UK

Airports busy for Christmas Eve but roads quiet

M4 motorway near Heathrow Image copyright PA
Image caption Motorways have been running freely so far on Christmas Eve

Airports have been busy on Christmas Eve as many people choose to get away for the festive season.

About four million people are estimated to be heading abroad between 19 December and 3 January.

However trains were quieter than usual with fewer people commuting and the Highways Agency reported no major problems on England's main roads.

Major engineering works will affect the West Coast main line for several days starting from Christmas Eve night.

'Festive send-off'

Britain's busiest airport, Heathrow, was expecting 87,782 departing and 77,719 arriving passengers - and they were treated to boiled sweets in turkey, sage and onion stuffing and Christmas pudding flavours.

Heathrow chief operating officer Normand Boivin said: "With a huge number of passengers set to fly from Heathrow this Christmas, we are giving merry travellers a festive send-off as they embark on their holidays."

Image copyright PA
Image caption Travellers from Heathrow have been given tasty treats to eat

Glasgow Airport dealt with 120,000 passengers between Thursday and Tuesday, up 10% on last year, but expected a slight drop-off on Christmas Eve.

A spokeswoman said: "It's been busy over the past three or four days, over the long weekend into yesterday. Obviously a lot of people are travelling to see family or friends, or to go on holiday to get away from the festivities here."

About 20,000 people will be flying out of Cardiff Airport over Christmas, heading to destinations including Sharm El Sheikh in Egypt and Spanish resorts.

The situation at Gatwick Airport was calm, in contrast to last year when flooding led to a power outage that caused delays and cancellations.

Fire engines were put on alert at Manchester Airport after a technical fault was found with an engine on an Emirates Airbus A380 superjumbo from Dubai but were not needed.

Turkey dinners

The most popular destinations for Britons heading abroad include the Canary Islands, Tunisia and Morocco, as well as Dubai, Mexico, Cuba and Egypt further afield.

British Airways has 267 scheduled flights on Christmas Day, on which 37,000 turkey dinners will be served. The top destinations for BA passengers over Christmas are Dubai, Barbados, New York, Australia and Barcelona.

Ryanair is carrying 3.5 million passengers between 20 December and 6 January - an increase of 500,000 over a similar period last year.

Eleven thousand staff will carry out engineering work, mostly on Christmas Day and Boxing Day, over the holiday period as part of a £200m programme on the national rail network.

The West Coast main line will be closed between Euston and Hemel Hempstead until December 29, and between Stafford and Crewe until December 28.

There will also be disruption to services using Paddington, London Bridge and King's Cross stations in London.

Bright and cold

A serious accident led to the closure of the M57 northbound at junctions 2 and 3 near Prescot, Merseyside. There were also delays on the M25 clockwise in Surrey between junctions 10 and 11 because of an accident.

Many major sets of roadworks in England were finished before Christmas, or have been suspended for the festive period, although 63 remain in place for safety reasons.

The AA, which had 3,300 call-outs on Christmas Day last year, will have 350 patrols on duty this year.

Coach company National Express has reported record demand on its routes, with the busiest day being this Saturday. First Bus said it would carry a record 250,000 passengers on Boxing Day.

Christmas morning will be frosty across the UK, with average winter temperatures of about 7C (45F) on Christmas Day.

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