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Arrival of the Easter break to spark almost 19m leisure trips by car

Drivers are expected to complete nearly 19m separate leisure journeys by car this coming weekend as the arrival of Easter marks the first big getaway of the year.

A study of drivers’ plans conducted by the RAC indicates that the largest number of getaway trips will take place on Good Friday with 4.45m individual journeys being taken, closely followed by Maundy Thursday and this coming Saturday which are each expected to see 3.18m individual trips.

It is Thursday that is likely to see the largest overall number of vehicles on the road however, as cars carrying families and friends vie for space with commuter traffic. In total, between this Thursday and Easter Monday, the RAC anticipates some 18.76m separate leisure journeys by car.

But unfortunately for drivers, the arrival of Easter will also coincide with some very unsettled weather for some of us. The Met Office reports that snow showers over some higher ground are possible from Wednesday onwards with much colder air knocking on the door of the UK by the end of the week. Almost everywhere meanwhile will see a combination of rain and strong winds, making driving conditions less than ideal. The RAC is therefore advising motorists check their car is ready to avoid an unnecessary breakdown.

RAC traffic spokesman Rod Dennis said: “While Easter is a little earlier this year than last, our research suggests drivers are just as keen as ever to get away and make the most of the long weekend. In fact, between Thursday and bank holiday Monday our data indicates around a million more confirmed leisure journeys by car than in 2017.

“But if drivers are hoping for the longer days to herald better weather, they are likely to be disappointed. The ‘Beast from the East’ might have departed but much more unsettled conditions look set to make a very unwelcome return – with the risk of snow for some of us, and strong winds and rain for a lot of the country. We strongly recommend motorists keep abreast of the weather forecast through this week to help them organise their trips, especially if they are planning on driving any great distance.

“If you are planning a longer trip, we strongly recommend you ensure your car is up the job before you set out. Spending just a few minutes checking things like the condition of your vehicle’s tyres, its oil and screenwash levels and of course ensuring you have enough fuel for your journey, could make the difference between a trouble-free journey and an undesirable breakdown at the roadside. If conditions turn wintry, it is also advisable to be prepared by taking extra warm clothing, a blanket and a hot flask of drink – and make sure your mobile phone is fully charged so you can reach help if you need it.”

The planned upgrades to some parts of the national rail network will also likely see an increase in road traffic through the weekend, with buses carrying rail passengers in some parts of the north west, south west and east of England.

The better news for motorists is that many major routes – including motorways and some of the country’s busiest A roads – will be free of the majority of planned roadworks as a result of Highways England completing or pausing work in time for Easter.

Highways England’s customer service director, Melanie Clarke, said: “We’re doing everything we can to make journeys as smooth as possible this Easter and that’s why we’re keeping 99 per cent of the road network we manage, free from roadworks.

“Safety is our top imperative and we know from experience that almost half of breakdowns are avoidable and these can easily be avoided with simple vehicle checks. Easter is always a busy period on the road network and we’d urge all motorists to make sure they do their bit to check their vehicle is roadworthy before setting off over this period.”

Met Office Chief Meteorologist, Frank Saunders, said: “It is important to point out that we are not expecting anything on the scale of the last two spells of unusually cold weather which brought significant and disruptive snowfall.

“Throughout the Easter weekend it will stay unsettled with showers or longer outbreaks of rain for most. There will be some sunshine at times as well though, with the best of any drier and brighter weather expected across the northwest”.

Easter weekend – planned total leisure journeys by car

Maundy Thursday 29th March 3.18 million
Good Friday 30th March 4.45 million
Saturday 31st March 3.18 million
Easter Sunday 1st April 2.86 million
Bank Holiday Monday 2nd April 1.91 million
On one of the above days, but no specific date set yet 3.18 million

Easter weekend – expected peak travel times

Maundy Thursday 29th March Before 4pm or after 7pm
Good Friday 30th March Before 10am and after 4pm
Saturday 31st March Before 10am and after 4pm
Easter Sunday 1st April Before 10am and after 4pm
Bank Holiday Monday 2nd April Before 12pm and after 4pm

Likely Easter traffic hotspots

  • M25 between Gatwick Airport and M1
  • M3 south west of London
  • M4 west of London and between Cardiff and Swansea
  • A23/M23 to Brighton
  • A47 Swaffham to Great Yarmouth
  • M4/M5 around Bristol
  • M5 from Bristol to Taunton
  • A303 Stonehenge
  • A30 and A38 Exeter to Cornwall
  • M55 between Preston and Blackpool
  • A14 between the Midlands and the coast
  • A66 between M6 and the coast
  • M53 between Liverpool and Chester
  • A55 North Wales Expressway, Chester to Bangor

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