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Last Updated: Saturday, 1 March 2008, 20:20 GMT
High winds disrupt rail services
Freight container on the line in Cumbria
The container went onto the line during high winds
Passengers on the West Coast railway line have been hit by severe delays after containers from two freight trains fell onto tracks in high winds.

The winds, which battered much of England overnight, left freight on the tracks at Shap in Cumbria.

Network Rail said services around Shap would not resume until at least Monday.

The line between Tring and Bletchley, where more freight landed on the track, was due to reopen but delays were expected for several hours.

Virgin Train and Transpennine West customers affected by the closure of the line in Cumbria have been urged to find alternative routes.

It was not only rail services which were affected by the weather, with cranes at the port of Felixstowe damaged in the wind and several people injured in incidents where they were hit by falling trees or parts of buildings.

Track damage

A Network Rail spokesman said: "A freight train passing through the Shap area lost some containers. These containers are now lying on the line."

The train had just come up the Shap incline, one of the longest hills on a main line in the UK and was at about 1,000ft (305m) above sea level when the wind caught it and blew the containers away.

Virgin Train
Virgin advised its customers to find alternative routes

The Met Office said it had recorded a gust of 66mph in the area but added a funnelling effect could have meant stronger winds.

The freight train driver did not notice the containers, which were empty but still weighed between two and four tonnes, until he was stopped in Lockerbie, southern Scotland.

Freight operators Freightliner said the containers would have been locked onto the wagons and that this is the first time this has happened since the company was formed.

The blockage means trains are being replaced by buses between Lancaster and Carlisle and between Preston and Glasgow.

Cranes damaged

The incident will mainly affect Virgin passengers on the West Coast mainline, which runs from London to Glasgow.

While services between Hemel Hempstead in Hertfordshire and Bletchley in Buckinghamshire were suspended Virgin Train services travelling to London Euston had to terminate at Milton Keynes with replacement bus services operating between Milton Keynes and Watford Junction.

A shuttle service was operating between Hemel Hempstead and London Euston.

A Network Rail spokesman said both incidents happened during strong winds but investigations would be carried out into the exact cause.

Humberside Fire and Rescue picture of crushed car
A motorist was taken to hospital after a tree landed on a car

Meanwhile, cranes at the Port of Felixstowe in Suffolk have been damaged after a ship broke free from its moorings during the strong winds.

And four people in a yacht had to be landed ashore by the Whitstable Lifeboat after the craft broke its mooring and went aground at Harty Ferry in the Swale, Kent.

Across England people were injured by falling trees or parts of buildings damaged by the strong winds.

In East Yorkshire, a driver was taken to hospital after a car was hit by a tree which fell on the A165 Beverley to Driffield Road.

Chimney stacks

And in Scunthorpe, a woman was treated in hospital for neck pains after part of a stable was blown onto a car.

A woman who was crushed by a falling tree in Teesside on Friday afternoon remains in a critical condition.

And a woman near Doncaster, South Yorkshire, escaped injury when a tree blown down by the gale force winds crushed the static caravan she was sleeping in.

Emergency services were also called to homes in Broadheath, Altrincham, Cheshire, after gusts of wind threatened to bring down chimney stacks.

Residents living in up to 25 homes nearby were advised to move to local authority accommodation but only a few actually did so.

Staff from Trafford Borough Council are due visit the homes during the day to assess any damage.

Humberside Fire Service was also called out to dangerous chimney stacks and roofing at properties in Bridlington, Hull, Grimsby and Cleethorpes.

Homes and businesses in Lincolnshire and Gloucestershire have been affected by power cuts.



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