Heavy rain and gale force winds cause delays across UK

Sea conditions in English Channel described as ‘moderate to rough’ by port officials

Lorries queue on the A20 in Dover, Kent, as bad weather continues to delay ferry crossings. Photograph: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

Lorries queue on the A20 in Dover, Kent, as bad weather continues to delay ferry crossings. Photograph: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire


Heavy rain and gale force winds have caused delays for rail commuters across the UK, with gusts registering upwards of 90mph (145 km/h) in parts of the country.

After snow and ice caused trouble on roads and railways yesterday, forecasters predicted the weather would turn very wet and windy across much of UK.

A UK Met Office “be aware” weather warning is in place for rain and high winds, with gusts of up to 80mph (129 km/h) possible in coastal areas.

High winds and heavy rain all along the south coast caused significant delays on lines operated by South West Trains and South Eastern Trains, with trees and flooding blocking the tracks.

South West Trains said there were delays of up to half an hour between Bournemouth and Southampton due to flooding near Brockenhurst, while First Great Western and Cross Country services between Paignton in Devon and Manchester Piccadilly were held up due to a fallen tree.

Commuters passing through Dover Priory faced delays of up to 60 minutes owing to a tree on the line.

The gale alert covers the whole of England, Wales, Northern Ireland and central and southern Scotland.

A spokesman for forecasters MeteoGroup said some areas in north Wales registered gusts of up to 95mph (153 km/h), while in Southampton the winds reached 66mph (106 km/h).

Flooding is also expected across much of Tayside, west central Scotland and south-east England.

The latest weather blast follows fierce storms which left 120,000 properties without power in Scotland last week.

The UK Met Office said last night: “The winds will ease by midnight, but then after something of a lull, a further spell of very strong winds, this time from the west, is expected from late Thursday morning onwards into the evening, again with gusts of 70mph (113 km/h) or more in places.

“The public should be aware of the risk of disruption to transport and possibly to power supplies.”

Cars were stuck and lorries jack-knifed on icy routes as snow, sleet and high winds swept the country yesterday.

The AA said it had rescued 57 vehicles and attended 8,200 breakdowns by mid-afternoon, reporting poor conditions in Scotland’s central belt and north-west England.

Some rail and ferry services were suspended and more than 100 schools were shut in the Highlands and Islands, Perthshire and Northern Ireland due to the weather.

Several routes in the north of Scotland were closed due to drifting snow and fallen trees and Cumbria Police warned of icy conditions after receiving up to 40 reports of road collisions across the county.

Darron Burness, from the AA’s severe weather team, said: “The reality is that while you can have your car completely prepared for winter, you can’t control what goes on around you. If there’s an accident ahead or a lorry jack-knifes, you’re probably not going anywhere in a hurry, so you need to be prepared for that.

“Likewise, if you break down in a vulnerable location, say on the hard shoulder or blind bend, it’s too dangerous to stay in the vehicle, regardless of the weather. If you’re just wearing shorts and a T-shirt, as our patrols have seen this week, you’re going to have a cold wait.”

He added: “Flooding could be an issue as the snow gives way to rain. If in any doubt, don’t risk crossing a flooded road or ford — just turn round and find an alternative route.”

The British Red Cross also urged people to prepare for adverse weather in the coming days.

Simon Lewis, head of emergency planning, said: “Putting together an emergency kit to take with you on the move or keep at home is a great way to start — being sure to include items such as a torch, spare batteries, emergency contact details, bottled water and if travelling by car, consider taking a shovel.”

P&O Ferries, DFDS Seaways and MyFerryLink all reported problems with their services, with some telling passengers to expect a “bumpy crossing”.

Port officials said sea conditions in the English Channel were “moderate to rough” and visibility was “poor to moderate”.

It said in a statement: “The Port of Dover is experiencing high volumes of freight traffic.

“The Port of Dover, together with its major ferry partners, will do all that it can to minimise any customer delays and community impact.”

Passengers were urged to allow plenty of time for their journey to the port, and drivers heading there should consider using alternative routes.

In Wales, around 750 homes have been left without power due to strong winds. Four flood warnings are also in place for rivers in mid Wales along with nearly 30 flood alerts.

The gale force winds and heavy rain come during a week of severe weather in the principality — which has included snow, giant hail stones and a mini tornado which hit Haverfordwest. Two people were taken to hospital after the whirlwind ripped roof sections of six homes.

In Wales, flooding meant trains had to be replaced by buses between North Llanrwst and Blaenau Ffestiniog.

In addition to the weather-related incidents, signalling problems affected journeys in to London Bridge station where services are already disrupted due to long-running station work.