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Heavy rain sparks rail travel chaos

Flooding and broken-down trains have meant more mid-winter misery for travellers with heavy early-morning rain sweeping in.

Rail services in Wales and Scotland were affected by the poor weather, with the Met Office issuing a yellow "be aware" warning for today, and a high probability of severe cold weather, icy conditions and some snow continuing until Sunday morning.

To add to commuters' difficulties, three Underground lines had severe rush-hour delays, while drivers in Scotland, North Wales and the North of England were warned to allow extra time for their journeys due to ice on the road.

In Wales, flooding between Machynlleth and Caersws was causing disruption to journeys between Pwllheli/Aberystwyth and Shrewsbury.

Trains were unable to run between Machynlleth and Newtown and were replaced by buses, while s ervices from Aberystwyth were being replaced by a bus from Machynlleth to Shrewsbury.

Passengers in these areas were warned to expect delays of up to 80 minutes.

In Scotland, poor rail conditions between Mallaig and Crianlarich meant trains were unable to run between Mallaig and Fort William. Buses were laid on instead.

In southern England, a broken-down train meant no services were running between Chichester in West Sussex and Havant in Hampshire, with buses having to operate instead.

Another broken-down train, at Bridgend in South Wales, led to delays in the area throughout the morning rush-hour, while in East Anglia a signalling problem meant no trains were able to run between Cambridge and Kennett.

On the Tube, signal failures led to rush-hour delays on the Metropolitan, Jubilee and Piccadilly lines.

A top wind speed of 90mph was recorded overnight at Needles Battery on the west coast of the Isle of Wight, but elsewhere gusts peaked at 60mph.

Most parts of the UK will experience some respite following the stormy weather of recent days, Met Office forecaster Kate Brown said.

"As showers ease off later, much of the country will see dry and bright conditions, but it will still feel cool with north-westerly winds," she said.

The latest stormy weather comes after power was restored yesterday to thousands of homes left without electricity following a "weather bomb" of gales and lightning strikes which swept the north of the country.

Properties in the Western Isles and Skye were the worst affected by the stormy conditions along the west coast of Scotland over the last two days.

At the peak of the problems, around 30,000 homes lost electricity, while a further 27,000 were cut off after a lightning strike yesterday morning.

A wind speed of 144mph was recorded on the remote St Kilda islands on Wednesday, with gusts of more than 80mph also hitting some low-lying areas.

At the Port of Dover in Kent, officials said some ferry crossings were being hit by delays due to the weather conditions but the terminal was operating normally.

Winds in the English Channel were gusting to force 10, with sea conditions described as "very rough".

A port spokesman said: "Due to the current high volumes of seasonal traffic and the potential disruption, there may be queues on the approach roads to the Port of Dover."

Travellers were being urged to allow plenty of time for their journey to the port, with drivers asked to consider using the A2/M2 route.

Scottish Hydro Electric Power Distribution (SHEPD) said it has restored power to over 59,000 homes across the north of Scotland since Tuesday and has now returned to normal operations.

It said its efforts to send engineers to some of the more remote locations were hampered by the gale force winds which halted commercial ferry sailings.

Stuart Hogarth, SHEPD's Director of Distribution, said: "I'd like to thank all of our customers for their patience and understanding. We know it is really inconvenient when the power goes off, particularly at this time of year, but we aim to fix faults as quickly and as safely as possible.

"Our engineers had to contend with thousands of lightning strikes, which made their task that much harder. I would also like to thank our customer services colleagues, engineers, linesman and technical staff who worked under some extremely challenging conditions over the past few days. "

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