Published on 23 Dec 2012 Sections ,

Christmas floods: travel chaos expected

Hundreds of thousands of Christmas commuters face travel chaos as the transport network creaks under the strain of UK floods… and more rain is expected later.

Rail disruption at Paddington Station (Getty)

Across the UK’s rail network services continued to be disrupted, with some routes suspended, due to the heavy rain over the last 48 hours. The south west continues to be the worst affected area of the country with a number of services cancelled.

Additionally, the poor state of many roads in the area meant replacement bus services were not able to run on many routes.

An extra pressure is that many people who were unable to travel yesterday will add to an already high number of commuters expected to make Christmas journeys on Sunday.

Elsewhere, a landslip has led to all trains between Montrose and Aberdeen in Scotland to be cancelled and lines in south Wales have been disrupted or suspended.

Patrick McLoughlin, transport secretary, said: “Exceptional weather conditions are having a serious impact on the transport network at what is already a difficult time of year.

“The Highways Agency and Network Rail have emergency staff working round-the-clock to keep motorways and rail tracks open where it is safe to do so while train operators are working hard to keep services running.

“We urge people travelling through the most affected areas to plan ahead and check the latest travel information. We will continue to ensure everything possible is being done to help people get to where they need to be for Christmas.”

“Safety is our priority”

Network Rail, which owns and operates the UK’s rail network, said engineers had been working throughout the night to “monitor flooding and try and keep the railway open”.

Robin Gisby, director of network operations, said: “We apologise to passengers who have had their journeys disrupted at this busy time and we are doing all we can to keep things moving.

“However, safety is our priority and where flooding has submerged tracks or damaged structures we cannot allow trains to run.

“Our engineers have been out at vulnerable locations since the rains began and through the night to monitor the situation and we are doing all we can to help operators get passengers to where they want to get to.”

Severe warning

One severe weather warning, meaning there is a danger to life, currently remains in place, the Environment Agency has said, for the town of Helston in Cornwall. The level of the River Cober at the town remains high, the agency, following flooding over night.

The south west and Wales have been hit the worst by the floods so far, with reports of people having to be rescued from their vehicles or being swept away by flood water.

Read Liam Dutton's low-down on the weather over the Christmas period.

In Umberleigh, near Barnstaple in Devon, a woman was swept away from her car in the early hours of today after flooding in the area.

A police helicopter found the woman clinging to branches of a tree on the banks of the swollen River Taw, Devon and Cornwall Police said. Fire crews helped her to safety using a rigid inflatable, and she was treated for exposure to the water.

Cars driving northbound on the M6 (Getty)

In the Vale of Glamorgan in south Wales a woman was rescued from her car by passers-by after it was swept into a river in Llancarfan, the BBC said.

The woman was driving through the village when her black Mini ended up in the swollen waterway and began floating backwards with her trapped inside.

Two men smashed the car window using a ladder and pulled her to safety just moments before her car was washed under the bridge and filled with water.

There are 180 lesser flood warnings in place across the UK, 67 of which are in the Midlands and 59 of which are in the south west. There are also 319 flood alerts, meaning people should be prepared for possible flooding, across the country.

More rain

The Met Office said on Sunday that further bands of heavy rain are expected to move north eastwards, but should clear throughout the morning. However, more heavy rain is expected to hit the south west on Christmas Eve.

“Given already saturated ground from recent rainfall, the public should be prepared for an increased risk of both surface water and river flooding along with disruption to travel,” the Met Office said.

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