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Storm Isha spreads chaos across rail, sea and air

Breaking news: High waves on the Ayrshire coast are interrupting ScotRail services that normally run beside the shore (Network Rail Scotland)
Breaking news: High waves on the Ayrshire coast are interrupting ScotRail services that normally run beside the shore (Network Rail Scotland)

Seven weather warnings – including two rare amber alerts – have been issued by the Met Office for large swathes of the country on Sunday and Monday.

Millions of travellers by rail, sea and air will find their journeys disrupted. Some intercity train firms are already warning against travel. In Scotland, the Irish Sea and the English Channel many ferry sailings have been cancelled. And in the skies, British Airways has cancelled more than two dozen flights to and from Heathrow.

These are the key areas of severe disruption as of 10am

Rail

Avanti West Coast, which runs trains on the line connecting London Euston with the West Midlands, northwest England, North Wales and southern Scotland, has warned against all travel today.

The rail firm says: “Due to the severe weather forecast with Storm Isha, speed restrictions will be in place on all Avanti West Coast routes on Sunday 21 January. We’ll also be operating a reduced timetable with our services expected to be busy.”

Passengers with tickets for Sunday can use them on Monday or Tuesday.

TransPennine Express, the intercity rail firm for the north of England and southern Scotland, says it is advising against travel between Preston and Edinburgh after 2pm and between Preston and Glasgow after 4pm.

ScotRail says: “We will end services early from 7pm on Sunday night on all routes outside the Central Belt [between and around Edinburgh and Glasgow], as well as services to/from Fife, Borders, Maryhill, East Kilbride and Kilmarnock.

“A limited service will run on the remaining Central Belt lines, but journeys will take longer as trains will be limited to 40mph for safety reasons.

“Safety checks will need to be made to ensure there is no damage before services resume on Monday along the affected routes.”

The train operator has appealed to people living near rail lines for help: “We’re asking lineside residents to tie down any loose garden furniture and help protect Scotland’s Railway.”

Caledonian Sleeper has cancelled the Sunday night Highland service – linking Aberdeen, Inverness and Fort William with London Euston. The company says: “We strongly advise you not to travel. If travel is essential, you can stay onboard our train in London Euston tomorrow with our crew, as it will remain on the platform overnight. Please arrive by the scheduled departure time of 9.15pm.

“If you stay on board, we are working with our industry colleagues LNER, Avanti and ScotRail to enable you travel on their services with your Sleeper ticket, but we must stress that there is a risk that you may not be able to travel further north than Glasgow or Edinburgh.”

LNER, which runs trains on the East Coast main line from London to and from northern Scotland, says: “If you are travelling north of Edinburgh between 4pm on Sunday 21 January and 12 noon on Monday 22 January, you are advised not to travel.”

The train operator has lifted all ticket restrictions for Sunday. “Where possible, customers are encouraged to travel earlier in the day before the weather deteriorates,” says LNER. “Customers travelling on Sunday 21 or Monday 22 January can defer travel up to and including Tuesday 23 January.”

Transport for Wales has cancelled all services between Llandudno and Blaneau Ffestiniog in North Wales, and between Shrewsbury and Swansea on the Heart of Wales line. Rail replacement buses are being provided.

Across the UK, many speed restrictions are being brought in, particularly on Sunday night and Monday morning. East Midlands Railway says journey times between London, Leicester, Derby, Nottingham and Sheffield will be doubled due to speed restrictions from 6pm on Sunday until 7am on Monday.

South Western Railway is predicting disruption from noon on Sunday to noon on Monday, with possible knock-effects during the afternoon.

Southeastern has already cancelled some trains between Kent and London early on Monday morning so safety teams can check for debris on the tracks.

And in the West of England and South Wales, Great Western warns of extended journey times due to speed restrictions.

Network Rail explains: “Strong winds cause a number of issues for the railway. Routes are lined by huge numbers of trees, and although these are regularly assessed, even one tree can cause significant disruption when it falls onto the track. Specialist teams will need to attend and make sure it is removed, and that any other nearby trees have not been affected.

“There may also be debris being blown onto the line, often from surrounding properties. We encourage all our neighbours to make sure their property is safe and secure, so that it doesn’t end up on the track, where it’s likely to be damaged. Again, in these cases, staff will attend and make sure the railway is clear.

“Speed restrictions will be put in place to allow drivers to stop in time, should there be obstructions on the railway. On routes with overhead wires, these may also be affected by high wind speeds. Your journey may be delayed, as this means the network has lower capacity, because trains take longer to travel along each section of track.”

Ferries

Disruption extends from the Western Isles of Scotland to the English Channel.

In Scotland, Caledonian MacBrayne has cancelled all sailings between Oban and the Hebridean islands of Barra, Coll and Tiree for the rest of the day, as well as sailings from Mallaig to Skye and South Uist – and warns that Monday and Tuesday voyages could also be disrupted.

The 9.45am sailing from Brodick on the island of Arran to Ardrosson on the mainland will be departing, but “due worse than forecasted weather conditions, berthing in Ardrossan is not guaranteed”.

On the Irish Sea, early ferries between Holyhead and Dublin are running 60 minutes late, and the Irish Ferries sailings on the route this afternoon and evening are cancelled.

The Port of Dover is warning: “Sea conditions in the Channel are very rough to high with a South Sou Westerly fresh gale, force 8.”

DFDS has already cancelled some cross-Channel ferries “due to adverse weather”.

A late afternoon Calais-Dover-Calais trip has been axed, along with sailings between Newhaven and Dieppe on Sunday afternoon.

The ferry firm says: “All services are currently operating with delays due to strong winds in the Channel. Please check-in as normal, we will transfer all passengers onto the first available sailing on arrival.”

In contrast, LeShuttle – the car-carrying service between Folkestone and Calais through the Channel Tunnel tweeted: “All our departures are on time and check-in is moving smoothly. We look forward to welcoming you on board.”

Air

British Airways has cancelled 26 domestic and European flights on Sunday because of expected “flow restrictions” at Heathrow airport – increasing the space between incoming aircraft and therefore reducing the number that can land.

A BA spokesperson told The Independent: “Like other airlines, we have had to make schedule adjustments due to the adverse weather conditions across the UK and Europe caused by Storm Isha.

“We’ve apologised to our customers for the disruption to their travel plans and our teams are working hard to get them on their way as quickly as possible.”

The grounded flights mainly serve destinations with high-frequency services, such as Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, Berlin, Lisbon, Milan and Munich. BA can deploy larger aircraft on remaining flights on affected routes.

British Airways has brought in extra staff to help deal with the disruption.

Loganair, the Scottish airline, is offering passengers booked on Sunday or Monday the chance to switch to any other day within a week – the airline says it is hoping to fly all its scheduled services, but this gives passengers more certainty.

Ryanair is warning of “potential disruptions to/from the UK” all day due to high winds. Europe’s biggest budget airline says: “We regret any inconvenience caused to passengers by these weather conditions, which are outside of Ryanair’s control and affect all airlines operating to/from the UK.”