Heavy rain and a fire at London's Paddington station cause cancellations and congestion warnings on one of the busiest days for travel in the run-up to Christmas.

Bad weather threatens Christmas getaway (G, R)

Floods and signal failures combined to hold up millions of travellers on what is expected to be one of the busiest days for Christmas travel.

The day got off to a bad start for the 123,000 passengers expected to pass through Heathrow, after the Heathrow Express and Heathrow Connect trains from London Paddington were delayed because of signalling problems.

A fire in the equipment room at Acton station in west London led to many services being cancelled to and from Paddington station - the main gateway to the west of England and Wales. Almost half of Network Rail services were cancelled on Friday morning.

The AA had attended 108 breakdowns by Friday afternoon, and said it was braced for a weekend of weather-related disruption.

Flooding affected a number of other rail services, which were also delayed when animals got on to the line near Micklefield in Yorkshire.

Go to the National Rail Enquiries live updates webpage for the latest information on train disruptions.
The Environment Agency provides regular updates here about flooding, and expected flooding across the country.
And if you are planning a car journey, check out the AA website and its route planner.

Buses had to replace trains due to flooding on a number of lines, while on the London Underground the whole of the Jubilee Line was closed at the start of services due to a signalling system problem. Other tube travellers had to contend with severe delays on the Bakerloo line due to the problems at Paddington station.

Friday is expected to be the busiest day on the roads as well. But those setting off early faced a number of flooded routes, with the Isle of Wight and Brockenhurst in the New Forest, Hampshire, particularly badly affected.

The AA predicts Friday and Saturday will be the busiest days for motorists and is warning drivers against using flooded roads after attending more than 320 breakdowns on Thursday when vehicles were stuck in flood water.

"With so much rain expected, driving conditions could be pretty challenging at times with surface spray and standing water. Keep your speed down and leave at least a three-second gap between you and the vehicle in front," said Darron Burness, AA's head of special operations.

Numerous roads were flooded on Friday, including in Reading, Bedford, Nottingham, Bromsgrove in Worcestershire, Henley-on-Thames in Oxfordshire and Egginton in Derbyshire. The AA advised drivers to stay away from flood water due to the risk of wrecking car engines or getting stuck.

Train travel

On the railways, flooding near Ellesmere Port on Merseyside meant buses had to replace trains between Ellesmere Port and Hooton. Buses also had to be laid on between Bridge of Orchy and Crainlarich in central Scotland due to a landslip.

No trains were able to run between Crewe and Chester in Cheshire due to flooding, while floods were the cause of the bus replacement that had to operate between Uttoxeter and Stoke-on-Trent.

The flooding also led to disruptions to services in the Derby and Nottingham areas as well as hold-ups between Chester and Wrexham General in north Wales.

An estimated four million people are expected to travel abroad over the Christmas period. Heathrow was handling 123,000 passengers on Friday, with a further 114,000 departures on Sunday and 88,000 on Christmas Eve.

British Airways was also expecting its busiest day of the holiday period on Friday, with 111,000 travellers getting away for the Christmas break.

VisitEngland said that over the festive period as many as 12 million Britons intend to take at least one trip in the UK involving an overnight stay. These trips are likely to generate around £2.1bn for the economy.

Article Tags