M23 flooded as downpours bring pre-Christmas chaos to roads and rail

Flooding is causing severe travel disruption across south-east England as many people embark on a Christmas getaway.

The M23 is closed between junctions 10 and 11 in West Sussex after a nearby watercourse burst its banks, Highways England said.

Devon and Cornwall Police said flooding across the force area 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.

Several rail lines in the South East are blocked due to flooding and landslips.

The Met Office issued a severe weather warning for more heavy rain and showers across southern England from 12.01am Saturday until noon on Sunday.

It is forecasting up to 30mm of rain in parts of the South while the warning is in place.

A Met Office spokeswoman said: “Given the fact that there has been a lot of rain in southern England already this week, there is potential for flash flooding and difficult driving conditions, especially as it is a busy weekend in the run-up to Christmas.”

Train passengers were urged not to travel between Brighton and Gatwick Airport on Friday morning, with a heavily reduced service in place by the afternoon.

Network Rail said heavy rain caused significant flooding on the Brighton main line, with water “completely submerging the rails in some areas”.

Engineers are on site and attempting to remove floodwater where possible.

Southern, Thameslink and Gatwick Express services are affected.

The operators warned that replacement buses are being “heavily disrupted due to ongoing road traffic conditions”.

Winter weather Dec 20th 2019
Rail workers trying to clear a landslip on a railway line between Guildford and Godalming (Network Rail Wessex/PA)

A landslip in Surrey blocked all lines between Guildford and Godalming, disrupting South Western Railway and Great Western Railway services.

No Southeastern trains are able to run between Maidstone West and Strood due to a tree on the line and a landslip.

John Halsall, managing director of Network Rail’s southern region, said the combination of one of the wettest autumns since records began with a month’s worth of rainfall in the past five days has put the rail network “under enormous pressure”.

He went on: “We have hundreds of colleagues out in force across the region to clear debris from drains, pump away excess water and clear mud and trees from the tracks.

“Our passengers have had an awful week of disruption, so I know an apology isn’t enough. But we are working tirelessly to deliver the best service we can during these challenging circumstances.”

Weather warnings for rain
(PA Graphics)

Passengers were advised to check with train operators or visit nationalrail.co.uk for the latest journey information.

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

Some 63 flood warnings – where flooding is expected – are in place for England, alongside nearly 200 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.

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