Nightmare for fliers as air traffic control problems and heatwave grounds aircraft

A man relaxes on Portobello beach in Edinburgh. Picture: PAA man relaxes on Portobello beach in Edinburgh. Picture: PA
A man relaxes on Portobello beach in Edinburgh. Picture: PA
Travel disruption from the heatwave switched from trains to planes yesterday with air traffic control problems compounding delays for passengers.

At least 25 flights between Scotland and Heathrow and Gatwick were among those cancelled. Air traffic control company Nats reported a technical problem at its Swanwick centre in Hampshire, which controls airspace across the southern UK, shortly after noon. It restricted the rate at which aircraft could land at the airports.

At 3pm, the firm said it had “fixed the issue sufficiently to safely increase traffic flow rates” and expected an “improving picture through the rest of the day”.

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European air traffic co-ordinating agency Eurocontrol said the problem was caused by an “issue with radar displays”.

That added to the woes at Heathrow and Gatwick as they were already asking passengers to check with airlines before travelling due to heatwave-related issues across Europe.

Scottish flights cancelled included 21 at Edinburgh, most to and from the two London airports.

Four British Airways and EasyJet flights between the airports and Glasgow were also grounded.

The Scotland-London east and west coast main lines re-opened after Network Rail engineers worked overnight to repair damage caused by high temperatures.

But Eurostar said passengers to and from Paris faced “severe disruption” due to overhead power line problems in the French capital.

Scotland recorded its hottest overnight temperature, of 20.9C at Achnagart, south east of Kyle of Lochalsh.

The Met Office said it was checking a provisional figure that could be a new UK temperature high of 38.7C.

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It was recorded on Thursday Cambridge University Botanic Garden and is 0.2C higher than the record set in Kent in 2003.

The official top temperature that day – and a new July record – was 38.1C, in Cambridge. Edinburgh set a new record of 31.6C.

However, temperatures are forecast to fall over the weekend, with a yellow - “be aware” - severe weather warning for heavy rain and flooding from 9am today to 3pm tomorrow.

The warning area has been extended to cover the Central Belt as well as western and southern Scotland, along with much of England away from the south west.

A Met Office spokeswoman said: “An area of rain is expected to move slowly and erratically north westwards across parts of the UK on Saturday and Sunday.

“While some places within the warning area may see very little, others could see several hours of heavy rain.

“Accumulations of 40-60mm are possible, with perhaps as much as 80-100mm in places, especially over high ground.”