More than 1,000 homes flooded and M2 closed after 15m deep hole opens up; fomer chief scientific advisor says Britain is “reaping the worldwind” for failing to act on climate change.
5.15pm: Cameron: I went to Devon to “check up” on Network Rail
Prime minister David Cameron has revealed that he went to Devon today, partly to check that Network Rail was working as hard as it could to restore the destroyed railway line at Dawlish.
The rail operator has said it will take six weeks to reinstate the 80m of track and coastline that was swept away by storms last week.
Cameron has told a press conference that he wanted to challenge that timescale, but learnt that it could be done no faster.
“Network Rail say it looks like six weeks worth of work. I wanted to check today that they were working as hard as they could in terms of timings,” he said. “They are only standing down three hours either side of the highest tides - effectively working 18 hours a day - and they have a fully worked up plan. So that is looking like six weeks which is a depressingly long time if you are a user of that service,” he said.
He added that there was no quick fix to flooding on the Somerset Levels either. “The Somerset Levels are also pretty depressing figures. Even with new pumping strategy its going to take time to get the water level down, even without more rain,” he said. “So have to prepare for the long haul.”
5pm: Transport infrastructure the future focus for prime minister David Cameron
Prime minister David Cameron has said that transport infrastructure will be a “particular focus” for future flood defence spending in a press conference this afternoon.
Cameron was responding to a question challenging flood defence spending.
“We have increased the money spent on flood defences. And we have announced an extra £130M of funding last week. But truth is when you have this kind of weather it is very difficult to have all the protections you need,” said Cameron.
“Lessons will be learned about where the extra money can make most difference, and I think there will be a particular focus on transport infrastructure. That will be absolutely key to building a more resilient country,” he said.
4.50pm: “Money is no object in flood relief effort, says Cameron.
Prime minister David Cameron has said that money will be no object in the flood relief effort. He was speaking at a press conference this afternoon.
“Money is no object in flood relief effort. We will take whatever steps are necessary,” he said. “We are a wealthy country, we have a growing economy. So we will spend what is necessary,” he said. , adding that he was cancelling trips abroad next week to take personal charge of the recovery effort. “Nothing is more important than dealing with these floods.”
Cameron said the government’s Agencies were working as hard as they can and that more help is needed. “It is clear that the Military can play a further role,” he said, adding that 100 soldiers are deployed in Berkshire helping build temporary flood defences.
“The staff of the Environment Agency have done a fantastic, extraordinarily good job,” he stressed.
Cameron also announced that grants will be available for homeowners, businesses and farmers hit by the floods.
4pm: The M2 is currently closed in both directions near Sittingbourne in Kent for urgent safety investigations and repairs after a 15m deep hole opened up in the central reservation.
The hole, between junctions 5 and 6, measures approximately 5m by 2m wide and 15m deep. The Highways Agency said it and its contractors are working hard to investigate the hole and the necessary repairs and will reopen lanes as soon as it is safe to do so.
3.30pm: Environment Agency says 1,000 more homes flooded in Berkshire
The Environment Agency has said 1,000 more homes have been flooded today in Berkshire, taking the total to 5,800 since start of year.
3pm: Network Rail urges passengers not to travel out of Paddington
Passengers are being advised not to travel out of Paddington this afternoon unless absolutely necessary as flooding along the Thames Valley has caused severe problems for running trains through the Maidenhead area.
Continued rising water levels in the Thames valley has flooded out the signalling equipment in the Maidenhead area. Overnight Network Rail engineers, assisted by the fire brigade and army, helped to protect some vulnerable equipment but groundwater flooding has meant that services have had to be cut back as trains are only able to pass through the area using hand signallers. This means that only about four trains an hour are able to pass through at slow speed rather than the normal 12, at high speed.
Meanhile work continues at Dawlish to re-establish the connection between Cornwall and Devon with the Great Western mainline to Exeter. A temporary sea-wall has been build using sand and stone filled shipping containers and scaffolding is now being erected to start work on the rebuild, which will take at least six weeks.
Elsewhere flooding at Hinksey means that there is currently no direct service to Oxford but a train shuttle is in operation between Oxford and Didcot.
And the Uckfield and East Grinstead branches in Sussex are closed as a result of a landslip at Oxted. Engineers are on site assessing the damage. The line from Tunbridge Wells to Hastings remains closed owing to several landslips on the line. The Windsor & Eton Riverside branch line from Staines remains shut as a result of flooding from the Thames.
11am: Prime minister David Cameron says it is going to be a “long haul” to recover from the floods
Prime minister David Cameron has warned it will be a “long haul” to recover from the floods. “It’s going to take time,” he said, but that “if money needs to be spent, it will be spent”. He also said ministers and advisors needed to “get on with the job” of putting things right and to stop squabbling.
10.45am: Environment Agency steps up its pumping operations on the Somerset Levels.
Working in close partnership with Somerset County Council, local authorities and emergency services, the Environment Agency has brought in additional pumps to maximise the amount of floodwater that can be pumped away from the Somerset Levels and Moors.
This will include increasing the volume of floodwater that goes down the Sowy and pumping at both Beer Wall and Dunball.
It has been agreed that five temporary pumps will be installed at Beer Wall on the A372, and eight temporary pumps at Dunball over the next few days. These have been brought in from Holland.
“Increasing the volume of floodwater passing down the Sowy will assist in reducing river levels in the Rivers Parrett and Tone. This operation will involve additional pumping on both the Sowy and the King’s Sedgemoor Drain,” said Environment Agency regional flood risk manager John Rowlands.
10.30am: Homes evacuated in Chertsey, Surrey as political row over flooding intensifies
The authorities have begun evacuating homes in Chertsey, Surrey, as flood waters from the River Thames continue to rise. Former chief scientific advisor Tom Burke tells Sky News that “we are reaping the worldwind” for failing to address climate change.
“We need to get much more agressive in our efforts to deal with climate change,” he said.
In response Conservative MP John Redwood said it was impossible for Britain to take this “Olympian view” and get countries like China and Germany to burn less coal.
But Burke said Redwood was “adding ignorance to his complacency” and said it was an irresponsible stance.
9.30am: Flood expert says homeowners need to take more personal responsibility
Flood defence expert and Arup director David Wilkes has told Sky News that flooded homeowners must take personal responsibility in the short term by staying out of flood waters, protecting valuables and making their homes as resilient as possible.
Wilkes, a past president of the Chartered Institute of Water and Environmental Management, added that there must be a proper discussion about resources, but that building defences will not be the only answer.
“We need to work with nature, slowing the flow of water,” he said. “We also need to make sure we don’t build in silly places on the flood plain and build resilience into our homes. The future will be a mixture of tools.”
9am: Defence secretary Philip Hammond defends floods response
Defence secretary Philip Hanmmond has sought to assure flooded homeowners that the military is available to help. “They are on standby across southern England and ready to do any tasks assigned to them by local authorities across England. But we have to be organised in our response,” he said.
Hammond said the Bekshire Gold Commander - the flood effort there is being led by Thames Valley Police - had assured him that nothing more can be done now to improve flood defences to deal with the immediate crisis.
9am: Organisers of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar have published Workers’ Welfare Standards which will be incorporated into all of its construction contracts in order to protect the worker rights.
Qatar had until 12 February to inform football’s world governing body, Fifa, how it would reform working practices.
The standards were developed with help from the International Labour Organisation and set clear guidelines that aim to protect the rights of workers throughout the entire supply chain.
Publication of the standards complements the work of the Ministry of Labour & Social Affairs (MOLSA) to boost enforcement of worker rights. In the last six months MOLSA has increased the number of trained labour inspectors by 30%.
The standards address some of the most critical concerns highlighted in recent reports about working and living conditions of workers in Qatar’s construction sector including:
- Payment of wages: the Standards require contractors to set up bank accounts for their workers, which will help facilitate payment, creating an auditable transaction system that will help the Supreme Committee verify that all workers are being paid in full and on time.
- Accommodations: Comprehensive specifications for worker accommodations, setting clear guidelines for everything from the number of beds per room to a minimum standard for cleanliness and hygiene.
- Enforcement: a four-tier audit system, implemented with the support of independent third-party auditors. Progress reports based on the audits are to be made public in order to track progress and share lessons learnt with government stakeholders and the international community.
The committee said it reserves the right to penalise contractors who are non-compliant with the standards, and will, in extreme cases, terminate its contract with a company that is continually in breach of the standards. But it stressed that its focus would be on working with contractors to improve standards on a continuous basis.
Qatar 2022 will present the standards to Fifa at a hearing at the European Parliament in Brussels on 13 February.
8.30am: Flooding is set to dominate the agenda again today with another band of heavy rain sweeping the country.
Fourteen severe flood warnings are in place along the River Thames this morning, with two more in the south west.
Experts are also now warning that the threat of flooding from groundwater is increasing rapidly.
Data from the British Geological Survey shows that nine of the 14 boreholes it monitors in southern England are now showing “exceptionally high levels”.
Some 1.6M homes are now at risk of groundwater flooding.