THUNDERSTORMS have grounded flights across London airports after a record-breaking heatwave sent the rail network into total meltdown.
Flights have been cancelled at Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted and Luton – with the Eurotunnel also facing delays of up to three and a half hours.
The complete system meltdown, which has been blamed on electrical storms in Britain and Europe, comes just hours after London was brought to a standstill by rail cancellations.
Trains stopped running at several major London stations, including Kings Cross, St Pancras and Waterloo, as the mercury hit a July record of 38C yesterday and rails buckled in the heat.
The lack of trains meant many air passengers are stranded at the airports.
One Luton passenger raged: “Thank you so much @easyJet for letting us wait 3 and a half hours to be told that our flight is cancelled, no flights tomorrow and we are missing our families wedding in Rome tomorrow, with no explanation. Absolutely gutted.”
What we know so far:
- Flights were grounded in Heathrow, Stanstead, Gatwick, and Luton after a giant thunderstorm
- Eurotunnel stopped running leaving passengers in three and a half hour waits at Folkestone
- Earlier, services were disrupted at London Euston after passengers had to be rescued near the station
- Scorching temperatures damaged electric wires between London St Pancras and Luton, blocking all lines
- Passengers were evacuated and forced to walk near the track at West Hampstead after overheated cables sparked a fire
- London Waterloo was on lockdown after a man sprinted down the tracks when his dog ran off
- Speed limits on commuters were halved from 60mph to 30mph
- Yesterday was the hottest July day on record and the second hottest of all time
- Passengers were told to “stay at home” and “do not travel” as the UK network went into meltdown
Passengers were left stranded in Stansted and Luton when it emerged that trains weren’t running because of the blistering heat.
A spokesman for London Luton airport said: “Thunderstorms across Europe, tracking towards South East of England have resulted in air traffic control restrictions this evening, causing a number of delays and cancellations at all London airports.”
Irate motorists came close to blows after Eurotunnel went down in the blistering heat.
Shops at the Folkestone terminal ran out of food and water, while the disruption also sparked massive queues at Kings Cross.
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At London Waterloo, commuters were forced to sit on trains – some without air conditioning – after a man caused sprinted down the tracks when his dog ran off.
Passengers claim the air conditioning stopped working because the heat “overpowered it”.
Earlier on Thursday, the mercury hit 38C and passengers had to be rescued by rail workers at Euston after the line was down.
Network Rail announced that speed restrictions were put in place amid fears that tracks could buckle in the heat if trains travel too fast.
Speed limits on most commuter lines were cut from 60mph to 30mph on what became the hottest July day on record.
Former Manchester United and Aston Villa footballer Dion Dublin shared a picture of the chaos at Euston after the station put out a “major disruption” alert.
Extreme weather action teams were “activated” to keep passengers safe and trains running after it became the second hottest day on record.
To make matters worse, commuters trying to leave London Waterloo were left stranded on trains after a man sprinted down the tracks to chase after his dog.
HOTTEST JULY DAY
Footage showed the man running along the tracks as passengers were forced to sit on trains in the sweltering heat.
One furious commuter told The Sun Online: “The guard said a man jumped off Platform 12 onto the tracks to run after his dog, which had slipped its lead.
“As a precaution they had to turn off the electricity to the tracks, meaning the carriages are no longer air conditioned.
“I’m packed like a sardine in a carriage full of people absolutely soaked in sweat. The heat is unbearable.”
A spokesman for South Western Railway said: “Due to trespass on the railway between London Waterloo and Clapham Junction all lines are blocked .
“Train services running to and from these stations may be delayed or revised. Disruption is expected until 10pm.”
MAN ON TRACK
Meanwhile, hundreds of commuters had to be evacuated from a train in West Hampstead, North West London.
Pictures show passengers walking next to the train line as smoke could be seen billowing next to the track.
London Northwestern Railway and West Midlands Railway advised passengers not to start new journeys as high temperatures are disrupting its services.
Yesterday, pavements were melting in what has been dubbed “Furnace Thursday”.
A spokesman for the operators said: “We are sorry to have to issue this advice. We don’t make these decisions very often nor do we take them lightly.
Faced with multiple heat related incidents across our network the responsible thing is to focus on people already travelling.
West Midlands Railway
“Faced with multiple heat related incidents across our network the responsible thing is to focus on people already travelling.
“We will be doing all we can to get people home this evening.”
Tickets dated for Thursday will be accepted for travel on Friday.
The scorching temperatures caused damage to overhead electric wires between London St Pancras and Luton, blocking all lines.
East Midlands Trains posted a message on Twitter urging passengers “DO NOT TRAVEL” and warned it had been unable to secure ticket acceptance via alternative routes.
Thameslink said “you are strongly advised not to travel”, and said journey times will be extended by up to 90 minutes.
DO NOT TRAVEL
Nick King, network services director at Network Rail, said: “We have a number of heat-related incidents across the rail network this evening that are causing disruption to services.
“We are sorry that some passengers are experiencing uncomfortable conditions and inconvenience.
“Our teams are working flat out to fix the issues as quickly as possible and get people on the move.
“We’re asking anyone travelling this evening to check with their train operators or visit the National Rail Enquiries website to see how their journey is affected.”
The Rail Delivery Group, which represents the industry, advised passengers in the south east to consider changing their travel plans on Thursday owing to the heat.
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London North Eastern Railway, which runs inter-city services on the East Coast Main Line, advised customers against travelling as some services had been cancelled or delayed due to speed restrictions between Peterborough and London King’s Cross.
The current record of 38.5C was set in Faversham, Kent, back in August 2003.
The UK appeared to fall just short of breaking a new record with 38.1C recorded in Cambridge this afternoon.
The previous hottest July day was recorded in July 2015 with a temperature of 36.7C, however, the weather today has topped that by nearly two degrees.
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