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Rising river levels disrupting services across the South

Flooding continues to damage the railway, with a number of lines affected by water and landslides. The River Thames is at record levels, and more heavy rain has been forecast from Tuesday with water levels expected to continue to rise.

Robin Gisby, managing director of Network Rail, said: “The Thames is rising now to levels not seen for many, many years. What I think is really significant, and it has got worse overnight, is Oxford down to the Thames Valley through Didcot, Reading, Maidenhead and into Paddington.

“This isn't now just flooding, this is groundwater. The land is so saturated we have got water rising up, just as much as flowing on to it. So it is difficult.”

Flooding in the Datchet area means trains are not able to run between Staines and Windsor & Eton Riverside stations, while the line from Oxford to Didcot is disrupted, but still running, with flooding at Hinksey.

Engineers have reported “good progress” at Dawlish, with work taking place around the tides. Rail sleepers have been cut away and placed across the bottom of the damaged section of track, reinforced with sprayed fast-drying concrete to form a temporary barrier to protect the sub-soil from further erosion.


But the stormy weather led to severe delays and disruption to services over the weekend.

Flooding on the Somerset Levels and an embankment landslip at Crewkerne led to cancelled services on Saturday. A limited service reopened between Exeter and Waterloo on Sunday afternoon, with trains operating at a reduced speed.

A number of routes in Somerset are still beneath water, and are being monitored by Network Rail engineers. The line through Bridgwater remains closed. Water is being pumped out of the Somerset Levels to try and protect properties and the government has said that dredging will start as soon as the waters recede enough for it to be safe to do so.

bridgwater 08feb4

Another COBR meeting was held yesterday to try to develop a long-term plan for flood protection. Prime Minister David Cameron said on Sunday: “With significant disruption to rail lines across the South, but particularly in the South West, I have asked Network Rail to closely monitor the situation and do whatever it takes to restore the lines.”

Pete Fox, head of strategy and investment at the Environment Agency, said: “The weather continues to be hugely challenging, with further wind and waves threatening the south west coast and even more rain threatening to cause flooding along the Thames and rivers across the south west, central and southern England.”

Rail union RMT said that job cuts were hampering the flood efforts on the railway. General secretary Bob Crow said: “The government must be forced to recognise that the magnificent effort across our railways this morning is hampered by cuts that have axed over a thousand track workers jobs and slashed investment in maintenance and equipment in recent years with far worse to come as the Tory-led government presses on with its McNulty Rail Review cuts.

“There is a backlog of half a billion pounds worth of maintenance works in key areas like drainage and embankments alone that we are paying a heavy price for today.”

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