‘Record’ Jams Black Saturday

TODAY: Black Saturday traffic jams cause ‘record’ tailbacks in France. Are there lessons to learn ahead of two more busy Saturdays this month?

Also, large-scale WW1 commemorations in Belgium. Trouble anticipated in Calais as migrant’s camp removed. Queues of up to 45mins at border controls Calais. Deadly floods Bulgaria; mopping up Italy. Major forest fire Sweden.

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FRANCE: ‘RECORD’ TRAFFIC JAMS ON BLACK SATURDAY

Lessons learned ahead of two more Black Saturday this month.

Map: red roads, severe delays. Green: less busy. Blue: quiet

Record traffic jams of 994km were recorded at 12:30CET in France on Saturday (2 August), on so-called Black Saturday, the first major getaway of the summer.

The counting methodology changed a few years ago so direct historical comparisons are not valid. And the figures don’t give a completely rounded picture since they count up every single holdup, massive and tiny, across the entire network. Nevertheless, traffic smashed 2013’s total of 828km. There were clearly more cars on the road this year.

So what lessons can drivers draw as they contemplate making their way across France on the busiest days of the year, especially as there are another two Black Saturdays to come this month?

Firstly, the queues started really early. By 06:30CET there were already hours’ long delays on the major routes south. Traffic does tend to start earlier in France than elsewhere but this was exceptional.

As predicted, the A71/A75 via Clermont Ferrand and A20 Limoges-Toulouse were quieter than A7 Lyon-Avignon and A10 Paris-Orleans-Bordeaux though an accident on A71/A75 clogged it up pretty severely first thing.

The A20 is particularly recommended as a route to Spain. Total delays A9 Orange-Perpignan never dipped below two hours for most of the day and were still more than one hour at 18:30. A61 Toulouse-Narbonne is out too though because it was busy here until well past 16:00.

Surprisingly quiet was the A6 Paris-Lyon, even early on. Also, despite the bulk of delays on the A10 predictably centering on Niort and Saintes, there was no congestion on the N10 which neatly bypasses these hotspots, Poitiers-Angouleme-Bordeaux. N85 from Grenobles to the Cote d’Azur was quiet too.

Most importantly, as usual, delays peaked in the early afternoon and fell away steadily. Drivers hitting Lyon at 16:00 would, more or less, and increasingly, have had the road to themselves.

That’s good news for drivers leaving Calais from mid-morning onwards. Nice is another 4h45 driving time but it would have been all on near-clear roads: A7/A8 Avignon-Nice was almost completely free-flowing both ways all day.

Overall, despite the record jams, it could have been – might be – worse. While Saturdays 9 and 16 August are only expected to be ‘black’ days in the south, last year traffic peaked on 17 August. The good news is that by Saturday 23 August the rush is well and truly past.

To sum up: leave late, or delay your arrival south of Lyon (e.g. with a long, lazy lunch) until mid to late afternoon. Keep your eyes and ears on the various sources of traffic info. Be prepared to take the N10 from Poitiers if it’s bad at Niort/Saintes. Head for Spain via Toulouse. Consider N85 Grenoble-Cannes: it’s six hours to the Cote d’Azur but 4h45 plus jams A7/A8 from Lyon.

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Iron Duke: a Mark 2 tank makes its way through Arras in northern France in April 1917. Several events are being held in Belgium today to mark 100 years since the beginning of World war One. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge attend a reception at Liege town hall at noon - along with Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande - then another at Mons town hall at 15:30 along with Prince Harry (who will also be in Folkestone at 10:45). All three britsh Royals then attend a twilight ceremony at St Symphorien Cemetary in Mons from 18:30.

Iron Duke: a Mark 2 tank makes its way through Arras in northern France in April 1917. Photo Imperial War Museum, iwm.org.uk. Events are being held in Belgium today to mark 100 years since the beginning of World War One. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge attend a reception at Liege town hall at 13:00 – along with Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande – then another at Mons town hall at 16:30 along with Prince Harry (who will also be in Folkestone at 10:45). All three British Royals then attend a twilight ceremony at St Symphorien Cemetary in Mons from 19:30. War was officially declared at 23:00 UK time 4 August 1914.

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GIBRALTAR FRONTIER WATCH: nice quiet day so far.

CALAIS TRUCKS MIGRANT’S PETITION: 3,053 signatures since 15.7. See @Justice4Trucker.

CONDOR FERRIES rescheduled services. Commodore Clipper out of action until 26 August.

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