The Reading and Leeds festivals are off and the Notting Hill Carnival is being held online, but motoring organisations are predicting a far from quiet August Bank Holiday weekend.

RAC research suggests an estimated 18 million journeys will be made by car, 1.8 million more than last year.

It says the rise is most likely due to more people returning home after taking breaks in the UK due to the pandemic.

Forecasters say temperatures over the four days will be below average.

The research for the RAC suggests there could still be heavy traffic on popular routes this weekend as people set off on breaks, daytrips, or drive home from staycations.

The motoring organisation says Friday is expected to see the largest volume of cars on the road with an estimated 5.6 million separate journeys, with 4.7 million on Saturday, 3.7 million on Sunday, and 4.4 million on Monday, when it will be a bank holiday in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

RAC spokesman Rod Dennis said: “Both official government statistics and our own data from insurance customers show that weekend traffic is now back to pre-lockdown levels.

“It’s clear therefore that despite the pandemic, the car has been a vital part of making sure many people have been able to enjoy the summer safely.”

He added that traffic “may even turn out to be busier on the roads than last year with many more people returning home this weekend after a staycation”.

Delays and hotspots

The AA is predicting traffic queues on popular stretches of road to tourist spots will likely lead to some delays, but says with many events cancelled and sport taking place behind closed gates, local roads should be quieter.

Among the traffic hotspots reported by the RAC on Friday morning were the M5 south near Portishead, and the M5 and A30 at Exeter, towards the South West.

It comes as Devon and Cornwall Police are urging tourists heading to the region to “respect communities” over the weekend.

“Many thousands of visitors, some already in the region, are expected to be residing in the counties over the three-day holiday with congested roads and demand on all emergency services resources expected to be high,” the force said.

“Tourism bosses are already predicting the region is at full capacity, so the message to all visitors is book ahead and plan your trip, expect delays on the road network, and when you do come, support and enjoy the local economy, but do it respectfully.”

While some areas are expected to be busy, the overall number of people going away this bank holiday is expected to be down 44% on 2019 – mainly because of fewer visits to cities.

According to a survey conducted by Visit Britain, 4.8 million people were planning an overnight stay between Friday and Monday – down from 8.6 million last year.

Patricia Yates, director of the tourism agency, told the BBC that while beach resorts and national parks were expected to be busy, businesses in cities were still being affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

She said tourism businesses have been working flat-out to welcome customers back safely, but: “There is a nervousness from people about using public transport and going to indoor attractions.”

Festival changes

Liam Gallagher, Stormzy and Rage Against The Machine had been set to headline this year’s Reading and Leeds music festivals, but they were were cancelled in May because of the pandemic.

And for the first time in its 54-year history, the Notting Hill Carnival is set to be held virtually. Music and performances usually performed on the streets of west London have been recorded in studios and will be streamed on the festival’s website.

Matthew Phillip, the festival’s executive director, is urging people to enjoy the event “at home safely” and warned people against coming to the area for a street party.

He said: “We would ask them to respect carnival, respect the community, and also respect the health and wellbeing of the people that have been affected by this pandemic.”

But in London, the Met Police says 4,500 officers will be on duty over the weekend amid concerns coronavirus rules on social distancing and face coverings were being breached at illegal raves.

New laws have come into force in England and Wales following a recent increase in illegal events that mean organisers of gatherings of more than 30 people can be fined up to £10,000.

Businesses holding events this bank holiday have had to adapt to the coronavirus restrictions.

The Luna Cinema launched drive-in cinemas at venues including Ascot racecourse after its traditional outdoor seated movie screenings were curtailed for several weeks by the pandemic.

Luna Cinema founder George Wood said: “We’ve now also started back up with our traditional outdoor season that has been carefully curated and planned to ensure safety and enjoyment for all.

“We’ve made every aspect of the events fully compliant with social distancing regulations: designated pitches… sanitised seating… and ample hand sanitiser for all guests.”

Lower temperatures

Meanwhile, weather forecasters say temperatures are expected to be below average for the time of year over the bank holiday weekend.

The Met Office says highs will range from 14C to 19C over the weekend, with the highest temperatures in London, although parts of Scotland will be chillier – reaching 11C in some areas, well below the average of 16C usually seen in the country at this time of year.

BBC Weather presenter Sarah Keith-Lucas says heavy rain and winds brought flooding to many areas of the UK this week and would continue to affect Wales, the Midlands and southern England on Friday.

A northerly wind will bring in further showers for northern Scotland and the east coast of England and south-east England on Saturday but should start to ease later in the weekend.

On Monday, it is looking largely dry and less breezy and cooler than it has been, she added.

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