Christmas travel hits buffers as storms to hit railway timetables

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SEVERE storms are set to cause major disruption to Christmas travel plans with one of the main train operators running services in Yorkshire warning that it is being forced to cancel trains both today and tomorrow.

Speed restrictions have been put in place on East Coast services from London to York because of the high winds and heavy rainfall being forecast which will mean both delays and cancellations to trains.

East Coast has apologised to customers for the inconvenience and said it was “very conscious” that many people will be planning to travel just before Christmas both today and tomorrow.

The announcement comes as the Met Office issued a severe weather warning from dawn today, with the threat of gusts of up to 80mph and localised flooding in pockets of the UK.

The Environment Agency put one flood warning in place in Yorkshire for the River Ouse at Naburn Locks, near York.

The river also burst its banks causing flooding to King’s Staith and Queen’s Staith in the city centre over the weekend.

Forecasters have warned that those travelling by both rail and road face major delays from today while those looking to make an early getaway across the seas have already faced some disruption to services as a result of the adverse weather.

Network Rail’s decision to impose speed limits on services looks to the be the biggest problem facing people travelling to and from Yorkshire.

It has imposed a 50mph speed restriction for services on the line between London King’s Cross and Peterborough, with electrified services restricted to 80 mph between Peterborough and York from midday today, until the end of service in the evening. Services north of York may also be subject to speed restrictions, depending on local weather conditions.

A statement from East Coast said: “We intend to operate the published timetable until 4pm on Monday, after which time the train service to and from London King’s Cross will be reduced to four trains per hour. Customers with tickets for any cancelled services today are advised to travel on the nearest available train before or after their booked service.

“East Coast sincerely apologises to customers for the inconvenience this will cause, especially as it is very conscious many people will be travelling just before Christmas on Monday and Tuesday.

“The company is making extensive efforts to reduce the impact of delays to its services, including the drafting-in of additional staff, but it would ask for the patience and understanding of its customers.”

Motorists have also been braced to prepare for delays, particularly those heading to the south-west of England and parts of Scotland. Calum MacColl, a forecaster with the Met Office, said those looking to travel home for Christmas ought to prepare for problems.

He added: “There is scope for very heavy rain, potentially some localised flooding, and strong winds in some areas so there is a risk of travel disruption.

“We have got a depression in the Atlantic pushing towards us from today. The day will start quite nicely in some places, but there will soon be heavy outbreaks of rain in the south-west of England and South Wales. That will quickly move into the North East, and it will bring gales with it.”

Mr MacColl said winds of 50 to 60mph were likely as a weather system sweeps across the country, with isolated gusts of up to 80mph in some places.

He said: “Once the weather sets in, it will be staying all day. The worst areas will likely be the south-west of England, particularly on higher ground. There will certainly be a legacy of rainfall from previous days, so there will be scope for localised flooding.”