Great Summer Getaway clogged by nightmare traffic
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French holiday makers' plans for a great summer getaway looked set to be scuppered on Saturday, after thousands got stuck in traffic jams extending more than 800 km. And weather forecasts predicting heavy rain and storms could cause even more havoc.
The Bison Futé traffic website has described the circulation as a "Black Saturday," and with good reason. With thousands setting off on their journeys to distant climates, France's roads are literally chock-a-bloc.
Like every year, the worst affected motorways are those leading to the Mediterranean or the Atlantic.
But massive tailbacks have also been reported around Lyon and on the A10 between the French capital and Bordeaux.
The road misery began on Friday with already more than 550 km of traffic reported by the end of the day.
The high number of departures and arrivals -which has already generated 880km of traffic jams by just midday-looks set to beat last year's record of 966 km.
Bison Futé has issued a warning to holiday makers to delay their travel until Sunday. And for those already on the roads, the traffic website has advised them to make regular stops. Because according to the French Motorways association, the biggest cause of road accidents is sleeping behind the wheel.
Meanwhile, airports and train stations are also expected to take their toll. At Roissy Charles-De-Gaulles airport, on the outskirts of Paris, between 220,000 and 230,000 passengers bumped shoulders with travelers making alternate journeys.
While SNCF, the French national railway company, is expecting to receive up to 1,3 million passengers on its high-speed TGV trains this weekend alone.
Both the last Saturday of July and the first Saturday of August are traditionally designated as Black Saturdays. In two weeks, traffic is likely to be dense again, when holiday makers return on August 15.