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Last Updated: Sunday, 24 August, 2003, 10:58 GMT 11:58 UK
Chaos averted in rail disruption
Paddington Station
Paddington Station was unusually quiet on Saturday

The chaos feared on UK roads because of the closure of major rail routes has so far been averted, although jams are predicted for Monday.

Motoring organisations had warned the track maintenance could push an extra six million passengers onto roads, with delays compounded by several major sports and music events.

But so far over the weekend, the only major tailback reported - on the southbound M5 past Bristol on Saturday - had eased.

Replacement rail services appeared to be working smoothly, and many people heeded warnings by setting off earlier than planned.

But the RAC said there were likely to be problems on Monday as holidaymakers returned home from various parts of the country.

A spokeswoman said: "We're expecting to see heavy traffic on the M5 heading up from Devon through Somerset as people return home from the south west.

"Other places to try and avoid would be the M23 from Crawley up to the M25 as there'll be a lot of people returning from Brighton.

"The M6 heading south from Blackpool area is also likely to be pretty congested"

Network Rail says the badly needed maintenance work was timed to avoid disrupting weekday commuters.

The engineering work on 77 miles of track - a significant proportion of the 600 miles of line needing annual renewal - means three sections of line are being replaced by bus services:

  • The Great Western Main Line is closed between Paddington and Reading until Tuesday morning, causing delays on journeys to the West Country.

  • The West Coast line is also closed, between Hemel Hempstead and Milton Keynes until 31 August, and between Stockport and Manchester. Journeys between Glasgow and London are likely to suffer delays.

  • Thames Trains are replaced by bus services between Maidenhead and Slough and between Bicester and Oxford, until Tuesday morning

  • In East Anglia, the line from London to Stansted Airport is closed on Sunday and Monday.

Delays may also occur on the Midland main line and East Coast services between London and Edinburgh. Passengers travelling between Birmingham and London have been advised to use the Chiltern Railways service.

On Saturday, hundreds of England rugby fans heading to Cardiff for the match against Wales were left stranded at Gloucester station as train services failed to cope.

Festival goers
Reading Festival - Friday, Saturday and Sunday
Leeds Festival - Friday, Saturday, Sunday
Creamfields Dance Festival, Liverpool - Saturday
Wales vs England, Millennium Stadium, Cardiff - Saturday
Notting Hill Carnival, West London - Sunday and Monday
British Superbike Championships, Louth, Lincolnshire - Monday
However, while staggered journeys appeared to have avoided big tailbacks on Saturday, significant delays are still expected on Monday as holidaymakers return home in time to resume work on Tuesday.

Additional congestion may be caused on Monday due to the British Superbike Championships in Louth, Lincolnshire, warned the AA.

Traffic jams could be made worse by roadworks on motorways, including the M1 near Nottingham, the M5 and M6 near Birmingham, the M4 near Reading and the M11 and M25.

Rail Passengers Council chairman Stuart Francis said people had been left in the dark about the closures and would question whether the work had been properly planned.

But John Armitt, Network Rail's chief executive, told BBC News: "The bank holidays are three-day weekends and when we are doing major works it gives us the opportunity to do these efficiently and at a reduced cost."

Paddington Station
Paddington Station was unusually quiet on Saturday

The BBC's Tom Symonds
"The roads today are no busier than a normal bank holiday"

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Holiday travel chaos: Are you affected?
22 Aug 03  |  Have Your Say


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