How severe will the Easter travel disruptions be and what are the peak travel times to avoid?

How severe will the Easter travel disruptions be and what are the peak travel times to avoid?

There may be travel disruptions for those embarking on the popular Easter holiday, including delays on roads, ferries, trains, and flights. Typically, there is a period of time between when schools close and the long weekend begins. However, with Easter occurring earlier this year, these two events overlap. Many schools will finish the term on Thursday 28 March, adding to the strain on transportation systems.

At least three major UK airports – Bristol, Newcastle and Edinburgh – have told The Independent this will be their busiest Easter ever. Some airlines are predicting record numbers for the spell between Good Friday and Easter Monday. Geneva routes will be extremely busy with winter sports fans, while Malaga, Alicante, Faro and Tenerife are the leading spring sunshine holiday destinations.

The most sought-after city getaways include Amsterdam, Barcelona, Dublin, Paris, and Rome. Meanwhile, Dubai, Orlando, and New York are top choices for longer trips.

Following last year’s chaotic events at the Port of Dover, coach passengers and holiday motorists can anticipate a smoother journey this weekend, despite the stringent French border passport checks that were requested by the UK after the decision to exit the EU.

Experts are cautioning that while families travel to the coast and countryside, certain sections of motorway may be subject to twice the usual travel time. This is especially important to note for those at home.

There is a possibility that the number of passengers travelling by train will reach record highs, as Eurostar has sold five percent more tickets than last Easter. This increase in sales has occurred despite the discontinuation of the London-Disneyland Paris route in June due to Brexit.

There will be significant disruptions to domestic train journeys due to extensive engineering projects, particularly on the crucial West Coast main line that connects London Euston to the regions of West Midlands, northwest England, and southern Scotland.

Starting in April, members of the Aslef union who are train operators will go on strike, conducting multiple additional strikes on both trains and the London Underground.

During the Easter holiday season, the following are the primary areas of high pressure, beginning with airports.

At what time and location will there be an increase in airport foot traffic?

During the Easter holiday, it is anticipated that two million Brits will travel by plane. Families heading out of the country are expected to exceed the number of those arriving over the span of four days.

On March 28th, Maundy Thursday will be a particularly busy day as business travelers finish their trips and some families use the opportunity of lower prices to start their vacations as soon as the school holidays start. This day also marks the opening of Jet2’s newest base at Liverpool John Lennon Airport.

Good Friday (29 March) should be quieter, with fewer passengers travelling on business.

The upcoming Saturday, March 30th, will be exceptionally hectic due to the usual weekend skiers being joined by families heading to sunny locations.

It is estimated that Easter Sunday (March 31) will be the busiest day of the holiday season at Bristol Airport, with an estimated 30,000 passengers anticipated.

On April 1st, Easter Monday, there may be extensive queues at passport control for those entering the UK as individuals return from extended weekend trips. Edinburgh is anticipating its busiest day.

Luton airport experiences its highest traffic on Friday, April 5th with an average of 38 passengers passing through per minute.

The projected peak for overall traffic is on Sunday, April 7th at Gatwick, with departures from Southampton also experiencing high levels.

What is the current status of the ferries?

The Irish Sea, English Channel, and North Sea will have smooth journeys with longer crossings. Brittany Ferries, which operates sailings from Channel ports to France and Spain, states that Maundy Thursday is their most hectic day and expects pleasant weather and content passengers.

The main concern is the Port of Dover, where border checks are “parallel”. French border officials are now required to thoroughly check and approve all British passports before passengers can board a ship to Calais and Dunkirk. This significantly increases the amount of time it takes to process passengers.

During Easter in 2023, there were long lines at the port of Dover, especially for coach passengers. To address this issue, a Coach Processing Facility has been set up at the Western Docks in Dover, which will be used on the busiest days, Thursday, March 28th and Saturday, March 30th. This facility allows passengers to have their travel documents checked at a separate location, away from the main port. Once all formalities are completed, the coach can proceed to the Eastern Docks for a quick passport check.

What is the forecast for drivers?

Alice Simpson, a representative from RAC Breakdown, has issued a warning about a potential “carmageddon” for travelers during the upcoming holiday season. Specifically, Maundy Thursday is expected to be a challenging day for motorists, especially between 2pm and 7pm. The stretch of the western half of the M25, from the M23 for Gatwick to the M1 heading North, is advised to be avoided at all costs.

According to the RAC, there will be a surge in leisure travel between 11am and 3pm on Good Friday. It is anticipated that 2.68 million leisure trips will be taken on that day. The most significant traffic delays are projected to occur on the southbound M5 between Bristol and Taunton, as well as the M3 between the M25 and the southern coast.

The second busiest days during the Easter season are Saturday and Sunday, both with approximately 2.34 million trips.

Travelers going back home on Friday, April 5th should avoid the congested areas of northbound M5 between Taunton and Bristol, as well as the M55 between Blackpool and Preston.

Beginning a lengthy trip at an early time or waiting until evening can likely prevent encountering severe traffic.

What is occurring on the train systems?

We have some positive updates to share: The West Highland Line in Scotland has successfully reopened after a nine-day project to repair Rannoch Viaduct.

During the Easter holiday, portions of railway tracks will be temporarily closed by Network Rail. The most impactful closure will be along the West Coast main line, between London Euston and Milton Keynes Central, for a period of four days from Friday to Monday. This closure is necessary for the installation of new tracks near Kensal Green tunnel and the replacement of a busy junction just south of Milton Keynes.

Delay reaction: Network Rail staff outside London Euston

The East Midlands Railway, a train line connecting London St Pancras and Sheffield, is expected to be a popular alternative for travelers. The company cautions that their trains will be in high demand over the Easter weekend.

A different route diversion is available, which travels from London Marylebone to Birmingham and is known as the Chiltern route. Caledonian Sleeper trains will continue to operate between London King’s Cross and other destinations.

The primary Greater Anglia route from London Liverpool Street to Colchester, Ipswich, and Norwich is once again experiencing delays, as well as the line to Southend Victoria. Complimentary bus service will be provided.

The primary cross-Pennine road is shut down in Huddersfield starting on Good Friday until Sunday, April 7, causing disruptions on various lines.

At that time, the train drivers of the Aslef union will have begun their most recent strike.

Starting in the summer of 2022, a disagreement regarding pay and work schedules has caused an ongoing conflict. On April 5, 6, and 8, they have intentions to stop many trains. This will occur through a sequence of “rolling strikes” that will impact the services of 14 railway companies in England. These companies are owned by the UK government and are represented by the Rail Delivery Group (RDG).

Members will also refuse to work their rest days from Thursday 4 to Saturday 6 April and from Monday 8 to Tuesday 9 April. As many rail firms depend on drivers working overtime, hundreds – possibly thousands – of trains will be cancelled.

Possible service patterns have been determined based on prior experience.

Friday 5 April

The train companies affected by the four strikes – Avanti West Coast, East Midlands Railway, West Midlands Trains, and CrossCountry – are currently evaluating the effects on their services. Based on past occurrences, it is likely that they will cancel all services.

Saturday 6 April

Chiltern has officially announced that it will not be operating any trains. It is expected that Northern and TransPennine Express will also suspend all of their services.

GWR and LNER will operate a limited service on their main intercity routes from approximately 7am to 7pm.

Monday 8 April

Services from C2C, Gatwick Express, Great Northern, Thameslink, and Southeastern may be cancelled.

A shuttle service will be operated by Southern, connecting London Victoria and Gatwick Airport.

Greater Anglia will operate travel services between London Liverpool Street and Stansted airport, Southend, Colchester, Ipswich, and Norwich.

The South Western Railway service will operate on routes connecting London Waterloo, Woking, and Guildford, with the possibility of additional suburban services.