Rain 'worse for farms than foot-and-mouth'

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The Independent Online

The rain-drenched summer has caused such poor harvests that farming has suffered more financial damage than during the foot-and-mouth crisis, the Government's rural adviser said yesterday.

The rain-drenched summer has caused such poor harvests that farming has suffered more financial damage than during the foot-and-mouth crisis, the Government's rural adviser said yesterday.

Lord Haskins said: "For arable farmers it is much worse, because there is obviously no compensation from the Government." He added that the damage caused was "disastrous" in some parts of the country.

Yesterday's heavy rains across much of Britain also caused travel chaos for thousands trying to make an early getaway for the bank holiday weekend. Predictions that the heavy rain and high winds which swept across much of the country would give way to brighter, drier weather today were little consolation to motorists caught up in massive delays throughout southern and south-western England, exacerbated by spray on rain-soaked roads. Around 15 million Britons were forecast to be heading for seaside resorts over the weekend and temperatures were expected to reach 23C (73F) in some parts of southern England.

A spate of accidents led to major delays on London's orbital M25 by lunchtime. The A39 in Devon had long queues and the M61 in Lancashire had unusually heavy traffic.

In Scotland, the Kessock Bridge at Inverness in the Highlands was closed to high-sided vehicles as it was buffeted by winds of up to 55mph. Near Edinburgh, the Forth Bridge had 40mph speed limits.

Roadworks on some major routes, including the western section of the M25 near Heathrow and at Spaghetti Junction on the M6 in Birmingham, are expected to cause further delays. While work on some major trunk roads has been suspended for the weekend, roadworks will remain in place on the M1, M2 and M5.

Trains were also affected, with engineering work disrupting services on the west coast main line and Great Western main line. Much of the west coast main line - Hemel Hempstead to Lichfield, and Manchester to Stockport - will be shut, while direct services between London, Manchester and Birmingham will be available via St Pancras and Marylebone. The Great Western line will close between Paddington and Reading, Berkshire.

A planned strike today by some Eurostar employees, who are members of the RMT rail union, is not expected to disrupt schedules. However, British Airways was struggling after six domestic flights were cancelled yesterday due to aircraft problems and staff shortages. The airline had to cancel more than 100 flights during the past six days, and said it was impossible to predict what would happen over the weekend. The chief executive, Rod Eddington, and other directors have been drafted in to work at Heathrow over the break. Around 1.6 million Britons aim to fly abroad over the weekend.

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