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Rail and road chaos as Britain is lashed by winds of 100mph

TRAVELLERS suffered severe disruption as 100mph winds battered Britain forcing the partial closure of the West Coast Main Line between Glasgow and London yesterday.

STORM CHAOS: The flooding in the south of England continued as the gales swept over the country.
STORM CHAOS: The flooding in the south of England continued as the gales swept over the country.

Operator Virgin called all of its trains into stations after a fire broke out on an overhead cable at Crewe and Network Rail shut the line between Carlisle and Preston at 7pm for about two hours because of the hurricane-force winds.

No buses were laid on to allow passengers to complete their journeys - with Virgin blaming dangerous road conditions.

Last night Network Rail confirmed the line had reopened and a normal service was expected to run today.

The violent storm, captured in a dramatic satellite image released by Dundee University, is the latest event in what has been described as an "almost unparalleled natural crisis" by assistant chief of the defence staff Major General Patrick Sanders, who is coordinating the armed forces response to the flooding in the south of England.

The severity of the rail problems emerged when Virgin announced around 6pm on the social media site Twitter that no further trains would leave London Euston because of "various problems across the network". It then posted a dramatic message in capital letters urging "all customers to abandon travel".

Services later resumed to Manchester and Liverpool.

A Virgin spokesman said last night: "The wind may be dying down but what we feared might happen seems to have happened in that a number of trees have blown on to the track in the Lancaster area and Network Rail can't open the line until the trees have been cleared."

Earlier yesterday, desperate travellers expressed their anger at the disruption. Darren Milner tweeted: "Total joke. All Virgin trains to Manchester cancelled. Euston utter chaos."

At Glasgow Central, Algerian tourist Adel Bouhassane, who was heading to London to see relatives, said: "I was told the train I was booked on wasn't going to London and to get on another train, but then they said that one was only going to Birmingham and I could try get to London from there.

"But I didn't want to risk being stuck in Birmingham. I'd rather be with my family in Glasgow and go to London later."

The ScotRail overnight sleeper between Glasgow Central and London Euston, which looked as if it would be cancelled, departed after Network Rail carried out checks on the line.

Meanwhile, as warnings were issued over high winds and snow for most of Scotland police said the weather conditions had caused "carnage" on some roads.

Motorists suffered disruption on higher ground, including an accident in the Highlands involving a heavy goods vehicle and a van, which left one man trapped on the A9 at Drumochter Pass. Both drivers were taken to hospital. Their injuries were not thought to be life-threatening.

There was also disruption on the A82 at Ballachulish with a jack-knifed lorry and several other minor collisions, which did not result in any injuries.

Road users were advised to use caution crossing the A9 Dornoch Bridge due to high winds, and the snow gates were closed at Cock Bridge in Aberdeenshire.

Elsewhere, the M74 south-bound was shut at the Happendon Services, South Lanarkshire, following an accident at 5.40pm.

First Minister Alex Salmond chaired a Scottish Government Resilience Committee meeting yesterday to assess preparedness.

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