Major roads to avoid as two million to head overseas for summer getaways on ‘one of busiest weekends of year’

The Port of Dover is warning it could take two-and-a-half hours to clear border checks
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More than two million holidaymakers are expected to head overseas this weekend as the majority of schools in England and Wales break up for the summer.

The start of the school holidays is set to spark traffic jams and delays at ports between Friday and Monday, with Saturday (22 July) expected to be the busiest day of the weekend, travel association Abta has warned.

Traffic jams are likely on major roads as people head off on summer breaks, with hotspots including the M5 south from near Bristol (junction 15) to Bridgwater (junction 23), according to Transport analysis company Inrix. The M25 clockwise between junction 10 for the A3 to Kingston and junction 6 for the A22 to East Grinstead is also expected to see traffic delays over this weekend.

Those travelling by rail won’t fare much better as passengers will be disrupted by strikes on Saturday as members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT), including station staff and train managers, walkout again over pay, jobs and conditions.

Traffic jams are expected on major roads as people head off on summer breaks this weekend (Photo: Getty Images)Traffic jams are expected on major roads as people head off on summer breaks this weekend (Photo: Getty Images)
Traffic jams are expected on major roads as people head off on summer breaks this weekend (Photo: Getty Images)

Elsewhere, the Port of Dover is warning it could take commuters up to two-and-a-half hours to clear border checks, with traffic likely to be disrupted further by heavy downpours. The Met Office has warned of disruption as heavy rain is forecast on Saturday, while a risk of thunderstorms is likely on Sunday. More than 6,000 cars are expected to arrive at the Port of Dover on Friday (21 July), followed by a further 7,500 on Saturday.

The Port said border control processing will generally take around one and a half hours on peak days, but this could rise to more than two hours between 6am and 1pm during the next two weekends due to the number of passengers. Enhanced post-Brexit passport checks by French border officials Police Aux Frontieres have significantly increased processing times at the Kent port.

Anyone travelling to the port between Friday and Sunday is advised to arrive up to three hours before sailings and to carry plenty of food and drinks. Shipping company DFDS has said additional sailings out of Dover will be added to its schedule this weekend to help ease delays.

Karen Baurdoux, customer performance manager for DFDS, said: “Our goal is to get our passengers on their way so they can enjoy their summer getaway, so if you are delayed on your journey to the port or at border control, rest assured that we will get you on the next available sailing when you then arrive at check-in.

“With extra sailings in place over the busy weekend we have ensured that there is plenty of space available for our customers so they can be on their way as quickly and as comfortably as possible.

“As it is one of the busiest weekends of the year, we would like to echo Port of Dover’s message that passengers should not arrive more than three hours before their scheduled sailing time. This is to help reduce the congestion on the roads approaching and through Dover, which will in turn make your journey to the port and through border control faster and smoother.

“Given the extreme heat on the continent and the high temperatures in the UK, we would also strongly advise all passengers to bring plenty of water and refreshments for their journey to the port.”

Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of passengers are expected to fly from Heathrow and Gatwick airports this weekend, with 199,000 due to travel through Stansted and 116,000 at Luton.

Around 200,000 people are due to depart from Manchester Airport, 71,000 from Bristol, and while Scottish schools are well into their summer holidays, many will still be leaving from Scottish airports this weekend, with more than 100,000 from Glasgow alone.

Spain remains the top destination for families, with the Costa del Sol, the Balearic and Canary Islands particular hotspots, but Abta members are also reporting strong demand for Bulgaria, Portugal, Turkey, Morocco and Greece.

The start of the summer holidays comes as much of Europe is continuing to see scorching temperatures in the high 30s and low 40s, prompting the UK Foreign Office to issue travel safety warnings for popular destinations including Spain, Greece and Italy.

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