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Queues at Dover as Christmas getaway begins for millions

Millions of people across the country are making their Christmas getaway on one of the busiest days for travel of the year.

There are long queues at the Port of Dover after a surge in demand for ferries caused by Thursday’s Eurotunnel strike action in France.

Domestic train services in parts of the UK have also been disrupted.

The RAC has advised drivers to travel after 18:00 GMT to avoid long queues on the roads.

The organisation has said Friday will be the busiest day of the festive season as those heading away will share the roads with commuters and those on the school run picking up children.

Some 13.5 million leisure journeys are predicted to take place between Friday and Sunday – a 20% increase on the three days before Christmas Day last year – with 21 million trips overall. Millions make Christmas getaway on busy travel day

People have been urged to start their journeys as early as possible on Saturday and Sunday, with the busiest time to travel falling between midday and 14:00.

Some motorways are already facing disruption.

The M62, which connects Lancashire to Yorkshire, has been closed in both directions between junctions 21, near Rochdale, and 22, near Sower Bridge since 23:00 on Thursday after a 19-year-old man died in a collision.

Strong winds from Storm Pia brought misery to thousands on Thursday, with all rail lines to and from London Euston blocked, and Eurostar and Eurotunnel services cancelled by a last-minute walkout in France.

Some 130 rail services to and from King’s Cross and Euston stations were cancelled, and hundreds more were delayed.

The unexpected strikes in France were over by Thursday evening. Eurostar has added six extra services between Friday and Sunday to help alleviate the backlog in the run up to Christmas.

The Port of Dover said there were 90-minute delays at French border controls on Friday morning because of the demand following the strikes.

P&O Ferries apologised for delays, telling customers they were “working hard with the authorities involved to improve the situation”. It said passengers would be “accommodated on the next available sailing once you get through”.

Rail services are returning to normal in parts of the country, though the network is expected to be very busy throughout the course of the day.

There is also some localised disruption on parts of the network.

No London North Eastern Railway trains are serving Inverness on Friday morning.

ScotRail services remain suspended between Inverness and Wick, Tain, Ardgay and Lairg.

Meanwhile, Southeastern said it was forced to cancel a number of trains due to “a shortage of available train crew”.

There will be no service on the Sheerness line after 10:00 for the rest of the day, and there are cancellations on the high speed line to and from London St Pancras throughout the day.

London’s Paddington station will be closed from Christmas Eve until Thursday 28 December for engineering works.

Most long-distance services will be cancelled from London King’s Cross on 24 December.

London Heathrow is expecting its busiest day of the winter season on Friday, with an estimated 250,000 people flying from the airport.

Flights at the airport were delayed or cancelled on Thursday as a result of the storm, while British Airways has cancelled a further 20 flights on Friday.

Heathrow Airport will have no Heathrow Express services to or from central London between Christmas Eve and 27 December.

The Met Office has issued several weather warnings over the coming days.

Yellow warnings for wind will come into effect in parts of the Midlands, the north of England and northern Scotland on Christmas Eve, while parts of Wales will face a warning for rain.