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Network Rail battles to reopen flooded line

Network Rail was today battling to reopen lines to the West Country after the predicted weekend storms battered track in Somerset, closing all routes to Devon and Cornwall.

Flooding on the Somerset Levels and a landslip at Crewkerne cut off all rail routes to the West Country.

The route from Bridgwater was blocked by the flooded River Parrett to the south of the town, while the main line from Castle Cary was blocked by flooding at Athelney.

A diversion route via Yeovil was also blocked by an embankment landslip at Crewkerne.

The route to London Paddington via Athelney had reopened today and close inspection of the landslip site showed that it was safe to run trains at a reduced speed, allowing services to run between Exeter and London Waterloo.

But Network Rail said it was too early to say when the line through Bridgwater will reopen. High winds are driving waves of flood water which is washing away track ballast the stones.

Elsewhere, flooding in the Datchet area of Berkshire is preventing trains from running between Staines and Windsor & Eton Riverside stations west of London.

Water levels were expected to rise and Network Rail said it was expected to be some time before it could re-open the line.

Today, services between Oxford and Didcot were also disrupted by flooding at Hinksey.

Groundwater is causing problems with equipment in the Maidenhead area, but trains are still able to run.

There is likely to be little respite, with the Environment Agency warning that more rain, wind and waves are likely to cause further flooding this week.

“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 [River] Thames and rivers across the South West, Central and Southern England,” said Agency head of strategy and investment Pete Fox.

This morning there were 16 severe flood warnings in place along parts of the Thames and in areas of Somerset. A severe flood warning means that there is a risk to life.

The Agency has issued 14 severe flood warnings along the Thames from Datchet to Shepperton Green, including Ham Court and Chertsey. River levels in the area are extremely high and are forecast to keep rising.

Two severe flood warnings remain in force at Saltmoor and Northmoor, including Moorland, and for the A361, East Lyng to Burrowbridge, as flooding continues on the Somerset Levels.

Over the past week, more than 600 homes have flooded. But 180,000 properties have been protected from flooding.

England has experienced the wettest January since 1766, and with the ground already saturated, further rainfall is increasing flood risk across the country, especially in the South.

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