World Cup 2018: Early rush hour ahead of England v Croatia

England fans in London Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Pubs, bars, gardens and parks are getting ready to host huge World Cup parties

England fans are racing to get home for the World Cup semi-final, making for an earlier rush hour than usual.

The RAC said motorways are busy and traffic will peak at 18:00 BST before the roads become "dead" by kick-off.

Rail travellers say early evening services are "packed", especially as some operators have lifted ticket restrictions on peak-time journeys.

England play Croatia at Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium at 19:00 BST - their first World Cup semi-final in 28 years.

"It's not so much a rush hour as a 'coming home hour'," said Simon Williams of the RAC, who said the heaviest traffic will be between 16:00 and 18:00.

The AA predicted that millions of people will be going home early and, by 19:00, roads will be "much quieter than on Christmas Day".

Edmund King, president of the AA, said: "Historically, the biggest TV events and quietest roads in the UK were during the World Cup final in 1966 followed by the funeral of Diana, Apollo 13, royal weddings and Muhammad Ali's 'Rumble in the Jungle'. This game will join the list.

"Rail commuters may also take earlier trains, perhaps worried about delays or staff shortages due to the match."

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Media captionWorld Cup 2018: How England v Sweden interrupted a nation

Highways England said traffic dropped by about a third when England played Colombia earlier in the tournament, with people travelling home earlier or choosing not to travel at all by working from home or watching the match near work.

Rail operators Southern, Great Northern and Thameslink urged people to allow plenty of time to travel.

Virgin Trains and LNER have eased restrictions on its West Coast Mainline trains leaving London Euston station so people with off-peak or advance tickets can catch any train.

The Rail Delivery Group said there was a 25% increase in timetable searches on National Rail for trains between 15:00 and 16:00, compared with a usual Wednesday.

National Express West Midlands tweeted that congestion "is pretty bad at the moment as many are leaving work early to get home for the football".

Meanwhile, the union for shopworkers, Usdaw, urged employers to be "as flexible as possible" with staff wanting to support England and watch tonight's game.

About 1,000 workers at BMW Mini in Oxford will finish three hours early today, with the firm's press officer Steve Wrelton saying it "felt like the right thing to do".

And Rolls-Royce in Goodwood will suspend all production early to give its employees a chance to watch the game.

And the Asian Catering Federation, which represents the Asian takeaway and restaurant industry, urged any fans wanting a curry to "order your takeaway early".

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Media captionHow Gareth Southgate inspired some waistcoat imitators

The British Beer and Pub Association predicts that the number of pints bought will soar by 10 million during tonight's semi-final, and it could bring a boost to the economy of up to £30m.

Chief executive Brigid Simmonds said it was "fantastic news" for the "great British pub".

Many people - including staff at Nunnery Wood High School in Worcester - are embracing so-called "waistcoat Wednesday" in honour of England manager Gareth Southgate.

Others noticed the difference on their morning commute.

British Airways gave free waistcoats to some passengers travelling from London Heathrow to Moscow, along with boarding passes showing a traveller named "football" and the destination "home".

Anticipation is reaching fever pitch, with the possibility that England could reach their first World Cup final since 1966 if they defeat Croatia.

Nearly 20 million television viewers watched England beat Sweden in the quarter-finals on Saturday.

The winners of tonight's game will face France in the final at 16:00 on Sunday.

Hundreds of England supporters have been arranging last-minute trips to Russia after the side booked their semi-final place with a 2-0 win over Sweden on Saturday.

England catches World Cup fever

Image copyright Getty Images

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