Travellers escape disruption despite heavy rain, strong winds and snow


Rail and road travellers have seemingly escaped significant disruption despite heavy rain and strong winds across the south of the country overnight, with snow and ice further north.

Friday began with the bulk of the country covered by two Met Office yellow weather warnings. In the south and east people were cautioned about high winds, with 90mph recorded at Needles Battery on the west coast of the Isle of Wight overnight, while a warning for snow, ice and slippery roads was in place for most of the north.

But both warnings were lifted early in the morning and, despite worries about potentially widespread delays to travel, most roads and rail services were unaffected.

South West Trains said certain services could run slowly, or be cancelled at short notice. It sent out “route proving” trains, empty services that check lines, and had teams with chainsaws on hand to clear debris blown on to the tracks.

National Rail said passengers in the south of England should check services before travelling, but reported no immediate significant disruption.

The south-west was most affected by road disruption, but even here incidents were relatively rare. Devon and Cornwall police reported flooding on the A377 near Barnstaple, and three instances of fallen trees or other wind debris blocking roads. However, the bulk of these were cleared by about 9am.

There were delays to some ferry crossings at Dover, in Kent, owing to high winds, port officials said, 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.”

The windy weather was separate to the “weather bomb” of gales and lightning strikes that left thousands of homes without electricity on Thursday. At the peak of those problems, about 30,000 homes lost electricity, while a further 27,000 were cut off by a lightning strike. The worst-affected areas were the Western Isles and Skye.

The Met Office warning for the north of the UK cautioned people to be aware of frequent sleet and snow showers, especially on higher ground, with up to 10cm settling at the highest points, and the possibility of icy patches on roads.