‘Last-minute getaway trips’ face disruption due to wet and windy UK weather

UK

“Last-minute getaway trips” could be disrupted due to wet and windy weather in the run-up to Christmas, the RAC has warned.

A number of yellow weather warnings for rain and wind are coming into force from Saturday 23 December until Christmas Day morning, mainly affecting northern Scotland but stretching down to parts of the east and west of England and parts of Wales.

Warnings for snow and ice also cover Inverness, Orkney and the Shetland islands. They were in place since 9pm today and last until 12pm tomorrow.

UK weather latest – the forecast where you are

The Met Office warned of potential disruption, adding that strong winds can cause cancellations to road, rail, air and ferry services.

“With this latest weather warning affecting a large area of Scotland and parts of northern England, there is the chance travellers’ last-minute getaway trips could be disrupted,” Rod Dennis, a spokesperson for RAC Breakdown, added.

“If trains are significantly delayed people are more likely to shift to the roads, which could add to already exceptionally high traffic volumes. Nationally, we expect around 3.2m separate getaway journeys to be made today by car.”

Passengers at St Pancras International station, London, as Christmas getaway chaos is expected to continue as the backlog from the suspension of cross-Channel rail services begins to clear and the weather remains unsettled. An unexpected strike by Eurotunnel French site staff on Thursday led to widespread disruption, before it came to end in the evening, with trade union representatives reaching an agreement with management. Picture date: Friday December 22, 2023.
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Disgruntled passengers at St Pancras station

He advised drivers to “be on their guard” when driving and reduce their speed, especially on more rural routes.

Motorway closures, train cancellations and queues to cross the Channel had already caused travel chaos for many across the UK since Thursday, partly due to Storm Pia.

‘Frantic Friday’

On the railways, strong winds led to services being suspended, particularly in Scotland, while in London, queues at St Pancras formed as the day was dubbed “Frantic Friday”.

Passengers at St Pancras International station, London, as Christmas getaway chaos is expected to continue as the backlog from the suspension of cross-Channel rail services begins to clear and the weather remains unsettled. An unexpected strike by Eurotunnel French site staff on Thursday led to widespread disruption, before it came to end in the evening, with trade union representatives reaching an agreement with management. Picture date: Friday December 22, 2023.
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Queues of passengers at St Pancras International station

Many services were playing catch-up after cancelled Eurostar trains due to unscheduled industrial action by French workers led to passengers having to rebook tickets.

In central London, the Elizabeth Line suffered severe delays between London Paddington, Reading and Heathrow Airport on Friday afternoon after two trains broke down.

 Passengers dressed as Christmas trees at St Pancras International station, London, as Christmas getaway chaos is expected to continue as the backlog from the suspension of cross-Channel rail services begins to clear and the weather remains unsettled. An unexpected strike by Eurotunnel French site staff on Thursday led to widespread disruption, before it came to end in the evening, with trade union representatives reaching an agreement with management. Picture date: Friday December 22, 2023.

While at King’s Cross Station, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak even made a surprise appearance, where he brought multiple boxes of mince pies – reportedly to give to key workers – at Marks & Spencer.

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Rishi Sunak buys several boxes of mince pies

His appearance came as the Department for Transport said rail fares will hike 4.9% from 3 March next year.

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90-minute wait in Dover and ‘limited’ facilities

Elsewhere, the Port of Dover in Kent said it was taking about 90 minutes to process cars, with passengers warned of “limited toilet facilities” and urged to bring refreshments to make the wait as comfortable as possible.

It attributed delays to a surge in demand for ferries after the Channel Tunnel rail link was closed on 21 December.

Delays at Port of Dover
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Delays at Port of Dover

Motorists were advised to travel before 11am or after 6pm if possible to reduce the chance of being stuck in long queues.

But closures on the M4 westbound and the A66 in both directions between south at Bridgefoot and north at Cockermouth in Cumbria led to long delays.

Delay at Eurotunnel
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Queues at Eurotunnel in Calais lasted until early evening

The M62 motorway was also closed from around 11pm on Thursday until shortly before 9am on Friday between junctions 21 (near Rochdale, Greater Manchester) and 22 (near Sowerby Bridge, West Yorkshire) because of a police investigation following a crash in which a 19-year-old male car passenger was killed.

The RAC estimated 13.5 million leisure journeys by car would take place across the UK between Friday and Sunday, up 20% on the three days before Christmas Day last year.

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