Severe disruptions grip the Devon rail network as Storm Henk unleashes its fury, with pounding rain and winds reaching 80mph. National Rail declares a state of emergency, revealing submerged lines and critical routes obstructed by fallen trees, bringing train services to a standstill.
In an official statement, National Rail strongly advises against train travel due to the perilous conditions, especially impacting the South Western Railway (SWR) network. Widespread cancellations and delays are expected throughout the day. Passengers holding tickets for today’s travel are assured that they will be valid for services tomorrow. Alternatively, reimbursement for taxi expenses is being facilitated.
A spokesperson for National Rail emphasizes the gravity of the situation, stating, “Train services across the entire South Western Railway network may face cancellations, delays, or revisions, with disruption anticipated until the day’s end.” Highlighting the challenges posed by fallen trees, they add, “Due to multiple tree blockages across the SWR network, the majority of our services will be suspended until further notice. It is strongly advised not to travel at this time.”
Reported incidents contributing to the ongoing chaos include a tree blocking the railway between Sunningdale and Ascot, another at Hook, and one between Virginia Water and Ascot. Trees are also reported to be blocking railways at various other locations, including Farnham, Eastleigh and Romsey, Motspur Park and Worcester Park, and Ash Vale. A precarious tree between Guildford and Worplesdon further complicates matters. Heavy rainfall worsens the situation, causing flooding on the line between Ryde Esplanade and Ryde Pier Head.
Consequently, several crucial services are temporarily suspended until further notice, encompassing Staines to Reading, Basingstoke to Exeter St David’s, Basingstoke to Weymouth, Portsmouth to Southampton, Woking to Alton, and Woking to Portsmouth.
Meanwhile, Okehampton and Crediton faced a separate rail catastrophe as a damaged footbridge roof collapsed onto the tracks on Tuesday. Great Western Railway promptly announced the cancellation of all trains between Okehampton and Crediton until further notice, attributing the incident to high winds from Storm Henk tearing off the footbridge’s corrugated roof.
In response, Great Western Railway issued a statement, saying, “Train services to and from these stations may be cancelled, with disruption expected until 17:00 02/01.” Commuters relying on the affected routes are advised to seek alternative transportation or defer travel plans until railway infrastructure is deemed safe.
Local authorities are working tirelessly to clear fallen trees and address flooding, but Storm Henk’s sustained intensity makes the full restoration of train services uncertain. As residents and travellers navigate the aftermath of this powerful storm, Devon’s transport network resilience is put to the test, underscoring the need for proactive measures to mitigate extreme weather impacts on vital services.