First Great Western warns rail passengers not to travel

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Media captionThe BBC's Andrew Plant in Helston: "There is an actual risk to life"

Train passengers have been urged not to travel in parts of south-west England due to problems caused by heavy rain.

More heavy rain is expected on Sunday, which is likely to add to existing problems on roads in many areas.

There are six severe flood warnings, meaning a danger to life, in the UK - two in Cornwall and four in Devon.

The Environment Agency has issued 175 flood warnings and 354 flood alerts for England and Wales. Scotland has 16 flood alerts and 17 flood warnings.

The Environment Agency said there was a heightened flood risk across Cornwall, Devon, Somerset, Dorset, Bristol, Hampshire, the Isle of Wight, West and East Sussex, south Wales, Ceredigion, Gwynedd and North Yorkshire.

Paul Mustow, head of flood incident management, said: "With severe flood warnings in force and further rain forecast, it is vital that communities remain flood aware.

"If you're leaving your property empty over Christmas, check the risk of flooding before you leave, move valuable items to safety and ask neighbours to keep an eye on your home."

Meanwhile, in a statement on its website, rail company First Great Western advised "customers with non-essential travel to not attempt to travel West of Taunton in either direction".

In other developments:

The Environment Agency has severe flood warnings in force in Helston, for the River Fowey from Trekeivesteps to Lostwithiel, all in Cornwall.

In Braunton, Devon, many homes and shops are under water after the River Caen burst its banks. The Maritime and Coastguard Agency said its teams were distributing sandbags to protect properties and evacuate residents from houseboats at Velator Quay.

In nearby Exeter resident Dan Regan told the BBC that flood barriers had been put up near his house.

"I've never seen them deployed here before and my neighbours, who have been here for 30 years, have never seen it either. I've never seen anything like the flooding we've had over the last month or so," he said.

Plastic dam

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Media captionSam Smith explains how he rescued a woman from a river in south Wales, by breaking her car window with a ladder

A plastic dam has been placed across the railway line at Exeter to minimise flood damage. Steve Hawkins, from Network Rail, explained: "The last time it flooded we lost the railway for two or three days but we lost the signalling equipment, so we had restricted working, for two or three weeks.

"The idea of this is that we intend to try to protect the signalling equipment further down the track to make sure we can get the railway back up and working normally for our passengers sooner."

The Environment Agency said more than 100 properties in Cornwall had been affected by flooding since the early hours of Saturday.

And in Colebrook, in Plympton, more than 40 properties had been flooded, it added.

The Met Office has issued amber weather warnings for heavy rain in south-west England, London and south-east England, Yorkshire and Humberside, Wales, central Scotland and the Grampians for Saturday and into Sunday morning.

Train operators have advised passengers to check the National Rail Enquiries website before travelling.

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Media captionThe heavy rain that has already brought flooding across some parts of the UK continues. Matt Taylor looks at the areas at risk.

Elsewhere on the roads, the M66 in Lancashire is closed southbound at junction 1 between the A56 Edenfield Bypass and the A56.

The M60 in Greater Manchester has a slip road closed anticlockwise at junction 21. And an M4 slip road is also partially blocked in both directions around junction 48 because of flooding. Surface water is causing congestion both ways on the motorway.

Parts of the A21 in East Sussex are closed in both directions due to flooding, and the A39 is flooded in Barnstaple, in north Devon.

The A27 in West Sussex is closed eastbound between Portfield Roundabout, Chichester and Halnaker because of flooding.

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said: "Exceptional weather conditions are having a serious impact on the transport network at what is already a difficult time of year.

"We urge people travelling through the most affected areas to plan ahead and check the latest travel information. We will continue to ensure everything possible is being done to help people get to where they need to be for Christmas," he added.

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