Christmas travel plans for millions in chaos as heavy rain cripples the UK’s roads and rail networks

December 22nd, 20121:52 pm @


  • The Environment Agency has also issued 104 flood warnings and four severe flood warnings – meaning life is at risk
  • They have been issued for Helston and Lostwithiel in Cornwall and two for Braunton, Devon
  • Residents of Helston have been
    evacuated from their homes by the police
  • Braunton councillor says newly-built £1 million flood
    defences have been ‘overwhelmed’
  • The heavy rain is causing chaos on a number of rail routes and main roads across the UK
  • Train operator First Great Western is advising passengers in the south west of England not to travel
  • Conditions to deteriorate with forecasters predicted 30mm of rainfall in Cornwall during a six hour period from 5pm

Anthony Bond

09:11, 22 December 2012


13:46, 22 December 2012

Christmas travel plans for millions are in chaos today as widespread flood warnings across the UK are crippling roads and rail networks and putting lives at risk.

With much of the country battered by heavy rain overnight, the Environment Agency has issued 302 flood alerts and 104 flood warnings.

The south west of England is most severely affected – with four severe flood warnings in place. They have been issued for Helston and Lostwithiel in Cornwall, and two for Braunton, Devon.

The Environment Agency also said there was a heightened flood risk across Somerset, Dorset, Bristol, Hampshire, the Isle of Wight, West and
East Sussex, south Wales, Ceredigion, Gwynedd and North Yorkshire


Worrying: Christmas travel plans for millions are in chaos today as widespread flood warnings across the UK are crippling roads and rail networks and putting lives at risk. The Cornish town of Helston has been badly hit by flooding

Warnings: The south west of England is the most severely affected part of the country with four severe flood warnings in place. More than 150 people have been evacuated from their homes in Helston

Submerged: The town has been flooded after the River Cober burst its banks

Gloomy: This picture shows the hazardous driving conditions on the A14 in Cambridge today

Police have evacuated people from their homes in Devon and Cornwall as rising river levels have resulted in ‘numerous properties’ becoming flooded. Conditions are so bad in the south west that train operator First Great Western is advising passengers not to travel.

The firm said road vehicles were being used to transport passengers between Taunton, Exeter and Plymouth, but the service was hampered by flooded roads.

James Davies, a spokesman for First Great Western, said: ‘The problem we have is that the line between Taunton and Plymouth is down. We have road replacement services in place and we are running these as best we can. But obviously the road conditions in the Plymouth area are so poor that the roads are blocked because of flooding.

‘When you have a situation were all the transport system is under water then we can only advise people not too travel unless absolutely necessary.’

The towns of Helston and Braunton have been most badly affected by the flooding and despite emergency services working hard to reduce the impact of flooding, the situation is expected to deteriorate further this evening.

Forecasters have predicted 30mm of rainfall in Cornwall during a six hour period from 5pm.

Braunton has been effectively cut off, with homes and shops under water after the River Caen burst its banks. Surface water began to build as heavy rain battered the region overnight and residents in the town woke to find Caen Street and the A361 under water.

Chairman of Braunton Parish Council Liz Spear said newly-built flood
defences were overwhelmed by the volume of water that hit the town.

‘It’s really bad, we had flooding seven years ago, but it was nothing like this,’ Mrs Spear said.

‘It’s disappointing really because the Environment Agency have just
spent over £1 million on new flood defence schemes, two flood defence
schemes, this year, but they’ve been totally overwhelmed, absolutely.

‘We’ve had rain on and off all summer so everywhere is saturated and now
we’re having our normal heavy rain that we get in the winter and the
sponge is already soaked up, it can’t take any more.’

Flooding: The Environment Agency has issued a severe flood warning for Helston- its highest level, meaning there is a danger to life

Mrs Spear, who has lived in Braunton for 45 years, said there is a river
running through the centre of the town. ‘The EA were sending out flood
warnings at about five o’clock this
morning, we all had warnings and I have been down there two or three
times now,’ she said.

‘South Street is partially flooded which has never been flooded before
and it’s like a river going down there and that is residential.

‘But it is mainly businesses that have been affected, some of them have no power, the local butcher can’t open, he has no power.

‘The main street, Caen Street, is very low level, slightly below river
level, and it is always vulnerable to this but it is really bad, there
are people canoeing up it at the moment.’

She said the council had ordered in extra sandbags last week, but that
these had been unable to stop water entering shops and homes.

‘We were lucky we got extra sand bags in this week and we were quick in giving them out, but sand bags aren’t going to stop it.

‘You can’t sweep out the water yet as it’s too deep, it’s feet deep, a
meter deep probably, so they can’t, they can’t open their doors.

‘The water is so strong. We were walking across the street and it nearly takes you off your feet.

‘Where it is really deep the police have cordoned it off obviously, because it is dangerous.

‘It’s cordoned off for safety and there’s loads of emergency services here.’

Braunton resident Elma Blackmore, 67, said the wet weather had left the town isolated.

‘You can’t get in or out of Braunton because the main road is flooded,
it is blocked from Chivenor as well, no traffic can go through,’ she

Deep: A young Christmas shopper looks at flood water in York city centre today

Burst river: This image shows a flooded park in Ross on Wye, Herefordshire

Grim: This Met Office graphic shows the weather forecast for the next five days

‘Nobody can get in or out at the moment. You can get to the edge of the
village, but not into the shopping centre. Braunton is absolutely
flooded and it is cut off at the moment.

‘All the (emergency) services are out because there is another high tide at 1 o’clock, which people are concerned about.

‘My husband is part of St John Ambulance and he said the water has gone
to some of the lower streets, because the centre of the village is lower
than sea level the water all backs up through the drains.

‘Apparently it all came down Church Street and has just literally run
all the way down through the village. The ground is just so water logged
the rain has got nowhere to go.’

Residents in the Cornish town of Helston were led to safety after the River Cober rose rapidly following heavy rainfall.

The Environment Agency said
widespread flooding of properties was ‘imminent’, and has a severe flood
warning – its highest level, meaning there is a danger to life.

Risk: Firefighters battle to reduce the flood water in Helston

Front line: Firefighters in Devon and Cornwall are using specialist pumping machines to reduce the flood water and protect properties

Cornwall Council said it was opening a
rest centre in the town and that fire
services in the area were prioritising emergency calls to those where
life was at risk.

A resident who has lived in St John’s
Close in Helston for 45 years said she was not aware of the flooding
until she woke up this morning.

‘I woke up this morning to the sound
of a pump down on St John’s Bridge where I assume workmen are trying to
adjust the level of the River Cober,’ the woman, who did not want to be
named, said.

‘There is no surface water in the
close, the gardens in the houses on the other side of the road may well
have a little bit of flooding, but nobody over there seem to be
particularly bothered.

like St John’s Road, where there are flats and sheltered housing for
the elderly, back on to the River Cober and I understand that is a
danger area there, as is also one small area of Penventon Crescent.

‘But I think it is a tribute to the
water authority that years ago, when I lived here, we did have severe
flooding in this close and you would not get out of the end of the close
because it was a lake of water, but since they have done so much work
here, this close, here at any rate, seems to be fairly dry.’

Help at hand: Cornwall Council said it was opening a rest centre in the town and that fire services in the area were prioritising emergency calls to those where life was at risk

Wet: Residents of Helston look on as water seeps into the road

Damage: This is the scene which greeted many people in Helston this morning. Police officers have evacuated people whose homes are most at risk

Some residents and holiday-makers have
been using buckets to clear water from their gardens and have piled
sand bags at their doors and gates to keep the water at bay.

Others have taken precautionary measures such as moving furniture upstairs.

Several motorists were rescued by fire crews operating an inflatable
boat after their vehicles became stuck in flood water in Dorset.

One man was stuck in his car for five hours near Christchurch yesterday.

Neil Rickett, of Dorset Fire and Rescue Service, said motorists were
ignoring closed road signs and driving into the flood water.
He said: ‘It’s up to waist and sometimes chest deep. 

‘We’re searching ditches just in case people have got out of these
abandoned cars, we’ve having to put a lot of resources into cars just
stuck in water.’

Fire crews had been called to about 70 flood-related incidents across Cornwall since midnight, the council said. Football League matches at Hartlepool, York, Wycombe and Torquay were all postponed because of waterlogged pitches.

Crews have attended incidents at St
Austell, Lostwithiel, Looe, Helston, Hayle, Torpoint, Penzance, Probus,
Durgan, Millbrook, St Columb and St Just.
Large amounts of surface water has been reported on roads in Cornwall as more rain lashes the county.

Devon and Cornwall Police said they had a ‘busy’ night following extensive rain across their area.

A spokesman said: ‘This has again been a significant and challenging
event and the emergency services together with partner agencies have
worked hard throughout the night and will continue to do so to respond
to calls from the public.

‘In Cornwall many roads were flooded resulting in a busy night for the emergency services.’

It is possible that the worst is still yet to come across Cornwall, with heavy rainfall expected from 5pm tonight.

Cornwall Council spokeswoman Trisha Hewitt said: ‘There is expected to be 30mm of rainfall during a six hour period from 5pm.

‘As this is falling on saturated ground, this could cause further flooding in the key areas.

‘The fire and rescue high volume pump is still in use in Helston,
although the river levels are continuing to drop, this is still an area
of concern.

‘The Environment Agency are arranging for over pumping to recommence at Loe Bar.’

Ms Hewitt said the latest reports suggest more than 10 properties have
been affected by flooding in Mevagissey, with around 40 affected in

Difficult job: The emergency services are working hard in the area to protect homes and the town’s residents

Blocked: A number of roads in and around Helston have been closed

Battle: Some residents and holiday-makers have been using buckets to clear water from their gardens

The A39 at Perranarworthal has been
closed due to flooding, Cornwall Council said, while there are reports
that the B3247 between Millbrook and Kingsand is impassable.

Owens, Cornwall Council’s duty director, said police had asked 190
people in Helston to leave their homes after the River Cober burst its
banks and flooded ‘a small number’ of properties.

Mr Owens said police had knocked on
doors in the area to ask people to leave – a procedure residents are
used to as the area has flooded several times before.

‘We are being cautious in asking more
people than will probably be necessary, but we think it is absolutely
right to take that cautious approach,’ he told BBC Radio 5.

‘They are being evacuated at the
moment to a rest centre a few hundred yards away from the area, but the
river levels continue to rise.’

Mr Owens said the river had flood
defences, but the ground was saturated after weeks of heavy rain, so the
rainfall overnight had caused the Cober to burst its banks.

He said: ‘The river has started to
come out of the banks in Helston but we are deploying a high volume pump
from the fire brigade as we speak, which will hopefully start to ease
the problem.

‘We have got people on the ground at the moment and we are watching that river very, very closely.’

to 45mm of rain has fallen across Cornwall since 1am, and there is
flooding across the entire county, from Mousehole in the west to
Millbrook in the east.

Mr Owens said: ‘It is extremely busy. We have
got several road closures, the fire brigade have had to deal with four
or five incidents with people stuck in cars in fast moving water.

Cancelled: A ‘Keep off the Pitch’ sign is in place at the Memorial Stadium in Bristol after the League 2 game between Bristol Rovers v Rotherham United was called off

Drizzly: Shoppers in Winchester brave the weather on the last Saturday of shopping before Christmas

‘Several of those have been resolved and another one has just been dealt with.’

the widespread flooding, no other areas are under threat of evacuation,
Mr Owens said, as rivers were coping well with the levels of rain.

has currently stopped raining in Truro and west Cornwall, but we are
watching very, very closely the next bout of rain that we are
anticipating will come into Cornwall from 7am’, he said.

Across the country, the effects of the heavy rain in recent days also caused chaos on a number of rail routes.

Although there has been a glimmer of good news with the delays at London Paddington train station now cleared following a signalling
problem near Hayes and Harlington that started on Thursday.

are now running normally to and from the station. Trains will run to and from Reading, but there are still disruptions on the Heathrow Express and Heathrow Connect services.

The Highways Agency said there were a handful of flooding incidents but they were not causing delays on the motorway network.

A spokesman said: ‘We have some localised issues but things are still running freely. We are continuing to monitor the situation and we’ll take action where necessary.’

Elsewhere, a major signalling problem caused by a
fire yesterday that affected electrical cables and railside signalling
equipment at Preston Park is also causing major disruption near

Diversions are in place, trains between Brighton and
Gatwick airport are travelling half-hourly and rail passengers are able
to use buses.

Concerned: The Environment Agency said widespread flooding of properties in the town was ‘imminent’

Flooding between Taunton and Exeter St Davids and a signalling problem is causing disruption in the South West.

are no trains between Plymouth and Tiverton Parkway or Taunton, and a
replacement bus service will run from Exeter St Davids to Tiverton
Parkway and Taunton, but is expected to be busy.

Further road
replacements are being organised to run between Plymouth and Exeter St
Davids, but this is expected to add another 90 minutes to journey times.

First Great Western and CrossCountry services are accepting each other’s passengers, National Rail said.

shortage of train crew is disrupting services between Bedford and
Bletchley, with replacement bus services, and flooding is causing
disruption between Liskeard and Looe in Cornwall, with bus services
replacing trains.

A landslip has also caused rail problems in the
Glazebrook area near Warrington. The First TransPennine Express service
from Liverpool Lime Street to Manchester Piccadilly will be diverted via
Newton-le-Willows, and buses are replacing trains from Warrington
Central to Manchester Oxford Street.
There is also a reduced service running from Manchester Piccadilly to Liverpool Lime Street.

Great Western, which operates train services in and out of Paddington,
warned that passengers should expect “significantly increased” journey
times due to the signal failure at Hayes and Harlington in west London.

rail company warned that because of the flooding disrupting services to
the South West, services operating between London Paddington and
Bristol Temple Meads towards Exeter St Davids, Plymouth and Penzance
will terminate at either Taunton or Tiverton Parkway in both directions
while services due to operate through to or from Penzance will start or
terminate at Exeter St David’s.

Flooding is also affecting the road network.

A38 from Bodmin towards Exeter is closed between the A374 Plymouth road
and the A3121 because of flooding, and is expected to reopen at 8am,
the Highways Agency said.

The A19 is affected at the junction with
the A139, with one lane on the southbound entry slip closed and the
northbound exit slip road shut.
There are also delays on the A27 eastbound between B2144 and A285 near Chichester because of flooding.

cancellation of the Heathrow Express rail has caused havoc for people
trying to get to the west London airport, yesterday forcing many of the
123,000 departing passengers to take the Underground instead.

Heathrow is due to handle a further 114,000 departures tomorrow and 88,000 on Christmas Eve.

Airways will handle nearly 31,000 passengers on Christmas Day, with the
airline carrying nearly 1.6 million in the period up to January 7.
of the estimated four million Britons travelling abroad for the holiday
set off yesterday, with popular destinations including the Canary
Islands, Tunisia, Cuba and Mexico.

From yesterday until January 3, a
total of 700,000 will be leaving from Gatwick, 320,000 from Manchester,
300,000 from Stansted, 125,000 from Luton, 116,000 from Birmingham and
75,000 from Glasgow.

Between yesterday and Christmas, 52,000 will fly from Edinburgh and 56,000 from Bristol.

Popular overseas spots for new year revellers include Paris, Reykjavik, Rome, Dublin and New York.

hundreds of thousands will also travel across the English Channel by
ferry or through the Channel Tunnel, with 160,000 heading off on the

The Highways Agency, which is responsible for all of
England’s motorways and major A-roads, said more than 250 miles of
roadworks will have been completed before Christmas.

In addition, a
further 57 miles of works will be suspended until January 2, but works
remain in place at 19 locations covering nearly 100 miles.
busiest roads this weekend are likely to be the M25, the M6 in the West
Midlands, the M1 near Milton Keynes in Buckinghamshire, the M5 near
Bristol and the M62 near Warrington in Cheshire.

VisitEngland said
that over the festive period as many as 12 million Britons intend to
take at least one trip in the UK involving an overnight stay.
These trips are likely to generate around £2.1 billion for the economy.

Two main line rail strikes that threatened travel chaos over the Christmas period have been called off.

on the Underground, the train drivers’ union Aslef is stopping work on
Boxing Day in a strike that has already led to the postponement of the
London football derby between Arsenal and West Ham United.

Apart from the Aslef Tube strike, the main train problem is likely to be engineering work on the West Coast line.

will mean there will be no direct services from Euston station in
London to Milton Keynes, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool or Glasgow on
December 23 and 24.

Hourly services will run from Euston via an
alternative route (Chilterns) to Nuneaton where passengers will be able
to change for services heading to any and all the destinations mentioned

Direct services resume on December 27 but with two of the four lines closed up to and including New Year’s Eve.

is engineering work affecting a number of other lines, although Network
Rail and the Association of Train Operating Companies have said that
the number of replacement buses having to be laid on has almost halved
compared with the 2011/12 festive period.


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 VIDEO  There is more wet weather to come. Flooding warnings for now AND over Christmas 

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The comments below have not been moderated.

does anyone else hate these apologists/spin doctors for companies and organisations telling ppl not to use their services? In this case don’t use the railway If you don’t have to – know many folks who just use the railways for “fun ?”


Worthing, United Kingdom,
22/12/2012 13:52

this wretched government should stop all overseas aid immediately and spend money on investigating the flooding and put in place preventative measures for the future.
Cameron is too busy being a two bit wonder on the world stage to bother about the UK…time to get rid of this useless greedy bunch.

Charles Dutton

22/12/2012 13:52

By the river ways and other small water courses not being maintained for years by the closure of the river and waterway agency being replaced by the all encompassing environmental agency is more likely the reason rather than any form of global warming. Prevent water from running away off the land by blocked streams and river arteries then the water can only back up as flood water, not rocket science surely.


22/12/2012 13:51

I live in West Cornwall. My village has four roads leading into it, three are blocked by flooding. Just by me the road is knee deep in muddy brown water. No properties are flooded here as the roads are flooded where the roads dip down. There is no sport being played in West Cornwall today, the roads are fairly empty and it’s gusting up to gale force. The heavy rain has stopped but it’s still drizzling, stopping the floods from going down.


22/12/2012 13:50

to all you people who noticed the spelling mistakes, i was simply rushing, the chopper is being fuelled so i could fly to your areas and point and laugh whilst fishing in the street 🙂


cheltenham, United Kingdom,
22/12/2012 13:48

I don’t get it. When tghe fire brigade come in and pump tyhe water away, where do theu send it? Into the river that has burst it’s banks? The river is too full tghe dains are flooded, where is it supposed to go?

I do feel sorry for them though.

David Betts

Bradford West Yorkshire, United Kingdom,
22/12/2012 13:46

I’m suprised the DM’s anti european brigade haven’t managed to attach this problem to our membership of the EU and cited the flooding as another reason for getting out of the EU, yes, the same EU we were begging Degaulle to let us into.

Stormin Normin

Liverpool, United Kingdom,
22/12/2012 13:46

I feel nothing but heart-felt sympathy and sorrow for those flooded at any time ,let alone this time of year wherever they are but it seems the DM is selective in its reporting – regardless of the separate EA’s – paying lip service by referring to the UK but reporting only on England. I suppose this reflects their often trumpeted belief in the mutuality of the UK.


22/12/2012 13:45

Well, they don’t dredge rivers anymore and thay don’t spend money on the drains etc due to cuts. Where do they expect the water to go?

jack Union

england or is it, United Kingdom,
22/12/2012 13:44

Very sad.. Merry Christmas to all. Stay safe and best wishes. Heavy rainfall here in the far East of Canada too… we’ve seen hardly any a white Christmas for decades now. The climate is certainly changing…


Nova Scotia Canada,
22/12/2012 13:42

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