COP26 travellers trying to get to Glasgow switch to flights after London Euston trains cancelled

311021 Hundreds of travellers were left stranded at London Euston after a fallen tree blocked tracks, PA
Hundreds of travellers were left stranded at London Euston after a fallen tree blocked tracks. Credit: PA

Travellers heading to the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow have spoken of the "irony" of making the journey by plane after a fallen tree cancelled train services from London Euston.

One passenger said the "extreme weather" which caused the chaos "is a reminder that climate change drives extreme weather events and every country needs to adapt".

Hundreds of passengers hoping to travel to Glasgow for the start of the conference on Sunday were left waiting inside London’s Euston station after a fallen tree halted services.

Many were caught on slow moving or stationary trains, while others were forced to book domestic flights to reach the summit.

The COP26 climate conference - what you need to know

What is COP26? When and where will it be?

Each year, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) meets at what is called the Conference of the Parties (abbreviated as COP) to discuss the world's progress on climate change and how to tackle it.

COP26 is the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties summit which will be held in Glasgow from 31 October to 12 November.

Who is going?

Leaders of the 197 countries that signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) – a treaty that came into force in 1994 - are invited to the summit.

These are some of the world leaders that will be attending COP26:

  • US President Joe Biden, climate envoy John Kerry, climate adviser and former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy, and 10 other US cabinet officials.

  • Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison. In the days leading up to COP26, Mr Morrison committed Australia to a target of net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Prince Charles, Prince William, the Duchess of Cornwall and the Duchess of Cambridge are also attending. The Queen has withdrawn from visiting after being advised by her doctors to rest - she will address the conference virtually instead.

China's President Xi Jinping, Russia's President Vladimir Putin, and President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil are among the leaders that have decided not to travel to Glasgow.

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What is it hoping to achieve?

1. Achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and limiting global warming to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels - Countries are being encouraged to set ambitious 2030 emissions targets. They are also encouraged to accelerate the phase-out of coal, clamp down on deforestation, speed up the switch to electric vehicles and encourage investment in renewables.

2. Protect natural habitats and communities from climate change disasters

3. Finances for a greener future - In 2009, developed countries were asked to keep to their promises to contribute at least $100 billion (£72.5 billion) per year by 2020 to protect the planet. In 2015, it was agreed that the goal would be extended to 2025.

However, new analysis shows the goal is unlikely to have been met last year and is on track to fall short in 2021 and 2022.

4. Getting all countries and organisations to work together to tackle the climate crisis

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An announcement just before 2pm revealed all train services had been suspended and the concourse was “exit only” due to overcrowding.

Mid-afternoon some trains began running on a diversion route, but Network Rail warned that fewer services would be running and would take longer.

Pictures on social media showed the concourse packed with people.

Climate change scientist Simon Lewis said he has been stuck on a train for more than three hours as a result of the disruption.

The 49-year-old professor, from University College London, was on the 11am service from London to Edinburgh but was brought to a halt just 45 minutes later.

“We are moving a tiny bit every now and again, but have not made it to Peterborough yet, the first stop,” he said.

“This is inconvenient and a reminder that climate change drives extreme weather events and every country needs to adapt."

He added: “A stopped train is nothing compared to the two million people displaced by flooding in Shanxi province in China, last month, and those facing famine today in Madagascar.”

Another passenger, David Johnson, said he and others on his train from London Euston to Glasgow were told to get off the train after half an hour of waiting.

Mr Johnson is attending COP26 as chief executive of the Margaret Pyke Trust, a UK-based international NGO focused on removing barriers to family planning as part of climate adaptation efforts.

Passengers at Euston station in London Credit: Yui Mok/PA

Needing to reach the summit, Mr Johnson decided to book a flight from Gatwick to Glasgow which, he said, “does, of course, seem ridiculous”.

“The irony of the climate impacting the trains, meaning a flight to the climate change conference is the only way to get there today, is not lost on me,” he said.

The original disruption came as a result of damage to overhead electrical wires between Rugby and Milton Keynes on the West Coast Main Line.

Network Rail said its teams are on site near Long Buckby in Northamptonshire, where the damage occurred.

The company said it is working to remove the fallen tree before assessing the damage and beginning repairs.

Travellers are advised not to go to Euston and instead check for regular updates.