Rain and wind hit Christmas getaway in Britain

Rain and wind hit Christmas getaway in Britain

LONDON - Heavy rain and high winds lashed western parts of Britain on Monday, hitting travel plans as people headed home for the Christmas holidays.

The Met Office, Britain's national forecaster, issued amber warnings for rain - the second most severe level - for much of the southern half of England and Wales.

Train companies reduced or cancelled some services and drivers were warned of difficult conditions on motorways because of excess surface water.

"The disruption to transport could be quite severe," said Met Office forecaster Emma Compton said.

Strong winds forced the closure of the Dartford crossing bridge, a key link in the main M25 motorway around London, which was set to cause congestion on one of Britain's busiest roads.

The Met Office warned that flooding was possible in southwest England as heavy rain fell on already saturated ground.

Rail operators were bracing for disruption, putting hundreds of engineers on standby to help clear potential debris from tracks.

Some of the busiest lines, such as the one linking London and Birmingham in central England, were forced to operate under speed restrictions because of the conditions.

But Eurostar train services linking Britain with France and Belgium were unaffected and flights were operating as normal.

The high winds did affect London's Winter Wonderland, a miniature theme park and Christmas market in Hyde Park.

The attraction said it was forced to close for the day for safety reasons.

Rain and winds were also battering Ireland, where more than 5,000 telephone landlines were put out of action over the weekend by high winds.

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