Destination Manchester

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DESTINATION MANCHESTER: Planes, trains and automobiles as thousands of Rangers fans prepare for Euro exodus



HUNDREDS of coaches, 28 trains and a dozen flights will lead the mass exodus from Glasgow to Manchester for the Uefa Cup Final.

Up to 100,000 fans are expected to make the 215-mile journey for Rangers biggest night in Europe since 1972.

The red-white-and-blue river will flood through train stations, airports and motorways ahead of Wednesday's clash with Zenit St Petersburg at the City of Manchester Stadium.

Fans desperate for accommodation have snapped up rooms in Blackpool, Liverpool, Bolton and Wigan after hotels in central Manchester sold out.
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Virgin Trains have sold 9000 tickets on Manchester-bound services next week and have warned passengers without reservations may be turned away.

Coach firms across the west of Scotland have been besieged with inquiries from fans who have missed out on direct flights and trains.

And travel experts have warned drivers could face delays of up to two hours because of the huge volume of traffic heading south.

Stephen Smith, of the Rangers Supporters Trust, said: "It's anyone's guess how many will travel but we are expecting anything between 50,000 and 100,000.

"Manchester is a dawdle, it's the equivalent of an away game in Aberdeen.

"We took 23,000 to Barcelona and it will be a case of think of a number and double it, next week.

"There are more than 370 supporters clubs all over the world and they will all be represented."

The authorities in Manchester are finalising plans for a massive park-and-ride site for the hundreds of buses from Scotland.

Vicky Rosin, assistant chief executive of Manchester City Council said the city was ready for the invasion.

She said: "We are looking forward to it.

"Somebody has described it as a friendly invasion and that's what we are expecting and what we are getting ready for.

"Our two cities are very similar in many ways.

"We are passionate about our football, we are passionate about sport generally and we are also known for making visitors very, very welcome, just as we did with the Commonwealth Games and as we know Glasgow will in 2014.

"It's all about good partnerships and a good welcome for everybody."

It's estimated if the coaches were lined up nose-to-tail they would stretch 13 miles. Carl Singh, of online broker Coach Hire Glasgow, said: "The level of demand has been unbelievable.

The phone has been ringing constantly. We'll have 30 coaches leaving from Glasgow on the game day.

"We have had to source all kinds of vehicles, from 16-seaters to double deckers, from all over the UK."

Karen McVey, manageress of Croft Coaches in the South Side of the city, said: "We received 140 calls the morning after the semi-final and have been averaging 30 requests a day from fans.

"Most of our coaches are tied up with contract work, but we could have run a whole fleet to Manchester."

British Transport Police plan to enforce an alcohol ban on all services.

Fans could be searched and have cans and bottles confiscated before they board trains at Glasgow Central.

A BTP spokesman said: "Alcohol will not be allowed, or sold, on any of the services between Glasgow Central and Preston or Manchester."

Flybe will run 16 flights to Manchester from Glasgow, Edinburgh and Belfast, in the build up to the final.

Mike Rutter, chief commercial officer for the airline, said: "We are thrilled so many fans have chosen to fly with us. Flybe wishes Rangers and their fans every success in bringing the trophy back to Glasgow." Rivals bmibaby have only a handful of premium £285 return tickets left for its five daily flights to Manchester after experiencing a "late surge" of bookings.

Officials at AA Roadwatch said fans who are driving should expect to be on the road for longer than the average journey time of three hours and 45minutes between the two cities.

A spokesman said: "We are talking about a huge volume of traffic. Supporters should allow an extra two hours for their journeys to make absolutely sure.

"We would urge supporters who plan to fly flags or banners, from buses or coaches, to be sensible and not obstruct the driver's all-round vision.

"If you can't get on a supporters' bus, then try to car share with your friends because the M6 will be exceptionally busy."

l Detailed information about fan zones, travel and parking arrangements will be available through Manchester City Council's www.manchester.gov.uk over the next few days.
 
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