Rail disruption continues after rain causes chaos

PASSENGERS are expected to face further disruption on train services this evening following torrential rain.

Engineers from Network Rail have been battling all day to clear water from the tracks between Waverley and Haymarket stations, but six inches of water was still reported shortly before this evening's rush hour.

Trains are able to travel through the Waverley valley tunnel, but are required to go much slower and wait for permission from signallers, because the water can cause track circuit failures. The disruption has affected services to Glasgow Queen Street and Fife.

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Meanwhile, motorists can also expect disruption on some city roads as they head home tonight.

Parts of Old Dalkeith Road are still closed after the Braid Burn burst its banks near Cameron Toll. This is expected to cause congestion on Gilmerton Road.

However, the city bypass – which was closed this morning – has fully re-opened.

The disruption comes after more than 24 hours of torrential rain sparked travel chaos across Edinburgh and the Lothians.

Key roads had to be closed and traffic lights failed.

Massive tailbacks built up across the Capital, while rail commuters were forced to get off at Haymarket.

Rainwater from the High Street, Edinburgh Castle and Princes Street Gardens all flows to the lowest point of Waverley valley, and left the railway tracks flooded.

In the tunnel between Waverley and Haymarket, up to six inches of water covered the two northern tracks, with over a foot of water submerging the two southern tracks.

Train services have been disrupted throughout the day, with a half-hourly service between Waverley and Glasgow Queen Street, and other services to areas like Fife terminating and starting at Haymarket.

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Trains were able to travel through the tunnel, but were required to go much slower and wait for permission from signallers, because the water caused track circuit failures.

Network Rail had pumps on site all day today, and more equipment was later brought in to tackle the problem – but efforts were hampered by continuous rainfall.

A Network Rail spokesman denied there was complete "chaos", however one eyewitness at Haymarket Station said travellers were crowding onto buses, with no taxis available.

Network Rail has its own surface water sewer, but the holding tank has been unable to cope.

A Scottish Water spokesman said: "Scottish Water is playing its part to assist Network Rail with flooding problems on the track between Edinburgh Waverley and Haymarket stations.

"Due to a deluge of rain, the network operator is suffering problems with their own surface water sewer. Scottish Water is therefore offering assistance and allowing Network Rail to pump excess surface water into our network via a nearby manhole."

The MET office said their Gogarbank station had found that four-and-a-half centimetres of rain had fallen in the last 24 hours.

A spokesman said: "That really is a lot. Particularly between 10pm last night and 2am this morning more than half of that fell.

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"There will still be the odd burst of rain over the city until early afternoon, although nothing of the magnitude we saw last night, and there will be rain probably until early afternoon at which point it will begin to dry up." At least two waterways have burst their banks – the Braid Burn near Cameron Toll and the Brunstane Burn in East Lothian.

One eyewitness on the scene at the A68 near Cameron Toll this morning said: "It's absolute mayhem.

"The road's going to be closed all day, police have said, there's people wading through up to their knees and they are setting up flood defences all over.

"There was even one man carrying his dog to safety. It looks really bad."

Impromptu "ponds" formed across the city, with objects like bins, rubbish and branches floating in them. At a Cameron Toll building site, a crane had even toppled over.

In Haddington, where local waterways gushed out beyond their banks, an emergency flood group involving fire fighters has been set up to address the potential crisis.

Six homes in that area were affected by the flash flooding.

Homes in the Oxgangs area were also affected. Resident of Oxgangs Road North, Paul Curran, 43, an insurance manager, said Scottish Water were frantically keeping water at bay from his home. "There's a lake in my garden and the water is about a foot deep, coming right up to my house," he said.

"It's not in yet but there's no way I can go to work today while this is all taking place."

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Despite the rain lashing, the MET Office have yet to issue a severe weather warning for the Lothians, unlike Strathclyde and Tayside, where such alerts are in place.

The city bypass between Dreghorn and Straiton had to be closed by police while parts of Old Dalkeith Road, Queens Drive from Meadowbank to Holyrood, Marine Drive at West Shore Road, Muirhouse Parkway and Ferniehill Drive were all shut off because of flooding.

In addition, the traffic light system at Tollcross – one of the city's busiest interchanges – had broken down causing long delays reaching up to Bruntsfield and down as far as Lothian Road.

Rachel Hunt, 33, who travels into Edinburgh every day from her Bathgate home, said the conditions coming in on the M8 this morning were as bad as she had seen them.

She said: "Usually I take the bypass but it was closed today and even with the windscreen wipers on full it wasn't enough to keep the windscreen clear. People could hardly drive their car in a straight line and it's just been bedlam on the roads.

"The digital signs are talking of closures left right and centre and it's hard work keeping up with travel bulletins because there are so many that are changing all the time."

Flood warnings have been issued by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency for both the Water of Leith and the Braid Burn, while flood "watches" – a less severe alert – have been placed on all rivers and waterways across Edinburgh and the Lothians.

SEPA don't expect levels to rise any further throughout the day, but are on standby just in case they do.

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Meanwhile, Firth of Forth coastguards had to rescue an injured kayaker last night after he got into difficulties off Inchcolm Island.

The man, Neil Hamlet, is understood to be part of the Fife Sea Kayak Club, who were sailing in the area last night at around 9pm amid high winds and torrential rain.

Four of his colleagues formed a raft with their kayaks to support him while they waited for help from the RNLI Queensferry Lifeboat. He had dislocated his shoulder.

Three crew arrived and took him to safety at Aberdour in force six winds where an ambulance was waiting to take him to hospital.

Hamish Campbell, of the Queensferry Lifeboat Station, explained the nature of the rescue. He said: "We were called to go to the aid of an injured kayaker off Inchcolm Island in the Firth of Forth in difficult conditions in force six winds, driving rain and a one and a half metre swell.

"In difficult conditions and in darkness the Queensferry Lifeboat Crew took the injured man aboard the Lifeboat with his colleagues and their kayaks and safely landed them at Aberdour Harbour where an ambulance was waiting for the injured man.

"This is the thirteenth rescue in four weeks for RNLI Queensferry Lifeboat making it one of their busiest ever spells."

A major Edinburgh visitor attraction was also forced to shut for a few hours today after water leaked into the building overnight.

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Bosses at Our Dynamic Earth, in the Holyrood area, decided to close the centre's doors for health and safety reasons.

The move came during the city's busiest time of the year.

The flooding caused some "cosmetic damage" but the popular attraction has since been reopened.

One gallery will remain closed in the meantime to allow for some equipment to be repaired.

The site's underground car park is believed to be unaffected.

A spokeswoman for the attraction said there was no lasting damage.

She said: "Due to severe weather conditions, Our Dynamic Earth in Edinburgh experienced water seepage overnight and, in the interests of health and safety, closed for a few hours on Thursday morning.

"Inspections revealed that the five-star visitor centre experienced flooding which has caused cosmetic damage and it has since reopened to the public.

"However, ongoing checks are being carried out in the Futuredome gallery, which will remain closed until projection equipment can be repaired.

"No long term damage has been caused to the building."

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She added that the centre, which usually opens at 10am, was back up and running by around 1pm today.