MANY Scots look set to shun the traditional Easter getaway as poor weather and continuing concerns over a possible fuel strike persuade motorists to stay at home.
A survey of drivers by the AA found that just over 20 per cent had definite plans to drive somewhere over the long weekend, with high fuel prices, a mixed weather forecast and fears of a possible tanker drivers’ strike likely to lead to quieter roads than in previous years.
However, the country is still gearing up for one of the busiest weekends of the year on the roads, with airports and train companies also expecting a huge surge in passengers.
The AA said it expected roads to be significantly quieter than last year, when Easter and the royal wedding fell on consecutive weekends.
The motoring organisation said that despite fuel supplies returning to near-normal levels after unions called off the threat of a tanker strike over Easter, some drivers had lingering concerns about their tanks running empty.
Its survey found that around half of those polled had no plans to drive over Easter.
Gavin Hill-Smith, a spokesman for the AA, said: “We are expecting it to be a bit quieter on the roads this year.
“Most of the schools broke up last Friday, so it’s been a bit more staggered in terms of people getting away.
“With the current fuel situation, we know some people have concerns about driving long distances. There’s also the high price of fuel, and we know from our own research that people are cutting back on the amount of driving they do.”
Despite the prospect of quieter roads than in previous years, there are still expected to be more than seven million passengers on Britain’s railways over the weekend.
The Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) said the majority of travellers would experience no disruption because of improvement works.
Figures from ATOC and Network Rail show that the number of replacement buses has dropped by over a third compared with last Easter.
ATOC chief executive Michael Roberts said: “We’re expecting millions of people to travel by train as they head off on days out around the country to see friends and family.
“On the small number of routes affected by improvement works, a great deal of planning goes into making sure that we keep passengers on trains as much as possible.”
Scotland’s two largest airports are expecting more than 300,000 passengers between them over the weekend, with Glasgow Airport warning travellers to allow more time for their journeys due to roadworks on the M8 at the White Cart Viaduct.
Amanda McMillan, managing director at Glasgow Airport, said: “The Easter school holiday break is always a busy time for the airport and this year will be no different, which is very encouraging.
“We have enjoyed a great deal of success in recent months in expanding our route network and the greater choice of destinations is one of the main reasons why more people are choosing to start their holiday from Glasgow Airport.”
Travel organisation Abta said that around 1.5 million people from across the UK would be heading abroad for Easter.
Spain is the favourite holiday destination for Britons travelling overseas, with Cyprus and Tunisia also selling well.
Top city breaks are Paris, Dublin, Amsterdam, Rome and New York, with skiers heading for Geneva.
Earlier this week, airlines warned Home Secretary Theresa May that Britain faced “gridlock” at airports over the Easter break due to staff shortages.
British Airways and Virgin Airlines are among 11 firms that have written to Mrs May in anticipation of “unacceptable” delays to hundreds of thousands of passengers travelling over the long weekend.
The UK Border Agency is under fire for a lack of staff to carry out full security checks, which the airlines say must result in a recruitment drive or the relaxing of some of the more stringent measures currently in place.
According to the Met Office, much of Scotland is expected to see wet or cloudy conditions over the weekend. However, there will be no return to the wintry weather seen earlier in the week.
A spokesman for Transport Scotland said: “We would encourage anyone planning to travel over Easter to check the Traffic Scotland website and plan their journey in advance.”
Breakdown service Green Flag said around £145 million would be spent on fuel by those taking to the road over Easter, with Scottish drivers travelling an average of 111.8 miles – the longest distance of any drivers in the UK.
The company said the busiest departure time was likely to be 10:30am today.