1. ITV Report

Road and rail Christmas getaway hit by heavy rain

  • Video report by ITV News Correspondent Dan Rivers

Heavy rain has brought misery to thousands of commuters on one of the busiest travel days of the year.

Road and rail journeys have been disrupted after parts of southern and eastern England were deluged with two inches (50mm) of rain in just 36 hours.

The rail network in parts of the country has been severely disrupted, with crews dealing with fallen trees and landslips on several routes near the capital.

And more rain is set to come - with the Met Office issuing severe weather warnings for the weekend.

Met Office issues weather warnings amid forecast of more downpours

Network Rail tweeted a picture of this landslide near Strood. Credit: Network Rail

Met Office meteorologist Mark Wilson said: "There could be localised flooding. Stay in touch with the forecast, there could be delays to transport."

There could be up to 1.2in (30mm) of rain in the south on Saturday, he added.

The village of Cardinham in Cornwall saw 2in (52mm) of rain over 36 hours, while Bastreet Downs got 2.1in (53mm).

Devon and Cornwall Police said flooding across the force area has made “a number of roads impassable”.

They urged motorists to take extra care and avoid driving into standing water.

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Rail and road disruption as England deluged by downpours

Train operators have said they "strongly advise to not travel" on the line between Brighton and London, as flooding affected the West Sussex route between Haywards Heath and Three Bridges.

The disruption has had a knock-on effect on Thameslink services, with several being cancelled on the morning on what will be the final pre-Christmas commute for many.

Both Southern and Thameslink said they were planning to operate rail replacement services, but buses were delayed "due to road conditions",

On the busiest day for the festive getaway, Gatwick Express services - the non-stop train which connects one of Britain's busiest airports to central London and Brighton - were also affected.

Trains were unable to run the entire route to Brighton, although the connection to London was maintained.

Towards lunchtime Network Rail was able to open one of the tracks initially blocked by flooding, with operators able to run a "significantly reduced" hourly service in both directions between Brighton and Gatwick.

The cause of some of the problems was flooding in the Balcombe Tunnel, near Crawley.

Network Rail also reported fallen trees and landslides near Maidenhead.

There was also disruption to Great Western Railway services between Exeter St Davids and Taunton.

Norfolk and Suffolk Police said roads in both counties were affected by floodwater.

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A further landslip near Guildford closed the line, with debris left strewn across tracks on the busy commuter line.

The Environment Agency said it was monitoring the situation and the public were advised to remain vigilant.

Some 47 flood warnings – where flooding is expected – were in place for England on Friday morning, alongside 196 flood alerts, which warn flooding is possible.

The line at Guildford was closed after a landslip onto the tracks. Credit: Network Rail

An RAC survey suggested 4.7 million leisure trips by car would be taken on Friday, as many people embark on the Christmas getaway.

Three stretches of motorway identified as having the longest expected delays were:

  • M6 north J5 Sutton Coldfield to J10A Wolverhampton (delays of 57 minutes)
  • M25 clockwise J15 for M4 to J19 Watford (delays of 46 minutes)
  • M1 south J16 Northampton West to J6 Watford (delays of 43 minutes)

Motorists were advised to delay journeys on major roads until after 8pm to avoid the worst of the traffic.