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Last Updated: Friday, 21 December 2007, 14:06 GMT
Festive test for transport network
As Britons endure what is expected to be the busiest day of the year on roads and trains, BBC correspondents report from key positions on the UK's transport network.

DANNY SAVAGE, YORK RAILWAY STATION

When the great sweeping canopy above York railway station was completed it became the biggest station in the world.

It no longer holds that title but today it will see its fair share of the UK's biggest exodus of the year.

National Express now operates services here on the east coast mainline.

They say the last normal weekday before Christmas is always the busiest of the year.

They have made more tickets available and they have all been sold.

Throughout the afternoon, the distinctive dark blue carriages of the trains which run between London and Scotland will shuffle north and southward through the platforms here packed with people on the move for Christmas.

National Express spokesman John Gelson said: "Many services are running at capacity but there are still some seats available.

York Station
Friday is the busiest day of the year for York station

"This will be our busiest day of the year and we do have extra staff on trains and at stations to help passengers."

The coffee shop at York station was busy with travellers this afternoon but few seemed fazed by it being the busiest day of the year.

David Cleaton, a student from Dundee, was on his way back to Scotland from visiting family in South Wales.

He booked in advance and paid 90 for his ticket.

"We reserved our seats but our train to York was really quiet. There were fewer people around than when we went down on Monday."

There were similar sentiments from Deborah Caterall from Wigan.

"It was slightly quieter than normal. I think people are getting wiser about when to travel."

But services are set to get busier throughout the day, especially this evening.

ANTHONY BARTRAM, NATIONAL TRAFFIC CONTROL CENTRE

With a bank of live monitors and computer screens in front of them, the team at the National Traffic Control Centre, beside the M5 near Birmingham, have the answers to that classic question from the back seat: "Are we nearly there yet?"

The Highways Agency's nerve centre takes in information from its live cameras and roadside sensors on all the motorways and main trunk roads.

Operators also receive updates from the police and emergency services so, if a major incident does happen, diversion routes and advice can be sent out within minutes.

Information about hold-ups and driving conditions are passed on via a network of 2,500 electronic message signs at the roadside, satellite navigation systems, the internet and radio traffic reports.

Large venues such as sports grounds and shopping centres are also alerted of problems affecting them.

Traffic in Edinburgh on Friday
About 18m cars are expected on the roads on Friday
It has been a case of so far so good on the first day of this year's getaway.

Most routes have been running smoothly through the morning rush hour with the exception of two hold-ups on the M6. However, congestion is expected to build steadily. Head of the control centre Steve Crosthwaite said: "At this time of year, the traffic flow peaks at around 350,000 vehicles on our motorways and trunk roads at any one time.

"Our advice to motorists is to plan your journey and pay close attention to the information that is out there on our website and local radio traffic information.

"We are hoping that, because Christmas Day hasn't fallen on the weekend this year, there won't be such a rush to get away all in one day."

Some good news for motorists is that almost two-thirds of England's major roadworks have been either completed or suspended over the Christmas and New Year period.

Some 500 Highways Agency traffic officers will also be out patrolling 24 hours a day as usual.


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