NCE Live News Updates Thursday 5 December: Homes evacuated as Britain braces for biggest coastal surge in decades
The Emergency services have begun evacuating homes under Environment Agency instruction as east coast communities face most serious coastal tidal surge for 60 years; entire Scottish rail network shut most of the day.
11.30pm: Surge time: 57 severe flood warnings issued…
6pm: Calm before the storm; demountable barriers are installed, Environment Agency engineers are ready - high tide is just before midnight
It’s a case of watching and waiting now. We’ll update if we can, but will be back first thing tomorrow with the details.
3pm: Flood fears growing all the time; but limited Scottish rail services resume
The Environment Agency now has out 34 severe flood warnings, along with an additional 155 flood warnings and 62 flood alerts.
Meanwhile Network Rail has restarted some services after engineers go out in force to clear fallen trees and other debris.
Some routes will remain unavailable throughout the day however, as more extensive repairs may be required. “We are currently using engineering trains, empty passenger trains, road-rail vehicles & our helicopter to bring more routes back into use,” it says.
2pm: Back the Autumn Statement and KPMG has unearthed a potentially significant development to end Nimbyism
The statement pledges that the government will work with industry, local authorities and other interested parties to develop a pilot passing a share of the benefits of development directly to individual households.
KPMG head of infrastructure Richard Threlfall said it could be hugely significant.
“The biggest story for infrastructure in the Autumn Statement is the announcement of a pilot project for sharing some of the benefits of developments directly with individual households,” he said.
“It means that in the future those near major infrastructure schemes could start to benefit financially. Just imagine if the proposals for a new bypass near your house meant that you could be offered twice the market value for it and could move to somewhere betterthat, perhaps, you could only have dreamt of before.
“This would transform the debate over UK infrastructure and change the face of Britain. It would abolish the current compensation regime which, by paying as little as possible, ensures the strident opposition of all those nearby, draws in wider opposition groups, and throws fuel onto the fire of controversial schemes.
“If those near major developments can become supporters not opponents of new infrastructure projects, we can wave goodbye to nimbyism.”
1.50pm: Rail disruption spreads
Network Rail reports that the West and East Coast Main Lines are both currently closed due to overhead line incidents at Grayrigg and Alnmouth respectively.
1.10pm: Environment Agency begins evacuating residents as scale of surge grows
Evacuations are now taking place in some areas, including Great Yarmouth, by the emergency services and people are urged to follow any instructions by the police.
The Environment Agency has now issued 28 severe flood warnings – its highest category warning of risk to life – ahead of the most serious coastal tidal surge for over 60 years in England.
“Severe Flood Warning means danger to life. Stay safe. Be ready to evacuate. Call 999 if in immediate danger,” says Agency via twitter.
Communities along the North Sea coast from Northumberland down to the Thames Estuary and Kent, in addition to those on the Irish Sea coast from Cumbria down to Cheshire, could see significant coastal flooding later today and into Friday. The coastline from Wells-next-the-Sea in Norfolk to Clacton, Essex, is particularly at risk, including Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft.
Severe flood warnings are currently in place across Kent, Norfolk and Suffolk. People along the eastern coast, and some parts of the north west coast, are being urged to take urgent action to prepare for flooding today (Thursday) and into the early hours of Friday. The Environment Agency is likely to issue further severe flood warnings in the coming hours.
Some defences could be overtopped by the combined effect of high tides, high winds and a large tidal surge.
At present there are an additional 137 flood warnings and 61 flood alerts in place across England.
1pm: Back to the weather battering and Northern Ireland now suffering; trains still suspended across Scotland
Northern Ireland Electricity says 6,500 customers are without power in east, north-east and rural areas.
Network Rail says its hoping to start running some services in Scotland from this afternoon, provided proving trains show the lines are clear. Emergency timetables will be in place.
12pm: Autumn Statement - Shale Gas tax break
Chancellor George Osborne has completed his Autumn Statement, and with the revised National Infrastructure Plan published yesterday, no real news to report otehr than a ew tax allowance to encourage investment in shale gas that halves tax rates on early profits.
WSP energy sector director Scot Parkhurst captured the mood: “There will no doubt be outrage at tax breaks for shale gas, but the chancellor is right to keep our options open. The government has an important role in encouraging energy development using the tax system and the reality is that all energy generation gets government support.
“Shale gas could play an important role in reducing gas imports and improving the UK’s energy security. As a result, a variety of mechanisms need to be adopted by the Government to encourage the exploration of our shale gas reserves. It’s far better to establish now whether shale gas could be a viable alternative to coal, and a way to deliver energy security, than regret it later.”
10am: Latest picture
So as we stand there are no trains in Scotland and the Environment Agency currently has 25 severe flood warnings, 107 flood warnings and 59 flood alerts for England & Wales. Severe flood warnings warn of immediate danger to life. Here’s the Agency’s live map: http://www.environment-agency.gov.uk/homeandleisure/floods/142151.aspx
The Thames Barrier will be closing at 10pm to protect London from the combined high tide & tidal surge in the estuary.
9.30am: Network Rail shuts all lines in Scotland
Network Rail Scotland: “We’ve had to close the network due to debris and other damage, it wouldn’t be safe to run trains”. Glasgow Central had already been evacuated this morning after debris smashed into the roof sending glass falling onto commuters. More as we get it.
9am: The public across Scotland are being warned of potential disruption over the next 24-36 hours due to severe winter gales and the potential of flooding on east and west coasts.
The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) have also issued a number of Flood Alerts and Warnings, with a focus on potential coastal flooding on east and west coasts through Thursday and into Friday.
The Scottish Government’s Resilience operation has been activated to liaise with authorities and organisations across the country and to co-ordinate any activity as required. Ministers are being kept fully briefed on developments.
The forecast conditions are already having an impact on transport and travel for Thursday morning.
Power companies are also monitoring the forecasts carefully and have engineers ready to take action across the country to deal with any power line issues or general supply disruption.
News from overnight: The Environment Agency and Met Office are warning that gale-force winds, large waves and a tidal surge caused by low pressure will combine with high tides today, throughout Friday and to Saturday morning, bringing a risk of significant coastal flooding.
In some places, sea levels could be as high as those during the devastating floods of 1953. We’ll keep you up to date here.
The Environment Agency recently issued a severe flood warning – its highest category – to homes and businesses near The Quay in Sandwich, Kent, for high tides at 00:43 and 13:06 on Friday. At present, there are also 16 flood warnings and 52 flood alerts in place.
Areas most at risk include the North Sea coast from Northumberland down to the Thames Estuary and Kent.
The tidal reaches of the River Trent, Nottinghamshire, could also be affected.
And on the west coast, from Cumbria down to Cheshire, severe gales and large waves combined with high water levels are also expected today.
The Environment Agency will be closing the Thames Barrier on Thursday night to defend London, in addition to operating other defences including those at Colne in Essex and Hull.
Natural Resources Wales, the organisation which leads on flooding in Wales, is urging people along the north Wales coast between eastern Anglesey and Liverpool to be prepared for flooding on Thursday.
Transport Scotland has warned that the Forth Road Bridge is likely to be closed to all traffic today and the Highways Agency has urged drivers to take care.
Update from yesterday: Buried in the National Infrastructure Plan is a letter from Sir Howard Davies to chancellor George Osborne ahead of his interim report on aviation later this month.
Davies uses the letter to draw attention to the “strong case for attaching a greater strategic priority to transport investments which improve surface access to our airports”.
London First infrastructure director David Leam said it was a good sign.
“We strongly back the Airport Commission’s call to prioritise investment in transport infrastructure to improve surface access to our airports.
“The capacity constraints that we see in the air are just as visible on the ground. Importantly, this is something we can get going on now - we don’t have to wait for the Airport Commission’s final report.
“In particular - on top of the widely publicised improvements to Gatwick airport’s railway station and the Brighton Main Line - we support Sir Howard Davies’ call for better southern rail access to Heathrow, and for longer-term plans to boost capacity on the heavily used Brighton and West Anglia network to create a world class Stansted Express. Improving these lines is essential for airports and commuters alike.”
More news from yesterday: Also lost in the excitement of the National Infrastructure Plan update, Transport for London (TfL) has set out its priorities up to 2020/21 in its draft Business Plan.
It responds to the Spending Review in June and the reduction in TfL’s government grant. It sets out £16bn of efficiencies and savings being made across TfL to support billions of pounds of investment in transforming the Tube, completing Crossrail and enhancing the bus, London Overground, DLR and Tramlink services while continuing to build safe and attractive cycling infrastructure, improve the roads, high streets and neighbourhoods and tackle air pollution.
Almost a billion pounds will be spent to deliver the Mayor’s cycling vision over the next ten years. By 2016 a fully segregated east-west and north-south ‘Crossrail for the bikes’ will be delivered, along with a network of quiet ways and improvements to major junctions across London.
Work will also continue with planning future transport infrastructure including Crossrail 2.