THE big Easter getaway has begun, with some passengers on their way to Europe enduring delays and disruption to the start of their holidays.

Two incidents affecting the Channel Tunnel led to hours-long delays yesterday to those taking Folkestone-Calais shuttle trains and high-speed Eurostar services between London and Paris and Brussels via the tunnel.

The first problem came when a fatality near Lille in northern France involving a French high-speed train resulted in diversions and delays to Eurostar trains.

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Then, just as Eurostar services were getting back to normal, a Eurotunnel passenger shuttle train broke down in the tunnel leading to further delays to Eurostar services and long hold-ups of up to four hours for shuttle-train passengers.

Eurostar was forced to cancel six trains yesterday - two from London to Paris, two from Paris to London, one from London to Brussels and one from Brussels to London.

The Channel Tunnel trouble came as millions took to the roads at the start of the holiday, with the weekend likely to see as many as 16 million cars on the move.

Around 3.4 million Britons are set to take an Easter break in the UK involving at least one overnight stay, providing an £800 million boost for the UK economy.

In addition, around 6.5 million Britons are planning day trips over the holiday period.

For those staying at home, today is expected to be the best day of the holiday for weather, with cooler, cloudier and rainier conditions due as the weekend goes on.

An estimated 1.6 million Britons are heading abroad, with Spain and its islands, Turkey, Tunisia and Florida, among the most-popular destination.

Glasgow Airport said up to 11,000 people would be arriving or departing from its terminals today, although the past two Fridays have also been busy because of the school holidays.

There was some disruption in yesterday's ferry service, with services between Oban and Craignure cancelled due to high winds and services between Mallaig and Armadale, Oban and Castlebay and Oban and Lochboisdale facing delays.

Trains in Scotland were all running normally although engineering work on the railways south of the border this weekend will affect services to and from a number of major hubs, including London's Charing Cross, London Bridge, Paddington and King's Cross stations.

The Channel Tunnel problems also led to long hold-ups on coast-bound roads in Kent, with delays on the M2, M20 M25 and A20.

Port of Dover officials warned those heading for the port to take ferry services to allow plenty of time for their journeys.