Rail firms and Highways Agency warn of disruption due to storm

Bicester Advertiser: Chiltern Railways is warning that speed restrictions due to the weather are likely to affect its services tomorrow Chiltern Railways is warning that speed restrictions due to the weather are likely to affect its services tomorrow

NETWORK Rail and train operators are advising passengers to check before travelling tomorrow and on Christmas Eve due to gale-force winds and heavy rain.

With winds gusting up to 60-70mph forecast across southern England, disruption is also expected on the roads, with the Highways Agency urging drivers of vehicles vulnerable to high winds to avoid some roads.

Network Rail says it will impose speed restrictions on many routes from mid-afternoon tomorrow to reduce the risk of trains running into trees and other debris blown on to the tracks. 

Services between Oxfordshire and London, Bristol and South Wales are among those expected to be affected by a blanket 50mph limit, resulting in extended journey times on First Great Western and CrossCountry services.

A similar restriction is also expected to be imposed on Chiltern Railways' route between Banbury, Bicester and London Marylebone.

The speed limits will mean fewer trains can run and those that do operate will have extended journey times.

Robin Gisby, Network Rail's managing director of operational services, said: “Our fundamental concern over the next 48 hours is to get everyone where they want to be for Christmas.

"It won’t be an easy task given the forecast conditions and disruption is likely, but I want to be very clear that our priority is running as many trains as we can safely, rather than worrying about hitting the timetable bang on."

To help passengers, all three train operators have announced that they will be lifting restrictions on tickets, allowing passengers to catch earlier trains than those they are booked on.

On CrossCountry services, restrictions are lifted on all services tomorrow and on Tuesday.

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On FGW, customers booked to travel after noon tomorrow will be able to travel on services in the morning.

On Chiltern services, advance, off-peak and super-off-peak tickets booked for travel tomorrow afternoon will also be valid in the morning, and off-peak and super off-peak tickets will be valid on all services.

Mr Gisby added: “Hundreds of engineers and other staff will be across the network over the next two days, ready to react quickly to any problems, removing debris and fixing equipment where necessary." 

John McTaggart, the head of on-road services at the Highways Agency said: “We are working closely with the Met Office to monitor conditions.

"Road users are urged to check traffic and weather conditions before setting out on journeys and to heed any advice such as speed restrictions once they are on the road."

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