LIVE BLOG AS FRANCE – AND THE REST OF EUROPE – HEADS OFF ON HOLIDAY: blow by blow on the quietest Black Saturday for five years.
16:00BST: with jams in France down now to 313km – and easily fitting into one tweet – that concludes our coverage of this disturbing Black Saturday – what was the problem? Security? The weather? Because so many people set off early? Whatever has affected France affected Austria too.
14:30BST: it’s still quite busy in north Germnay, especially from Hamburg to Denmark on the A7. Otherwise, our traffic roundups are almost fitting on one tweet – unheard of on mid-afternoon on Black Saturday. In other news, Vladimir Putin has finally arrived on the Vrsic Pass in Slovenia – aka The Russian Road – where 100 Russian POWs died one hundred years ago in an avalanche. As soon as the Kremlin puts up the photos we’ll use them in a feature on this intriguing road.
13:00BST: official figures show a maximum of 670km of traffic jams in France today. While that is a lot, it is well down on the 880km of jams seen on the same day last year, and miles off the 994km set in 2014. Barring a last minute surge this is by far the quietest Black Saturday – summer or winter – in the three years we have been covering them. Dutch traffic monitor @VID says it is the quietest for five years. Let the post-mortem begin.
11:30BST: while we wait for the cumulative jam total in France, Austria roads manager ASFINAG announces ‘queues lengths are significantly lower than expected’. That said, there is a two hour delay southbound on the cross-border B179 Fernpass. Meanwhile, Putin is an hour late at the Vrsic Pass meaning the Karawanke Tunnel probably won’t open before 19:00CEST.
10:00BST: the flop sweat, see below, is hard to shake even as substantial delays build A10 Paris-Bordeaux-Spain and queues on the A20 at Limoges and A9 also to Spain join the party. The delay A7 to Avignon has edged back up to 2h30. It’s either a flop or drivers have set off much later this year.. (no, not that, please!). Meanwhile, even the queue southbound to the Gotthard Tunnel has dipped from its earlier high of 14km to 12km now, see picture below. The delay fell, to 1h45, at the Mont Blanc Tunnel too. Lastly a word on Italy – the A4 jam eastbound to Trieste (Slovenia and Croatia) is now 2h30 while there are proper delays at Bologna now; it’s been busy all day so far but only now are drivers waiting for more than 45mins after an accident at Imola.
08:30BST: after yesterday afternoon and evening was much quieter than expected, the feeling persists that this Black Saturday will be a flop, especially since delays A7 to Avignon have now pegged back slightly. Queues have built the whole length of A10 Paris-Bordeaux however, and on the A71>A75 past Clermont, the toll-free autoroute that proved so popular last year in barely post-recessionary France. A3 Wurzburg-Nuremberg has eased a bit too. Vinci Autoroutes’ drone views of traffic at strategic points on the network are proving to be a handy diversion as we wait to see how they day develops, see below.
07:00BST: half an hour has been added to the bell weather A7 Lyon>Avignon delay but queues have subsided slightly at the A10 Paris>Bordeaux Niort bottleneck south of Poitiers. Road works slow drivers on the A63 down to the Spanish border. The A3 Wurzburg>Nuremberg in Germany continues to take a hammering as the total delay on this strategic west-east stretch tops 2h45. A8 Munich-Salzburg has calmed at bit but the queue southbound to the Gotthard Tunnel is 14km – a two hour delay – while drivers wait 2h15 at the France side of the Mont Blanc Tunnel.
05:30BST: as expected, there were already substantial delays on the A7 Lyon>Avignon first thing this morning. Dutch traffic monitor @VID reported 60km of queues even before sun rise. By 05:30BST the total delay was two hours according to TomTom, mainly to Valence. Meanwhile, there was already at 60min queue at the A10 Paris-Bordeaux peage bottleneck at Niort and traffic was building on the A71/A75 past Clermont Ferrand. In Germany, the cross-country A3 was busy past Wurzburg and, particularly, at the road works out of Nuremberg, plus, as ever, the A8 eastbound Munich-Salzburg. Drivers waited for an hour southbound at the Karawanke Tunnel, Austria-Slovenia, hoping to get through before it shuts at 09:00CEST ahead of Vladimir Putin’s visit to Vrsic Pass.