Road and rail Christmas getaway hit by heavy rain

Heavy rain and flooding is causing chaos for thousands of people embarking on a Christmas getaway.

Road and rail journeys are being disrupted in parts of southern and eastern England on one of the busiest travel days of the year after some areas saw nearly 2in (50mm) of rain in just 36 hours.

Severe Met Office weather warnings for heavy rain indicate that water on roads will cause delays in some areas on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Met Office meteorologist Mark Wilson said: "There could be localised flooding. Stay in touch with the forecast, there could be delays to transport."

There could be up to 1.2in (30mm) of rain in the south on Saturday, he added.

The village of Cardinham in Cornwall saw 2in (52mm) of rain over 36 hours, while Bastreet Downs got 2.1in (53mm).

Devon and Cornwall Police said flooding across the force area has made "a number of roads impassable".

They urged motorists to take extra care and avoid driving into standing water.

Norfolk and Suffolk Police said roads in both counties were affected by floodwater.

Train companies issued an alert stating that they "strongly advise to not travel" between Brighton and London as flooding in West Sussex blocked the line between Haywards Heath and Three Bridges.

Gatwick Express services were suspended on what is the busiest day of the festive period for UK airports.

Southern and Thameslink said rail replacement buses have been ordered but warned they are being delayed "due to road conditions".

Downpours also caused disruption to Great Western Railway services between Exeter St Davids and Taunton.

The Environment Agency said it was monitoring the situation and the public were advised to remain vigilant.

Some 47 flood warnings – where flooding is expected – were in place for England on Friday morning, alongside 196 flood alerts, which warn flooding is possible.

An RAC survey suggested 4.7 million leisure trips by car would be taken on Friday, as many people embark on the Christmas getaway.

Three stretches of motorway identified as having the longest expected delays were:

– M6 north J5 Sutton Coldfield to J10A Wolverhampton (delays of 57 minutes)

– M25 clockwise J15 for M4 to J19 Watford (delays of 46 minutes)

– M1 south J16 Northampton West to J6 Watford (delays of 43 minutes)

Motorists were advised to delay journeys on major roads until after 8pm to avoid the worst of the traffic.