Travel chaos predicted as holidays begin

Last updated at 11:00 17 December 2004

The first big get-away of Christmas is beginning today as schools break up for the festive period.

Motoring organisations predicted a busy evening rush-hour, with jams around shopping centres over the weekend.

An RAC spokeswoman said: "It's always busy when school term ends and today is going to be pretty congested on the roads.

"We reckon the worst days next week will be Wednesday and Thursday, with traffic peaking on Thursday evening as many people head off for a long Christmas break without working on Christmas Eve."

Airport operator BAA has announced that two million people are expected to travel through its seven UK airports from December 22-28.

The busiest day will be Tuesday, December 28, when nearly 400,000 people will be travelling through the seven airports. Of these, nearly 190,000 passengers will be passing through Heathrow, 100,000 through Gatwick and 60,000 through Stansted.

Tenerife, Geneva and Malaga are the top Christmas destinations favoured by Gatwick passengers, while Heathrow's most popular routes are New York, Dublin and Paris.

Low-fare carrier Ryanair will handle a record 1.35 million passengers over the festive period this year - 100,000 up on last year.

Meanwhile, both the AA and the RAC said fears that Wednesday this week (December 15) would be the worst day for accidents on the roads appeared to have been unrealised.

Lloyds TSB had made the claim, based on the insurance claims it had received from the same day last year.

An AA Roadwatch spokesman said: "It was a fairly average day on the roads last Wednesday, with no major problems."