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 Tuesday, 31 December, 2002, 23:42 GMT
UK prepares to bring in New Year
New Year parade in Newcastle city centre
Festivities have begun in many UK cities
Revellers have gathered in city centres across the UK to celebrate the New Year, although heavy rain could mar some outdoor celebrations.

New Year travel tips
Celebrations underway in Newcastle
London tubes free from 2345 GMT until around 0130 GMT on January 1
No service on London Underground between 0200-0600 GMT on January 1
London buses free between 2345 GMT and 0430 GMT
Strike on First Great North Western trains until January 2

Street parties are underway in cities across the UK including Edinburgh, Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Cardiff, as the clock ticks towards midnight.

But rain and flooding may put a dampener on celebrations in some parts of the country.

More than 70 flood warnings are in place in England and Wales - many of which are in the Midlands.

Across England and Wales, New Year's Eve is also be the first test of new licensing laws due to come into force next year.

Pubs and clubs are able to stay open for up to 36 continuous hours, although few venues have decided to take advantage of the full time allowed.

Crowds warning

In London, police are advising people to stay away from Trafalgar Square, which will remain closed due to pedestrianisation work.

Chief Superintendent Paul Toland, deputy head of policing in the City of Westminster, said the aim was to avoid overcrowding.
Trafalgar Square
Building work means Trafalgar Square will be shut

He said every New Year's Eve about 60,000 people flocked to Trafalgar Square.

Mr Toland added: "Other areas, such as Leicester Square and Parliament, also see huge crowds so my advice really is see in the New Year close to home or at an organised event - this is the easiest way you avoid a lot of disappointment."

The traditional New Year's Day Parade in London will also be heavily policed.

Leading Liberal Democrat MP Simon Hughes said the capital was shamed by its lack of official celebrations.

"It is right that New Year celebrations take place this year with proper security and proper vigilance," said the member for North Southwark and Bermondsey.

"But it is extraordinary that, two and a half years after the election of the London Mayor and the new GLA, one of the great capitals of the world still cannot organise a party."

Stunning firework displays and elaborate street parties have been organised in cities such as New York, Sydney, Berlin, and Paris.

Scotland celebrates

In Scotland, a crowd of 100,000 people are packing the streets for Edinburgh's hogmanay party.
Hogmanay in Edinburgh
Revellers enjoy a fairground near Edinburgh Castle

The 10th anniversary of the city's New Year celebrations includes music from former international chart-toppers Culture Club and Mercury Music Prize winner Ms Dynamite.

It will be Newcastle-upon-Tyne not London that will host the biggest New Year celebrations in England.

Theatre and entertainment, bands and parades kicked off the celebrations at noon.

A sell-out crowd of 40,000 will usher in the New Year on the Newcastle and Gateshead banks of the Tyne.

Thousands more will watch from vantage points above the bridges as Sir Bobby Robson, leads the countdown to midnight, and starts a firework display.

  The BBC's John Morrison
"Security will be tightened up in Edinburgh"
See also:

31 Dec 02 | Scotland
31 Dec 02 | N Ireland
31 Dec 02 | Wales
20 Dec 02 | Politics
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