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Heat brings travel chaos as NI braces itself for rain

Queues at Heathrow’s Terminal 5
Queues at Heathrow’s Terminal 5
Stranded crowds at Euston Station
A sunbather on Portobello beach near Edinburgh

By Neil Lancefield

Air passengers suffered major disruption yesterday due to the heatwave and a technical problem with the UK's air traffic control system.

Just as rail delays caused by the weather were easing, travellers using two of the UK's biggest airports were warned that the extreme conditions across Europe had caused flight cancellations and delays.

And air traffic control company Nats said a technical problem with a system at the Swanwick Air Traffic Control centre had been identified shortly after noon, which was restricting the rate of arrivals.

At 3pm the firm said it had "fixed the issue sufficiently to safely increase traffic flow rates" and expected an "improving picture through the rest of the day".

European air traffic co-ordinating agency Eurocontrol said the problem was caused by an "issue with radar displays".

That added to the woes at Heathrow and Gatwick as they were already asking passengers to check with airlines before travelling due to heatwave-related issues across Europe.

British Airways was due to take delivery of its first Airbus A350 aircraft at Heathrow, but the flight was postponed to prioritise aircraft with passengers onboard.

Meanwhile, Network Rail engineers worked overnight to repair damage at several locations after the temperature of steel tracks soared to up to 20C higher than the air temperature, while overhead power lines also suffered heat-related damage. Apologising to commuters for delays and cancellations, Phil James from Network Rail said: "I want to say sorry to passengers for the disruption and discomfort they faced making their journeys yesterday.

"The extreme temperatures made travelling by train very difficult at times and we thank passengers for their patience while we worked hard to get people moving again."

Meanwhile, the Met Office has issued a yellow weather warning for rain in Northern Ireland this weekend. The warning is in place from 9am today until 3pm tomorrow.

A Met Office spokesperson said: "An area of rain is expected to move slowly and erratically north-westwards across parts of the UK on Saturday and Sunday, and while some places within the warning area may see very little, others could see several hours of heavy rain.

"Accumulations of 40-60mm are possible, with perhaps as much as 80-100mm in places, especially over high ground."

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