Christmas getaway chaos as 'do not travel' alert and entire railway line blocked issued amid 80mph Storm Pia gusts

21 December 2023, 08:44 | Updated: 21 December 2023, 13:17

Britain is betting battered by effects from Storm Pia
Britain is betting battered by effects from Storm Pia. Picture: Alamy

By Will Taylor

Commuters have been told to avoid travel as Storm Pia's 80mph winds threaten the Christmas getaway.

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A wind warning has been put in place for northern England, north Wales, the Midlands, Scotland and Northern Ireland for most of the day.

British Airways grounded some flights on Thursday, with a spokesperson saying: "As a result of Air Traffic Control restrictions put in place because of Storm Pia, we have had to make some adjustments to our schedule today."

The railway line from London Euston to Manchester was blocked on Thursday afternoon because of damage to the overhead wires. All trains were cancelled as engineers assessed the damage. Manchester Piccadilly station apologised.

TransPennine Express put out a "do not travel" warning, "strongly" recommending passengers wait until after 3pm to make their trip.

ScotRail cancelled services on seven lines including Glasgow to Oban and Mallaig and Inverness to Aberdeen.

Read more: Christmas travel chaos fears, as 70mph winds to sweep across Britain with Storm Pia this week

Avanti West Coast routes between Glasgow Central and Lockerbie, and Edinburgh and Lockerbie, could de delayed by up to an hour due to speed restrictions.

Meanwhile, CrossCountry warned services between Edinburgh and Newcastle could be cancelled or delayed, while LNER warned trains could be cancelled, delayed or altered. Some of their trains could terminate at Newcastle instead of Edinburgh.

Northern said its trains could be delayed by up to 45 minutes, and East Midlands Railway said services between Nottingham and Crewe could be affected due to damage to overhead wires.

Britain is facing strong wind and rain
Britain is facing strong wind and rain. Picture: Alamy

Schools in Shetland have had to shut while some ferry services were scrapped.

A yellow weather warning was put in place by the Met Office from midnight and is due to last until 9pm.

Gusts of up to 80mph have been forecast, while other parts of the country will see them hit 55mph.

Met Office chief meteorologist Paul Gundersen said: "We've issued a large yellow warning area where there's a potential for some impacts, but gusts of 50 to 60mph are possible for large parts of central and northern areas of the UK.

Read more: Exact day snow to start falling this week ahead of White Christmas

"Exposed coasts and high ground could see gusts of 70-80mph at times, mainly across the far north of Scotland.

"There's a chance this low pressure will continue to exert its influence into Friday, so it's important to stay up to date with the latest Met Office forecast."

The disruption comes ahead of the big getaway tomorrow, with any issues from the weather compounding the AA's warning of more than 16 million car journeys clogging the roads.

Britain is being battered by strong wind
Britain is being battered by strong wind. Picture: Met Police

It has issued an amber travel alert.

And the bad weather will last into the weekend, which will bring rain for many parts and the chance of snow "most likely confined to high ground in northern Scotland".

Mr Gundersen said: "Christmas Day looks like being fairly unsettled in northern and western areas. Any showers in the north could be wintry with hail and thunder, but even here, any snow will be mainly on high ground.

"The south of the country will see the best of the drier and brighter conditions. While temperatures will be near normal for the time of year it will be a windy day for many meaning it will feel colder.

"Beyond Christmas Day further rain or showers and strong winds are likely for many, and again any sleet and snow will be mainly over the hills of Scotland, as is often the case in December."