Post-Christmas travel misery as roads and railways look to recover from Storm Gerrit

By John Mercury December 28, 2023

Travellers on their way home from the Christmas break are set to endure more disruption today as roads and train lines battered by Storm Gerrit look to recover from the worst of the weather.

Heavy rain and winds of up to 80mph brought misery to other parts of the UK’s transport network on Wednesday.

It resulted in a major incident being declared in Greater Manchester, following a “localised tornado” yesterday evening. There are multiple reports of significant damage to properties in Stalybridge, Tameside.

No injuries have been reported but many residents have been forced to leave their homes. They have been asked not to return until their homes are assessed by structural engineers.

Police also asked people to avoid the area.

Stalybridge. Pic: Ioannis Alexopoulos/LNP
Stalybridge. Pic: Ioannis Alexopoulos/LNP

Damage to a garden in Stalybridge after reports of a tornado. Pic: Craig Brookes
Damage to a garden in Stalybridge after reports of a tornado. Pic: Craig Brookes

Some 14,000 people remain without power, Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) Distribution said as of 7.45am on Thursday, but just over 31,500 homes have had their supply restored.

Some customers, particularly those in areas impacted heavily or in rural locations, were warned they may stay disconnected into Friday.

Storm Gerrit – follow live updates

As of 8.30am, the Environment Agency was issuing 22 flood warnings, meaning flooding is expected, and 146 flood alerts for England.

There are currently no active Met Office weather warnings.

Scotland was the most badly impacted by the weather on Wednesday, with police forced to close numerous roads, including one flooded by a deluge in Whitesands, Dumfries.

Stalybridge. Pic: Ioannis Alexopoulos/LNP
Stalybridge. Pic: Ioannis Alexopoulos/LNP

Motorists on the A9 were delayed for hours due to wind and snow, with one driver, Shenna Moffat, telling Sky News it took her 14 hours to get home after a “scary” journey from Skye.

A major incident was declared before snowploughs were able to start clearing a way through in the Highlands, while further south at Ballinluig the road was closed due to flooding.

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Storm Gerrit leaves cars standed in Scotland

Trees felled and homes without power

On the railway, train operators LNER and Avanti West Coast were among those advising customers not to travel – the latter said its West Coast Main Line route to Scotland was impassable.

Avanti, which operates the West Coast Main Line, said on Thursday that due to a tree falling on the overhead wires between Rugby and Lichfield Trent Valley, some lines were blocked. It posted on X (Twitter) that services departing from London Euston would have extended journey times as they are diverted via the Midlands and advised people to check in case of delays.

Network Rail Scotland also imposed speed restrictions because of the weather, which flooded some lines and saw another near Dumbarton East Station closed by a fallen tree.

People left stranded were told to book hotels and claim back the costs, with some pre-booked tickets transferable to services aiming to run on Thursday and Friday.

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Storm Gerrit uproots giant tree

Planes struggle in strong winds

In other parts of the UK, flights and trains are among the services hoping to bounce back from a day of disruption.

Eighteen British Airways flights were cancelled due to air traffic control restrictions, including domestic trips to Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Jersey and Manchester, and overseas to Barcelona, Berlin, Madrid, and Paris.

Dramatic footage showed planes struggling to land at Bristol and Heathrow airports, while some passengers catching flights from Luton were left sweating due to problems on the railway.

Signalling failures meant East Midlands Railway was unable to run services between London St Pancras and Wellingborough on Wednesday, while a Thameslink service calling at the airport was delayed by nearly two hours.

Travellers heading to airports on Thursday were urged to check before they travel.

In a separate incident, rail services at Paddington, the UK’s second busiest station, were suspended on Thursday morning after a person was hit by a train.

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Planes struggle to land in strong winds

Highs recorded for wind and rain

The same advice was issued to ferry passengers after winds scuppered services between Southampton and Cowes.

Gusts also affected motorists, with the M48 Severn Bridge in Gloucestershire closed in both directions.

Get the weather forecast where you are

According to the Met Office, the strongest winds nationwide so far were 86mph at Inverbervie on Scotland’s northeast coast.

Power has been restored to 25,000 properties with a further 16,000 homes entering Thursday without power, according to the organisation.

Great Langdale Valley in the Lake District has seen the highest accumulation of rain, totalling 80mm. That was nearly half the usual 178mm monthly rainfall for December.

Storm Gerrit hit the UK less than a week after Storm Pia caused significant disruption ahead of Christmas.


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