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Virgin trains hit by freak floods

PASSENGERS who use the West Coast main line have had their journeys jinxed again by the curse of Virgin Rail. Services on the blighted line are expected to be disrupted all this week, as maintenance engineers struggle to repair severe damage caused by freak summer flooding.

The weather was so bad in the Scottish borders that yesterday most destinations north of Carlisle were cut off. The Virgin West Coast main line rail services to Scotland were seriously disrupted after Railtrack was forced to close the line at Lockerbie in the Scottish borders.

Half of all Virgin train services had to stop at Carlisle, with the remaining traffic going on via a diversion including Kilmarnock and Dunfermline.

The termination of the West Coast service is but the latest crisis to hit Richard Branson's troubled railways in recent months. At the start of last month Virgin topped the list of the most-complained-about rail services, with passengers registering 280,000 complaints against the company over the past year. It accounted for more than 20 per cent of all complaints about rail services. Last year the company was embarrassed into repaying pounds 24,000 to passengers who had been overcharged.

Yesterday a Railtrack spokeswoman said the disruption was "likely to continue for some days, given that a road needs to be built across a field in order to get cranes to the flooded area".

Flooding in the Scottish borders area caused more than 1,000 guides to be evacuated when flash floods swept through their campsite at Netherurd, the Scottish national training ground for the Guide Association, near West Linton in the Scottish Borders.

In Kent and Essex drivers faced hold-ups, as flash floods closed the slip road on to the London-bound carriageway at junction 2A of the M20 in Kent.

There was also flooding in Lowestoft, Suffolk and on parts of the A120 in Essex.