UK drivers are being warned to expect long delays this Easter, as more than 14 million getaway trips are said to be taking place across the first bank holiday weekend of the year.

The RAC said journeys on some popular routes could take twice as long as normal as the extended weekend coincides with the start of a two-week holiday for many schools, leading to a surge in traffic.

Rail travel will also be disrupted as Network Rail carries out engineering work, with the southern section of the West Coast Main Line closed between Good Friday (March 29) and Easter Monday (April 1).

It comes as tourist board VisitEngland said around 11 million people in the UK are planning an overnight Easter trip, generating an estimated £3.2 billion boost to the economy.

VisitEngland chief executive Patricia Yates said: “Tourism businesses and destinations will be looking to the critical Easter weekend for much-needed cash flow after the lean winter months so it’s really encouraging to see so many of us are planning a holiday at home.

“We also know from our latest research that the cost of living remains a concern and while people are still keen to take a break, many are booking late, taking shorter breaks, wanting to save on accommodation, activities and eating out, highlighting the ongoing challenges for industry.”

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The RAC and transport analysis company Inrix commissioned a survey which suggested 2.6 million leisure journeys by car will be made on Good Friday.

Some 2.3 million getaway trips are planned for each of Easter Saturday (March 30) and Easter Sunday (March 31), with 2 million expected to take place on each of Thursday (March 28) and Easter Monday.

Hexham Courant: Have you got travel plans this Easter bank holiday weekend?Have you got travel plans this Easter bank holiday weekend? (Image: Gareth Fuller/PA)

A further 3.3 million Easter leisure journeys have been planned by drivers who are undecided exactly what day they will travel, leading to a total of around 14.5 million getaway trips between Thursday and Easter Monday.

Inrix predicted that the worst congestion on Thursday will be between 2pm and 7pm as people on leisure journeys compete for road space with regular commuters.

Additionally, the busiest route is expected to be the western section of the M25 between the M23 for Gatwick and the M1 for Hertfordshire.

Journeys on this stretch from 4pm are expected to take over two hours, which is more than twice as long as usual.

On Good Friday, the lengthiest delays are expected to be between 11am and 3pm, meaning drivers are advised to set off as early as possible in the morning or wait until later in the afternoon.

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Two popular routes for holidaymakers – the M5 southbound between Bristol and Taunton, and the M3 between the M25 and the south coast – are likely to be congested, with estimated journey times more than double what they normally are.

RAC Breakdown spokesperson Alice Simpson commented: “With Easter falling earlier than usual at the start of the school holidays, it could be carmageddon for holidaymakers.

“Anyone who can delay leaving on Thursday until much later in the evening or set off as early as possible on Good Friday is likely to have a better journey than those who travel during the peak periods of the day.

“Lengthy queues can be expected along routes to the usual hotspots like the West Country, the Lake District and the south coast, especially during the middle of the day when most people make trips.”

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Inrix transportation analyst Bob Pishue added: “Although travel times will peak on Thursday and Friday afternoons, drivers should be prepared for longer journeys than normal throughout the entire weekend.

“To avoid the longest delays, we advise adjusting departure times so you’re not travelling in peak commuter hours.”

The RAC and Inrix survey of 2,136 UK adults was conducted by research company Find Out Now last week.