Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 16 September 2014

Great storm brings travel chaos

Severe weather disrupted the Monday morning commute

The Great Storm of 2013 has brought travel chaos to passengers, with all forms of transport hit by the hurricane-force conditions.

With dozens of trees falling on to rail lines, nearly all main line services failed to run during the morning rush-hour, while those London-bound commuters taking to the Tube found the open-air sections of the Underground badly affected.

The port of Dover had to shut, more than 130 flights at Heathrow Airport were cancelled and many roads were impassable due to fallen trees.

The chaos was likely to last well into the day, with the First Capital Connect train company saying there would be no services until further notice.

Some of the other train companies said they would be unable to run services until at least 10am. These included Stansted Express and Greater Anglia.

Passengers on one London Midland train leaving Northampton at 7am bound for ‏Euston station in London were heavily delayed and only got as far as Tring in Hertfordshire before having to make a return journey.

While RMT union leader Bob Crow blamed the lack of services on staff cuts, rail infrastructure company Network Rail (NR) said lives would have been put at risk if trains had run during the early morning storms.

There were severe delays on Britain's busiest motorway, the M25, due to the shutting of the Queen Elizabeth II bridge at the Dartford River Crossing. A section of the M11 in Essex was closed due to an overturned lorry.

On the England-Wales border, the M48 Severn Bridge was closed in both directions between junction 2 at the A466 (Chepstow) and junction 1 at the A403 (Aust), because of strong winds.

Other motorways with hold-ups included the M2 in Kent, the M3 in Surrey, the M4 in Berkshire, the M6 in Cheshire and the M8 in Renfrewshire, Scotland.

On the London Underground, only three lines - Victoria, Hammersmith & City and Waterloo & City - were operating normally through the morning rush-hour.

There were no trains at all running on London Overground, while there were part -suspensions on the Central, District, Metropolitan and Piccadilly lines.

At Edenbridge in Kent, a moto rcyclist was taken to hospital after being hit by a tree.

British Airways said it was complying with a request from Heathrow chiefs to reduce its flying schedule at the west London airport.

BA was reducing its schedule by 20% up to 11am, by 10% between 11am and 4pm and by 5% between 4pm and 10.30pm.

BA said: "All of the agreed cancellations are for our European and domestic flights at Heathrow, and these have been published. All our long-haul flights into and out of London Heathrow are currently planned to operate as normal.

"We currently plan to operate all flights to and from London Gatwick and London City airports as normal."

Virgin Trains advised passengers not to attempt to travel unless absolutely necessary on services on the southern end of the West Coast Main Line.

Southend Airport in Essex was able to announce the resumption of flights shortly before 9.30am, while the port of Dover in Kent reopened at 9.10am, although passengers were warned to expect delays to sailings.

Greater Anglia said it would not be running any trains until 12 noon.

The London to Tilbury and Southend train company c2c said the power was out between Fenchurch Street station and Barking in east London, while there was a fallen tree at Upton Park in east London, o verhead wires were down at Purfleet in Essex and there were o bstructions on the line at Thorpe Bay and Southend in Essex.

Prime Minister David Cameron and other ministers were being kept regularly updated on the latest situation.

Yesterday Mr Cameron chaired a call with various Government departments and agencies on plans to ensure people were protected from the storm.

The Government said: "Think about whether is your journey is really necessary. If you have to travel, do not use motorbikes or bicycles as they are particularly vulnerable in high cross-winds.

"A storm of this severity has the potential to overturn high-sided vehicles and caravans. "

Numerous roads were blocked by fallen trees and other obstructions. These included the A12 in London, the A2 in Kent, the A21 in East Sussex, the A35 at Axminster in Devon, the A37 in Somerset, the A111 at Cockfosters in north London, the A112 in Walthamstow, east London, the A131 in Halstead and the A240 in Surrey where three trees are down.

Other tree falls affected the A338 at Hungerford in Berkshire, the A404 in Berkshire and the A3020 at Newport, Isle of Wight.

Flooding also hit motorists, with roads affected including the A427 in Northamptonshire and the A466 in Monmouthshire, South Wales.

In Greater Manchester, there were hazardous driving conditions on the M61 southbound between junction 5, at the A58 (Westhoughton), and junction 1, at the M60 (Swinton Interchange), because of surface water.

There was also reduced visibility due to surface water on the M62 in West Yorkshire.

East Midlands Trains said it would not run any trains in or out of London St Pancras International station until further notice. Stansted Express said it would have no trains running before 12 noon. Chiltern said it hoped to run its first train through Birmingham just after 10am.

At around 10am London Overground was able to get services running, albeit with severe delays, between Highbury & Islington (H & I) in north London and New Cross in south London and between H&I and New Cross Gate.

Virgin Trains' services between London and Milton Keynes in Buckinghamshire remained suspended due to a blocked line.

Speed restrictions that had been hampering services run by Channel Tunnel high-speed train company Eurostar were lifted at around 10am, with services getting back to normal.

South West Trains said it was hoping to gradually get services back to normal as conditions eased during the morning.

London Ambulance said a man in his 40s was taken to hospital with a shoulder injury after a tree fell on his motorbike in south-west London.

The QE2 bridge over the M25 reopened at around 10.30am in a move that will relieve congestion on Britain's busiest motorway.

Although Dover port was reopened, P&O Ferries warned of delays of up to two hours on some sailings.

The Southeastern train company was able to announce its London to Sevenoaks services had restarted around mid-morning.

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