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Saturday, 4 May, 2002, 13:04 GMT 14:04 UK
Cup final traffic chaos averted
Queues on the M4 on Saturday morning
The M4 was packed with Cardiff-bound traffic
The traffic jams on roads which were expected as thousands flocked to Cardiff for the FA Cup Final have failed to materialise.

More than 70,000 Chelsea and Arsenal fans have made the journey to the Millennium Stadium on busy but relatively clear roads.

Motoring organisations had warned them to expect delays, especially on the main route, the M4 from London to South Wales.

Chelsea fans
Chelsea fans leave Paddington station for the game

But South Wales Police reported that most of the soccer fans had arrived in Cardiff by 1200BST.

"The motorways are clear, despite the predictions," a spokeswoman said.

"Most people seem to be here - the streets are full and the car parks are full.

"People seem to have taken our advice and left early."

Arsenal fan Michael Wylds, who left his home in Stansted, Essex, at 0630BST and made it to Cardiff by 1000BST, said there was a lot of traffic on the roads "but it was all moving".

"We had expected long queues, but we just drove straight through."

Busy Bank Holiday

In addition to the big football match, about 45,000 more people were expected at the Essential Music festival in Bristol, while 250,000 were due to attend the nearby Badminton Horse Trials.

The most congested spot was between junctions 20 and 22 on the M4, as traffic slows down to cross the Severn Bridge.

Some football fans had skipped land transport altogether and hired their own planes to get them to the match.

Both teams chartered British Airways aircraft to fly to Cardiff, while 300 Arsenal supporters chartered a Boeing 747 jumbo jet.

Travel advice
Listen to traffic bulletins
Plan journeys ahead
Allow plenty of time
Other fans relied on trains to get them to the Millennium Stadium.

The weekend started badly, with a power failure causing delays of up to two hours for supporters heading to Cardiff on First Great Western trains on Friday night.

But First Great Western spokesman John Roche told BBC News the network would cope with the extra demand over the weekend.

"We're doubling the number of scheduled services from seven to 14. We've put a number of extra staff in place... we're very happy to be able to move so many fans."

Football fans at Paddington station
Trains from London were full and pre-booked
A number of rail closures could mean further delays for those returning on Sunday - as well as those travelling by train to other UK destinations or to airports.

Paddington Station in London will be closed on Sunday for vital engineering works, which means no Heathrow Express trains to Heathrow Airport.

And work in Sawbridgeworth, Hertfordshire, will prevent the Stansted Express running between London's Liverpool Street station and the Essex airport.

Other hotspots

The RAC predicts more than three million will be hoping to visit major towns and venues throughout the country.

Drivers are advised to listen to traffic bulletins and plan journeys before setting out.

Other hotspots
Glasgow's Hampden Park, Sat
A16 Lincs Sat, Sun, Mon
Birmingham NEC Sat, Sun
A23 Sun
A406 North Circular, Mon
Other traffic hotspots are expected to include Glasgow's Hampden Park, which hosts the Scottish Cup Final on Saturday.

More than 20,000 bikers are expecting to use the A406 North Circular for Monday's London-to-Hastings run.

About 2,000 vehicles will fill the A23 for Sunday's 40th Historic Commercial Vehicle London-to-Brighton run.

The motorway network around Birmingham is likely to be affected by the BBC's Good Homes Show at the National Exhibition Centre on Saturday and Sunday.

The A16 and local roads in Lincolnshire could be congested around the Spalding Flower Parade and Festival.

And tourist chiefs have warned rail strikes planned for Monday could cause havoc across north Wales.

However, on a brighter note - forecasters are predicting a dry if cool weekend in most parts of the country.

The BBC's Emma Howard
"Keen to avoid the roads thousands of Chelsea and Arsenal supporters went by train"
First Great Western Trains' Tim Buxton
"We are running double the number of services between London and Cardiff"
See also:

03 May 02 | FA Cup
FA Cup final countdown
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