Rail delays affect Christmas holiday getaway

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Media captionThe BBC's Richard Lister reports from London's Paddington station, which he says is battling technical problems

Rail failures and flooding are continuing to cause major delays on national train routes on one of the busiest days of Christmas travel.

Trains between Heathrow Airport and London Paddington were cancelled due to signal failure and the problems also hit Wales and West Country journeys.

A trackside fire has seen major delays in the Brighton area.

Flooding has further added to travel problems, following heavy rain across the country on Thursday.

Several people were rescued from vehicles and trains were cancelled in parts of England and Scotland.

The Met Office expects more rain overnight on Friday and the Environment Agency has issued more than 260 flood alerts and 60 flood warnings.

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency has 16 flood warnings and 12 flood alerts in place..

Rail disruption

A signalling problem is causing disruption on the Great Western main line near Hayes and Harlington.

A number of Paddington services have been seriously delayed and some cancelled, including those to Reading, Bristol and Cardiff - with disruption likely to continue throughout Saturday.

There are currently no trains between Paddington and Heathrow and thousands of passengers are being forced to use Tube services to get to the airport.

An overnight cable fire at Preston Park, Brighton has been causing major delays to trains from the south coast to Gatwick Airport and London - expected to continue until Sunday.

Gatwick Express trains between London Victoria and Brighton are only running as far as Three Bridges.

According to National Rail, a number of other train services have also been affected because of the weather:

  • A landslip on the line between Manchester Oxford Road and Liverpool - at Glazebrook, near Warrington - is causing delays and cancellations between the two cities
  • Services between Liskeard and Looe are also affected, with replacement buses in operation
  • Trains are delayed between Stourbridge Junction and Birmingham Snow Hill
  • The line between Perth and Gleneagles was been blocked by landslip about a mile south of Perth, delaying trains between Stirling, Kirkcaldy and Perth
  • Meanwhile, more than 200,000 people are expected to cross the channel on the Eurostar and ferries.

Works suspended

Around the country's airports, Heathrow had a total of 123,000 planned departures on Friday and is preparing for tens of thousands more over the weekend and on Christmas Eve.

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

And between Saturday and the end of Christmas Eve, 52,000 will fly from Edinburgh airport and 56,000 from Bristol.

On the roads, the Highways Agency said many road works had been suspended during the holiday period.

Locations where works remain include the M4 between junctions 10 and 11 at Reading in Berkshire, the M25 at junctions 5 and 6 near Godstone in Surrey and the M5 between junctions 19 and 21 near Bristol.

John Curtin, of the Environment Agency, said people should look out for the risk of flooding as they travelled over the weekend.

"With a very busy travel weekend coming up, we would also ask that people check their route before travelling, and remember not to drive or walk through flood water," he said.

The RAC said it had about 9,000 call-outs due to breakdowns, mainly weather related, in the 24-hour period from Thursday morning to Friday morning.

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