment and culture. The RDG said young people are particularly keen to get back on board trains for leisure trips.
Some 1.03 million journeys per week are being made using the 16-25 railcard, an increase of 49,000 since the beginning of June.
But while demand for leisure travel is recovering, commuting and business trips by rail are still well below pre-coronavirus levels. Overall, rail industry revenue is just 59 per cent of what it was at this point in 2019.
A campaign urging people to return to trains was launched last week, with the slogan ‘Let’s get back on track’.
RDG chief executive Jacqueline Starr said: ‘At the end of every train line are livelihoods and businesses that will depend on rail to be the difference they need to recover, so as we look forward to a bumper bank holiday weekend.
‘Leisure passengers can feel good that they’re supporting a fair, clean recovery while they’re beating the bank holiday traffic jams. We’re asking customers to sign up for personal alerts about their journey through National Rail on Messenger so that they can make the most of their day off.’
Patricia Yates, deputy chief executive of VisitBritain, said: ‘We are delighted to see people travelling to and enjoying our coastal regions, and it’s fantastic to see so many headed out and about to enjoy the best of the Great British summer for this bank holiday weekend.
‘With the convenience, ease and sustainability of domestic rail travel, this boost will have a positive impact on our coastal regions, boosting economic growth and spreading the benefits of tourism across Britain.’
The RDG said more than 95 per cent of the rail network will be fully operational over the weekend.
Due to Network Rail engineering works, no trains will operate between London St Pancras International and Luton, while an amended timetable will be in place on routes to and from London Euston.
Thousands of music fans are preparing to party at the Reading Festival over the sun-baked Bank Holiday weekend, amid fears the event will cause a surge in coronavirus infections.
Although not a single note had been played, tens of thousands of people queued for over three hours and crammed onto the banks of the River Thames to attend the event in Berkshire yesterday, which was cancelled last year.
With more than 90,000 people scheduled to arrive, the festival will be the biggest since the easing of Covid restrictions on July 19.
Technicians could be seen making final preparation on the event’s giant stages, which are set to play host to Stormzy, Post Malone and Liam Gallagher over the course of the three-day event.
Aerial pictures showed densely packed queues streaming through the turnstiles as organisers battled to deal with the additional Covid checks they must carry out before the famous three-dayer kicks off today.