Fallen trees and deep water leave Westcountry stranded as transport links shut down
Motorists and rail travellers in the Westcountry have been thrown into chaos as roads and railways remain under feet of water.
Police closed dozens of major and minor routes to traffic, leaving some of the worst-hit communities virtually isolated and large parts of Devon and Cornwall cut off completely.
First Great Western lifted restrictions on tickets after services out of Exeter and Plymouth were cancelled, leaving thousands to resort to replacement buses.
The M5 motorway junctions 25 and 26 were closed after flooding and the A30 into Honiton was also blocked.
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As darkness fell last night there were reports a tree had toppled across the A38 near Landrake, severing a main westward artery.
Drivers were unable to go east or west out of Exeter after the A377 road to Crediton was deemed impassable and the main A376 Exmouth road also closed.
South of the Tamar, the A39 at Perranworthal was closed, as was the A3071 out to St Just.
Motoring group the AA reported its busiest ever period for flood-related call-outs, as motorists took their chances on perilous roads.
Devon and Cornwall police said officers had dealt with “numerous” reports of people stuck in their cars in the flood water.
The force reported “significant disruption” to the road network affecting both local and main roads and warned drivers to beware as another night of rain was forecast.
Supt Sarah Sharpe said: “The roads remain a risk in many areas due to surface water and flooding, abandoned vehicles, debris and fallen tree branches.
“We are expecting more rain in the next ten to 12 hours and our message to people is to stay indoors, stay safe and be cautious.
The AA said it had attended more than 5,000 breakdowns nationally by 1pm yesterday – including 402 cars driven through or stuck in flood water. Breakdowns were being reported at a rate of more than 1,100 every hour and by midnight the organisation expected to have attended around 12,000 for the day, compared with around 8,500 on an average Sunday, and eclipsing Wednesday’s previous record.
First Great Western told passengers to stay at home if possible and said tickets from Saturday and Sunday would remain valid today where journeys had been hit.
Spokesman James Davis said Network Rail was working to clear waterlogged tracks into Tiverton and Liskeard.
“Water has flooded the lines and the clear instruction from Network Rail is it is not safe to drive a train through,” he added.
Cornwall Fire and Rescue had received more than 50 calls by 5pm yesterday.