SEVERE flooding has left thousands of Scots struggling to get home for Christmas, after rail lines were closed and operators warned that train services on the east coast could be cancelled at short notice, and hazardous road conditions continued to cause problems for motorists.
• Grampian police has evacuated residential properties in Aberdeenshire due to flooding
• ScotRail advising passengers to make alternative arrangements
• ScotRail says services between Edinburgh and Aberdeen may be cancelled, delayed or revised at short notice
• Replacement transport is in operation between Aberdeen and Dundee
As rising flood waters forced the evacuation of up to 100 homes in Stonehaven yesterday, leaving families facing Christmas in temporary accommodation, a landslip and up to 3ft of water on the rails caused operators to close the track between Dundee and Aberdeen.
With engineers struggling to clear the rails of debris and water last night, a spokesman warned that further rain was expected to hit Scotland later today, putting further strain on already waterlogged ground and raising the possibility of more disruption.
“The ground is already so saturated and the rivers so high it won’t take much more rain to cause problems again,” said the spokesman.
After the track closure yesterday, Scotrail and East Coast ran buses between Dundee and Aberdeen and Edinburgh and Aberdeen respectively. But with police warning that road conditions on the A90 were hazardous, the continuation of bus link remained uncertain.
At least 30 flood warnings were in place across Scotland yesterday, with the North-east suffering worst. Emergency services in Stonehaven used inflatable boats to help rescue 45 people as floodwaters in parts of the town reached chest height.
Residents in Brechin were also put on alert yesterday as the River South Esk rose. Sailings to Shetland were cancelled for the fourth consecutive day as high winds and seas continued.
Flood waters closed some routes in central and east Fife. The A85 was shut at Comrie and the A92 at Ardestie, while flooding continued to affect Cupar.
In Dundee, the Tayside Strategic Co-ordinating Group convened to oversee the response to weather-related incidents.
Chief Inspector Shaun McKillop of Tayside police said: “This kind of disruption is the last thing people need at this time of year and I am sure that this weather is causing a great deal of frustration as people try to prepare for Christmas.”
Yesterday’s misery for train passengers began with a landslip at the Cairnrobin level crossing on the Edinburgh to Aberdeen line shortly before 9:50am. However, a spokesman for Network Rail said the most serious problems were caused by high water levels on the track.
He said heavy rainfall and run-off from farm land had “overwhelmed” drainage systems and engineers using portable pumps were struggling to clear the track. Staff were to work through the night in attempt to allow the line to reopen today, he said.
“We’ve got engineers on side, and we can bring in mobile pump units, but that probably won’t be enough to clear the amount of water involved,” the spokesman said.
“We’re doing what we can to strengthen embankments to get the track open again, but engineers can’t give a firm estimate of when that will be as it depends on what happens with the weather. We are at the mercy of the elements.”
Meanwhile, a ScotRail spokesman said it had temporarily been unable to run replacement buses yesterday because of dangerous road conditions, but as long as road journeys were possible the operator would ensure passengers reached their destination. However, he warned services between Edinburgh and Aberdeen may be cancelled, delayed or revised at short notice.
A spokesman for the East Coast train company, which also ran replacement buses yesterday, said difficult road conditions had made the trip particularly slow. East Coast urged passengers to avoid travel if possible.
A spokesman for the Met Office last night warned more bad weather was to come.
“The good news is that high winds around Shetland will drop overnight, so hopefully ferry services will resume.
“Elsewhere, the rain will start to dry up overnight, which should provide some relief. But there is more rain coming up from the south, which is a concern. The ground can’t take much more rain, so it’s not great and flood warnings will remain in place, particularly in Aberdeen, Angus and Tayside.”
He said Christmas Day was likely to see drier but colder weather, and rain was expected to return on Boxing Day.
Scotland’s environment minister Paul Wheelhouse praised the work of emergency response teams and volunteers, and encouraged the public to continue to exercise caution.
Speaking after chairing a meeting of Scottish Government’s Resilience Operation, Mr Wheelhouse said: “In locations affected by flooding such as Arbroath, Brechin, Stonehaven, and in the Northern Isles which have been affected by severe winds, determined work has been happening at local level to support members of the public at what has been a testing time.”