Christmas getaway chaos is expected to continue on Friday as the backlog from the suspension of cross-Channel rail services begins to clear and the weather remains unsettled.
An unexpected strike by Eurotunnel French site staff on Thursday led to widespread disruption, before it came to end in the evening – with trade union representatives reaching an agreement with management.
The industrial action affected Eurostar – which operates passenger services to and from London St Pancras – and Eurotunnel Le Shuttle, which runs vehicle-carrying trains to and from Folkestone.
At least 30 Eurostar trains were cancelled but services will resume on Friday morning, with the company promising to run six extra trains between Paris and London into the weekend – an extra two trains each on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Le Shuttle services resumed Thursday evening.
As a result of the suspension in cross-Channel rail services, the M20 coastbound carriageway between Junctions 8 and 9 was temporarily closed.
Kent Police announced the “emergency measure” to allow freight bound for the continent to queue on the empty section of motorway to try to minimise disruption to Kent’s wider road network.
The Port of Dover reported 90-minute wait times for tourists at French border control, which was “expected to clear” over Thursday evening.
Strong winds were also disrupting the Christmas getaway on Britain’s domestic railway and continued unsettled weather may extend travel issues.
Passengers hoping to travel from London Euston could continue to face disruption after services were cancelled on Thursday following damage to overhead electric wires.
The RAC estimated 13.5 million leisure journeys by car would take place across the UK between Friday and Sunday, up 20% on the three days before Christmas Day last year.
Road congestion is likely to peak on Friday – the last working day before Christmas Day – as drivers embarking on leisure trips competed for road space with commuters and business traffic.
Motorists were being advised to travel before 11am or after 6pm if possible to reduce the chance of being stuck in long queues.
Likely traffic hotspots on the M25 identified by transport analysis company Inrix include clockwise between junction 7 (for the M23/Gatwick Airport) and junction 16 (for the M40/Birmingham), and anti-clockwise between junction 17 (Rickmansworth) and junction 12 (for the M3).
Other motorway stretches expected to see long queues included the M1 north from Woburn, Bedfordshire, to Daventry, Northamptonshire, and the M6 south from Wigan, Greater Manchester, to Stafford, Staffordshire.
Network Rail is preparing to launch its festive engineering works, which will cause disruption to journeys.
London Paddington will be closed between Sunday and December 27, meaning no mainline trains will serve Heathrow Airport during that period.
London King’s Cross will also be closed on Christmas Eve.
Outside of the capital, an engineering project near Southampton will cause some disruption to services, as will work to build the new Cambridge South station.
No trains will operate on Christmas Day, while a very limited service will run on Boxing Day.
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