Storm Barney leaves homes without power and causes rail chaos


Thousands of homes have been left without power and rail passengers are facing lengthy delays after Storm Barney battered the UK with winds of more than 80mph.

In the West Midlands 2,500 homes lost their electricity supply, according to Western Power Distribution, and Welsh residents have also been badly affected.

Rail services were hit by trees blown on to lines and overhead power cables, affecting several services in Birmingham, Staffordshire, Bedford and London, according to National Rail.

The highest winds were recorded on Tuesday at 83mph in coastal areas of North Wales, while gusts of 66mph registered in the villages of Weybourne in Norfolk and Wittering, near Peterborough in Cambridgeshire.

The second storm to bear a human name, coming hot on the heels of Storm Abigail, brought gusts strong enough to fell a metal advertising tower at The Fort Shopping Park in Birmingham, although nobody was hurt.

A fallen tree near Bishop's Stortford in Hertfordshire caused delays of around an hour on the route between London Liverpool Street and Stansted Airport, with buses being laid on instead.

London Midland said fallen trees had halted all its rush-hour services between Lichfield in Staffordshire, Coseley in the West Midlands, and Birmingham.

In a statement, the rail operator said: "Due to extensive damage to the overhead power lines caused by fallen trees, trains are currently unable to run between Birmingham and Lichfield, or between Coseley and Birmingham.

"Rail tickets will be accepted on National Express West Midlands buses and Midland Metro trams."

Trains from Birmingham New Street and Wolverhampton were also running, but with a delay of 15 minutes due to route changes.

The worst of the storm was over by Wednesday morning but forecasters have warned of an "ongoing unsettled spell".

John Lee, a forecaster with MeteoGroup, said: "In general the strongest winds moved west to east across Ireland to Wales, the Midlands and East Anglia.

"From about midnight it all quickly died down. Barney is out of the way now and there is some low pressure that will be bringing rain to Northern Ireland and the far west of Scotland.

"We are going to get some strong winds today, with gusts of up to 55mph in exposed western areas but again it will die off overnight."

A two-storey block of flats in Leigh, Greater Manchester, was evacuated after part of the roof collapsed under the force of the storm.

Firefighters were called to the scene in Wilkinson Street at 7.45pm and the road was later closed by police as fire crews ensured that people were safe.

A dangerous-buildings inspector deemed that half of the property was unsafe for residents to return last night, said Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (GMFRS).

Other incidents in Greater Manchester on Tuesday night included part of the gable end of a house in Petticoat Lane in Ince falling into a utility room. No-one was injured.

In Heywood, firefighters were called out to make sure the area was safe after a large tree crashed on to the roof of a house in Grasmere Avenue. Two people were inside but were unharmed.

A large tree also fell on to a house in Goodwood Avenue, Sale, causing part of the roof to collapse into the property.

Chair of Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Authority, Councillor David Acton, said: "When there are strong winds you can take precautions by removing large items such as gazebos and climbing frames from outdoors or secure them down.

"Avoid going out in your car unless you really have to, and if you do take extra care and plan your journey ahead.

"Please only call 999 in an emergency - there may be other services you can call, for example your local council, highways agency, local builders, or TV engineers."

In North and Mid Wales, about 6,000 homes were left without power when the gale-force winds hit.

Scottish Power said its engineers worked hard throughout the night to tackle the problem, with just 150 customers waiting to be reconnected on Wednesday morning.