Travel disruption as Storm Gareth batters UK with gales up to 75mph

The strong gales and heavy rain brought by Storm Gareth have disrupted the UK’s transport network including delays to ferries and trains and road closures.

Gusts of up to 75mph were recorded in Scotland on Tuesday night, while winds of more than 60mph were felt widely across western parts of the UK in the early hours of Wednesday.

Three climbers died following an avalanche on Ben Nevis, the UK’s highest mountain, with a fourth taken to hospital with serious injuries.

Ben Nevis avalanche
Ben Nevis avalanche

The group were caught by a river of snow and ice in a gully as Gareth blew in with strong winds on Tuesday morning, triggering a huge search and recovery operation in “brutal conditions”, a rescuer said.

Queues of lorries around seven miles long formed along a section of a major motorway in Kent waiting for space on ferries and Eurotunnel crossings after severe weather disrupted cross-Channel crossings.

A coastbound section of the M20 between Junction 8 (Maidstone services) and Junction 9 (Ashford) was closed to normal traffic as part of traffic management measure Operation Stack.

Operation Stack
Operation Stack

P&O Ferries said its Dover-Calais sailings were delayed by up to two hours and warned that “weather conditions are likely to worsen into late afternoon”.

The Met Office issued two yellow weather warnings for the UK and Northern Ireland but these expired on Wednesday afternoon after Gareth passed the UK and into the North Sea.

But it said that while the strongest winds will begin to clear, the country will still face blustery conditions, with wet and windy weather overnight.

Storm Gareth: strongest gusts
Storm Gareth: strongest gusts

Meteorologist Sarah Kent said the strongest gusts will mainly be in higher areas.

She added: “It (Storm Gareth) has brought strong winds but it is clearing eastwards, although it has left some blustery conditions.

“The strongest winds have cleared but it is still very windy across parts of the UK, but mainly the higher ground.”

A tree falling on to overhead wires between Irvine and Kilwinning overnight caused disruption to trains between Glasgow and Ayr, but Scotrail confirmed on Wednesday afternoon that the lines had been repaired.

Trains between Durham and Newcastle were also halted after overhead electric wires were damaged, impacting LNER, CrossCountry, Northern and Transpennine Express services, but reopened later on Wednesday morning.

Some Virgin Trains services between Manchester Piccadilly and London Euston and some between Glasgow Central and Preston were cancelled.

⚠️💨#UKweather – Storm Gareth is bringing strong winds and heavy rain to many parts of England, Scotland and Wales. Yellow weather warnings are in place and disruption to your train journey is possible. Please check your journey before you travel:💨⚠️

— National Rail (@nationalrailenq) March 13, 2019

There were also reports of trees blocking roads and some exposed routes in north-east England being closed to high-sided vehicles.

Storm-force winds created “atrocious” conditions for an operation to rescue six crew from a French fishing vessel off Land’s End.

Two RNLI lifeboats launched after the alarm was raised at 10pm on Tuesday, but waves of up to 20ft meant it was “impossible” for a tow line to be attached and the crew were airlifted off by the Newquay Coastguard rescue helicopter.

Storm Gareth swept in across Northern Ireland on Tuesday, causing problems on the roads with fallen trees and the cancellation of ferries.

Met Eireann, the Irish Meteorological Service, also warned of “severe and damaging gusts” as the storm moved over the country.