Britain’s holidaymakers face further road travel woes as the four-day bank holiday gets under way, adding to the ongoing disruption at airports and some railway stations.
More than 19 million drivers are expected to take to the roads over the platinum jubilee weekend, according to a survey by the AA.
Andy Marchant, a traffic expert at the location technology firm TomTom, warned that motorists could expect “high levels of congestion” as people took to the roads amid celebrations for the Queen’s 70 years on the throne.
City of London police warned of road closures in the capital from Thursday evening until Friday afternoon due to the royals attending a service of thanksgiving at St Paul’s Cathedral. Meanwhile, jubilee street parties, the majority of which are expected to take place on Sunday, will see many routes closed.
The pressure on the roads comes as the UK’s airports have struggled to cope with a spike in demand during half-term, with tourists hit by lengthy queues and flight cancellations.
On Wednesday, British Airways and easyJet cancelled more than 150 flights to and from the UK, while passengers have also faced long waits at transport hubs in Europe and the US.
The lengthy queues, delays and cancellations have in some circumstances prompted police intervention, with officers called to Manchester airport on two different occasions.
On Sunday, police escorted hundreds of passengers from a Tui flight to Tenerife after it was stuck on the runway for more than three hours. A day earlier officers were drafted in to tell passengers that a Tui flight to Greek island Kos had been cancelled, despite passengers waiting more than eight hours for the flight.
Data from the aviation company Cirium said 377 flights from UK airports were cancelled in the seven days up to and including Tuesday.
The Eurostar, which has also suffered from severe delays this week, warned on Thursday morning that customers could expect further disruption after a fatality on the tracks in northern France.
In a statement on social media, the rail operator wrote: “Please arrive at the station at the time stated on your ticket. If you miss your onward connection please speak to a member of our staff. We apologise for the impact this may have on your plans.”
The transport secretary, Grant Shapps, met aviation industry bosses on Wednesday afternoon to discuss the travel chaos and had what was described as a “productive meeting”.
Shapps said in a statement afterwards that resourcing strains on the sector do “not excuse poor planning and overbooking flights that they [airlines] cannot service”. He said he had also conveyed concerns that airline passengers were being unfairly sold tickets for holidays they could not go on.
The chief executive of Airlines UK, Tim Alderslade, said the problem was not “an airline issue or an airport issue or a government issue”, but they all “ultimately have to work together to solve this”.
Those in attendance at the meeting included British Airways, easyJet and Tui – all of which have made cancellations – while airports represented included Gatwick, Birmingham, Bristol, Luton and Newcastle.
The aviation industry is suffering from staff shortages after letting thousands of people go during the Covid pandemic.
Despite an extensive recruitment drive by airlines and airports they are struggling to hire enough of the key staff needed to keep foreign travel running smoothly, such as baggage handlers.
The Department for Transport said the government and aviation industry would form a working group before the summer holidays to “work through issues of shared concern together”.