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

20 December 2023, 12:41

Storm Pia could bring travel chaos over Christmas (file photos from previous years)
Storm Pia could bring travel chaos over Christmas (file photos from previous years). Picture: Getty/Alamy

By Kit Heren

Fears have been raised of Christmas travel chaos amid 70mph winds brought by Storm Pia this week.

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Storm Pia will hit the UK at midnight on Wednesday, with the Met Office issuing a 21-hour yellow weather warning until 9pm on Thursday.

Gusts will reach 70mph on some headlands, with winds expected to reach 55mph on some northern coasts.

The Met Office's alert, which covers all of Scotland and North Wales as well as some areas of East Anglia, the Midlands and northern England, warns that the inclement weather could cause disruption on the roads and railways over the festive period.

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

Read more: 'Danger to life' warning as 80mph winds to sweep UK causing travel chaos ahead of white Christmas

The UK is set to be battered by strong winds
The UK is set to be battered by strong winds. Picture: Alamy

National Rail has warned of speed restrictions for trains in Scotland for Thursday, for routes from Edinburgh to Inverness and Glasgow to Oban and Mallaig.

They said: "Strong winds can severely impact the railway, with train delays and cancellations", adding that "high winds can mean trains have to run at slower speeds than usual to operate safely" and "strong winds can also bring down trees and other debris that blocks tracks and damages power lines."

Network Rail has also issued its own warning of disruption. They said that "strong winds are forecast which may affect your journey on Wednesday and Thursday".

Saturday is set to be the busiest day for journeys on the railways, ahead of shutdowns and engineering works over the festive period.

Meanwhile the AA has issued an amber travel alert for the roads on Friday, which is expected to be the busiest day for drivers over the festive period. Some 16.1 million journeys are set to be made on December 22. An amber warning is to prepare drivers for likely congestion.

Revellers brave the stormy weather earlier this month in Birmingham
Revellers brave the stormy weather earlier this month in Birmingham. Picture: Alamy

The weekend is likely to remain windy, according to the Met Office, with showers to continue in western parts of the UK. Those living in the south-east should remain relatively dry.

The Met Office's weather warning for Storm Pia warned that some bus and train services would be affected, with some journeys taking longer, as well as delays to road, rail, air and ferries.

The forecasters said that there would be some short term loss of power and other services, while coastal routes, sea fronts and coastal communities could be affected by sea spray and big waves.

A van splashes through a large puddle amid recent stormy weather
A van splashes through a large puddle amid recent stormy weather. Picture: Alamy

Chris Almond, the Met Office’s deputy chief meteorologist, said: "From late Wednesday into Thursday, strong winds are likely to develop across a large area of the UK.

"We’ve issued a large yellow warning area where there’s a potential for some impacts, but gusts of 50-60mph are possible for large parts of central and northern areas of the UK.

"Exposed coasts and high ground could see gusts of 70-80mph at times.

"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."

Christmas shoppers and other pedestrians make their way along Piccadilly on a rainy afternoon  in Westminster
Christmas shoppers and other pedestrians make their way along Piccadilly on a rainy afternoon in Westminster. Picture: Getty

On Christmas Day itself some parts of Scotland could get snow, but it is unlikely the rest of the UK will have a White Christmas.

Mr Almond said: "On Christmas Day there’s a chance of showers almost anywhere, and across the high ground of Scotland in particular, these could fall as sleet and snow, which would technically make it a White Christmas, as we only need to see a single flake falling. However, for the majority of the UK it’s unlikely that we’ll see significant snow, but it will likely feel cold in a strong breeze.

"Beyond Christmas Day a westerly influence on the weather remains the most likely scenario, with further rain or showers and strong winds for many, and again mainly over the hills of Scotland, some sleet and snow is likely, as is often the case in December. Further details will be available closer to the time."

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