UK weather: Christmas chaos as railway and motorways to Gatwick flood and people urged 'not to travel' - latest updates

Gareth Davies
Flooding in Wiltshire - Lee Thomas

  • Train delays of two hours
  • Motorway flooded by river
  • Landslips block railway lines
  • Flyers told to make other plans

Those hoping to flee the vile British weather for some Christmas sun or the slopes could see their getaway plans washed out amid travel chaos affecting one of the country's busiest airports. 

Train operators have told people not to travel to Gatwick by rail after the network flooded overnight. 

Thameslink, which serves Gatwick and London Bridge from Brighton, told customers if they wanted to guarantee catching their flight, they should make other plans.

But some would-be flyers trying to reach the airport have reported taxis are refusing to make the trip, and even if they managed to get a cab to take them, people have still missed their flights. 

Landslips have also dumped tonnes of debris onto lines in the south east, blocking the tracks completely.

This includes the line between Guildford and Godalming used by South Western Railway to take commuters between from Surrey and Hampshire and London.  

Stay up to date with the latest here throughout the day.

11:41AM

Brighton to Gatwick trains now running - but only hourly

The tracks gave cleared sufficiently enough for Southern Rail to put on a train an hour. 

Here's the latest from them: 

A significantly reduced, hourly service will run in both directions calling at all stations in between Brighton and Gatwick Airport. Alternatively, you may wish to consider travelling via Barnham, and changing there for alternative services into London.

11:33AM

Engineers struggle to clear floodwater

The water levels on the tracks at Balcombe are decreasing.

Albeit slowly.

11:17AM

The M23 now resembles a river

The motorway which feeds Gatwick from Brighton is completely underwater. 

This was posted by Sussex Police just after 10am. 

11:11AM

The Gatwick Christmas curse

What is it about the Sussex airport and Christmas chaos. 

A year ago to the day, more than 100,000 passengers were hit by cancellations when police said they spotted a drone over the runway. 

Relive the drama here.

10:57AM

If you're travelling to Gatwick by train - expect two hour delays

This is the latest from Thameslink. 

If you're about to brave the journey, delays are currently at about 120 minutes. 

10:42AM

When it rains, it pours

Southeastern - which operates between London and East Sussex and Kent - has now suffered a power failure.

Customers in Tonbridge are impacted. 

10:41AM

Do not travel to Gatwick, train operator says

In a statement, Thameslink said: "Heavy rainfall is causing major disruption across the Southern, Thameslink and Gatwick Express network.

"We strongly advise to not travel at this time between Brighton and Gatwick Airport.

"Alternative routes to reach your destination are limited, so you should make your own way to your destination. Please be mindful that roads will also be suffering from the increased rainfall.

" You should strongly consider making private travel arrangements in order to get to your flight in time. London to Gatwick Airport services will be affected, but to a far lesser extent."

10:35AM

Another landslip blocks the line - this time near Guildford

A landslip near Guildford is causing major disruption to South Western Railway and Great Western Railway services.

Landslip between Guildford and Godalming Credit: National Rail Wessex

The rail operator is already running at about half its capacity due to the longest train strike in British history which has crippled the commute from Surrey into the capital. 

10:32AM

Flooding in Britain, in pictures

Vehicles attempt to cross a bridge over the River Avon near Lacock Credit: Lee Thomas
A car drives over a flooded bridge in Wiltshire Credit: Lee Thomas
Floodwater pours onto the M23 - the motorway that feeds Gatwick Credit: Highways Agency

10:28AM

'Thank you Southern Rail for destroying Christmas'

Flyers struggling to get to Gatwick this morning. 

Some vented their fury on social media, accusing rail operators of ruining Christmas. 

Others posted pictures of cars crawling through lake-like roads. 

And others complained that taxis were refusing to take them to the airport. 

9:58AM

To add insult to injury...the M23 is flooded

Those hoping to fly today have been told to find their own way to Gatwick with the trains not running. 

That would ordinarily mean hopping in a taxi. 

One problem - the motorway that feeds the airport is shut and resembles a river. 

 It's probably not advisable to walk, so it looks you'll be facing a detour through the back-roads if you're on your way.

The affected area is south of the airport.

9:52AM

Landslip sees 10 tonnes of debris pile up on tracks

A landslip in Halley in the Medway Valley has left the line with around 10 tonnes of soil and trees on the line. 

It means trains cannot run between buses between Strood and Maidstone West.

It looks like it could be a long day for the Network Rail engineers.  

9:33AM

Today's weather forecast

In summary, it's wet. 

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9:33AM

Flooding the railway network

Heavy overnight rain battered the rail network. 

The line in Balcombe - part of the Brighton line to London - is completely underwater. 

9:32AM

Thirty flood warnings, 189 flood alerts and three weather warnings

Some 30 flood warnings - where flooding is expected - were in place for England on Thursday evening, alongside 189 flood alerts, which warn flooding is possible.

As well as those Environment Agency alerts, there are also weather warnings for rain in place for Friday, Saturday and Sunday issued by the Met Office. 

They warn: 

  1. Homes and businesses could be flooded, causing damage to some buildings.
  2. Delays or cancellations to train and bus services are possible
  3. Spray and flooding could lead to difficult driving conditions and some road closures
  4. Some communities may be cut off by flooded roads.

There are three separate yellow warnings in place for rain in the south east of England including London, the south west of England and eastern Scotland.