INDEPENDENT 2024-03-13 01:04:23


London’s Paddington Station forced to shut down amid heavy flooding

Paddington underground station has been forced to close due to heavy flooding, prompting travel chaos in the capital.

The Hammersmith and City, and Circle lines, were all ground to a halt on Tuesday afternoon as a result.

However, passengers are still able to use the Elizabeth Line by leaving the station via the exit at platform one and entering the Elizabeth Line station using the lifts or escalators

A notice on the TfL website reads: “This station is closed due to flooding caused by heavy rain.”

District and Circle line underground trains towards Edgware Road, Elizabeth Line services, as well as National Rail trains are all said to be running as normal however, minor delays were reported on the Bakerloo line.

A TfL staff member told GB News: “There’s no water on the lines… It’s just been closed temporarily – there’s been an incident.”

As of 5pm on Tuesday, there are 14 flood alerts in place across the capital as Londoners got drenched with rain for much of the day.

A flood warning was also in place earlier from the Thames Barrier to Putney Bridge.

Among the most impacted areas is Putney Embankment, Riverside and The Embankment at Twickenham, Friars Lane and Water Lane, Chiswick Mall and Strand on the Green, Thames Bank at Mortlakeand the Towpath below Teddington Lock.

The Met Office said the rain is set to continue across the country this evening, becoming heavier and more persistent across Northern Ireland and western Scotland through the night.

On Wednesday, the forecaster said that a band of rain will slowly move across northern parts of the UK.

They added that it will be drier in southern England and Wales, but largely cloudy.

Kate felt ‘awful’ over Mother’s Day photo furore after editing shot to make it ‘best it could be’

The Princess of Wales felt “awful” about releasing an edited family photo of herself and her three children for Mother’s Day, according to a royal insider.

Kate said she had just “tried to make it the best it could be” because she knew how important it was for it to be “a nice picture”, The Times reported.

The photo shows Kate Middleton smiling surrounded by Prince Louis, Prince George and Princess Charlotte in what is the first official picture of the princess since she underwent abdominal surgery in January.

However, within hours of it being posted on social media, picture agencies began recalling the photo citing fears it had been “manipulated”.

Eagle-eyed royal fans pointed out a number of editing failures, including that the sleeve of Princess Charlotte’s cardigan did not line up.

It comes as Queen Camilla was pictured for the first time since the scandal marking International Women’s Day and the end of the Wow Girls Festival bus tour at Buckingham Palace.

The Queen was pictured in conversation with Helen Mirren and Spice Girl Mel B, among other inspiring women.

Blackout Britain: the lights are going out on Rishi’s election chances

The latest instalment in Rishi Sunak’s plan to frighten people into voting Conservative is to warn of power cuts if we don’t build new gas power stations.

Thugs have taken over our streets. Strikes have rendered the rail network unusable. More strikes mean we can’t rely on the NHS. We aren’t spending enough on defence. We are letting people out of prison two months early because the jails are full.

And now we can’t be sure the lights will stay on. But vote Conservative, because the plan is working and it would be worse if Labour “took us back to square one”.

Paid leave for staff who suffer miscarriage will be NHS first

NHS workers who suffer a miscarriage before they are six months pregnant will be given paid time off work as part of new guidelines.

Staff and their partners will be entitled to additional leave to process their grief under NHS England’s new National Pregnancy and Baby Loss People Policy Framework, which was issued to hospitals on Wednesday.

Experts said the move sends a “powerful signal” that people impacted by baby loss “deserve understanding, compassion and the right to grieve”.

For the first time in the NHS, women who suffer a miscarriage before 24 weeks of pregnancy will be offered up to 10 days paid leave.

If a member of staff’s partner loses a baby, they will be offered up to five days paid leave.

The framework also asks NHS trusts to give staff paid time off to attend appointments including for medical examinations, scans and tests, as well as mental health-related interventions.

Those who return to work after a miscarriage will be offered occupational health support, which could include a referral to a specialist within their trust.

NHS staff who miscarry after six months of pregnancy will remain eligible for paid maternity leave.

Dr Navina Evans, chief workforce, training and education officer, said: “Baby loss is an extremely traumatic experience that hundreds of NHS staff experience each year, and it is right they are treated with the utmost care and compassion when going through such an upsetting experience.

“We know the significance of getting support right in the very first instance for our staff, which is why, for the first time in the healthcare sector, we are providing paid leave so parents can take time out to process this traumatic experience as well as paid time to attend appointments.”

Dr Evans added that she hopes the formal guidance will inspire other sectors to “adopt such supportive approaches to miscarriage in their own organisations”.

Kath Abrahams, chief executive of baby loss charity Tommy’s, said: “Pregnancy loss can take a huge toll on women and birthing people, both physically and mentally. Their partners may also be profoundly affected.

“As the largest employer in the UK, the NHS is sending a powerful signal that staff going through this experience deserve understanding, compassion and the right to grieve – and that support is possible, no matter what your workplace looks like.”

Health minister Maria Caulfield added: “Our brilliant NHS workers look after us when we need it most and this new guidance is a positive step towards ensuring they are supported through the tragedy of losing a baby.

“It means doctors, nurses and their partners will now be entitled to additional leave to help process their grief, which is crucial to their long-term mental health and wellbeing.”

Ms Caulfield said the framework “delivers on key recommendations made in the Pregnancy Loss Review” and forms part of the Government’s drive to improve women’s health through its Women’s Health Strategy.

The new policy was trialled at Birmingham Women’s and Children’s NHS Trust, where a staff survey revealed workers were twice as likely to remain with their employer as a result.

England’s worst bus operator named by travel watchdog

England’s worst bus operator has been revealed by a transport watchdog.

The Transport Focus research showed that passengers travelling in urban metropolitan areas across England are less satisfied (78%) on average compared with those making journeys elsewhere.

Arriva in West Yorkshire has been ranked England’s worst bus operator.

Just 66% of passengers were satisfied with their last journey, a survey by watchdog Transport Focus covering 55 operators indicated.

Yorkshire towns and cities served by Arriva buses include Leeds and Wakefield.

Arriva, based in Sunderland, is one of the UK’s largest train and bus operators.

It is a subsidiary of Germany’s state-owned transport giant Deutsche Bahn but a takeover by US-based infrastructure investor I Squared Capital understood to be worth around 1.6 billion euro (£1.4 billion) was agreed in October last year.

The watchdog said: “This is not surprising as urban metropolitan services are the most likely to be affected by crowding, and are most likely to encounter traffic and roadworks, making services run late.

“Crowding makes people less satisfied, even when they can get a seat.

“Passengers who sat next to someone they didn’t know are significantly less satisfied than those who didn’t.”

The top-ranked operator was Stagecoach in Portsmouth, which had a passenger satisfaction score of 91%.

Transport Focus found that overall, 80% of bus passengers in England were satisfied with their last journey, with 8% dissatisfied.

It said bus drivers can “make or break a journey”, with passengers noting if they wait until someone is seated before moving off, and how careful they drive.

The research, which was conducted for the first time, gathered feedback on more than 35,000 journeys in England.

Transport Focus director David Sidebottom said: “It is good to see many passengers are satisfied with their journey.

“Eighty per cent overall satisfaction is a good start.

“However, wide variation in scores show that some passengers are being let down.

“As congestion continues to bite, Government, bus operators and local authorities must work together so that passengers see the improvements in reliability, journey times and better value for money fares promised in the national bus strategy.

“We’ll be using the results from this survey as a benchmark for local transport authorities and bus operators to drive improvements and attract more people onto buses.”

Graham Vidler, chief executive for industry body the Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT), said: “It’s great to see eight out of 10 passengers were satisfied with their last bus journey, and even better to see satisfaction as high as 90% in some areas such as Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole or the East Riding of Yorkshire.

“To drive improvements for bus passengers right across the country, operators and local authorities will want to learn from these high-performing places.

“These results also highlight the persistent challenge posed by road congestion when it comes to delivering reliable, punctual bus services, especially in peak periods.

“This is why it’s vital local authorities invest in measures to give buses priority on key routes, and it’s why CPT is calling on the next government to require all local authorities to improve bus speeds by 10% over the next five years.

“Given that bus drivers are the most thanked profession in the country, it’s also gratifying for bus operators to learn that this survey also found 85% of passengers were satisfied with their bus driver.”

The PA news agency approached Arriva for a comment.

Island-hopping in the Ionian sea: a guide to Greece’s idyllic islands

Mamma Mia! It’s time to start thinking about a summer holiday, and there’s nowhere more picturesque and dreamy than a Greek island. With an estimated 1,600 isles, although not all are inhabited, there’s plenty to choose from that guarantee sparkling seas, golden sands, rugged nature, delicious food, and a warm welcome.

To help you find your ideal Greek island holiday this summer, travel experts Jet2holidays offer great-value breaks in more than 50 amazing destinations, including 21 in Greece. Hotspots and hidden gems, all boards and budgets, flexible stays and fab flight times – there’s something for everyone. With just a £60pp deposit*, 22kg baggage included and flexible monthly payments** to help spread the cost of your well-deserved holiday, it’s never been easier to get your next Greek getaway booked. 

What’s more, with the Jet2holidays sale now on, you can enjoy even better value on your break with up to £240 off† all holidays. Simply sign up for a myJet2 account, visit your independent travel agent or call the Jet2holidays contact centre. Book now and let the countdown to sunshine begin.

Here’s our pick of some of the best islands Greece has to offer…

Stunning beaches are a given in Greece, and in Corfu, the most beautiful include Agios Georgios, a long, horseshoe-shaped bay with a mix of sand and pebbles fringing calm, clear waters. Down the northwest coast is the pretty village of Palaiokastritsa which boasts six sheltered bays and offers boat trips to the fascinating Blue Caves. For a beach as romantic as its name, head to the Canal d’Amour, where a series of unique rock formations create intimate, narrow channels; legend has it that couples who swim between the sea walls together, stay together!

Explore the cobbled streets of Corfu Old Town, and take in pastel-coloured Venetian architecture while looking out for the new and old Fortresses which loom over the harbour. Base yourself at the swish Olivar Suites on the southeastern coast, a restful haven set in olive groves, away from the bustle.

Lefkas, also known as Lefkada, is an island connected to the Greek mainland by a causeway. Head to the beach at Porto Katsiki, located below a set of huge, looming cliffs which create a unique and dramatic landscape. Another gem is nearby Egremni, a classic, Caribbean-style stretch of white sand, fringing crystal-clear turquoise water, while if you fancy windsurfing, head to Vasiliki. On the east coast, check into the four-star, beachfront Porto Galini Sea Side Resort and Spa; handily, it’s just 15 minutes’ drive from Lefkada Town.

Also formerly under Venetian rule, landmarks including Church of the Pantokrator and the ruins of Agia Mavra Castle are worth a look. Escape to a pretty coastal village, such as Agios Nikitas or Nikiana, where you can take a table at a seafront taverna, and tuck into local speciality Englouvi lentils served with riganada (bread with olive oil, vinegar, and oregano). For a foray into nature, head to the spectacular waterfalls of Dimossari, near Nydri village.

Also known as Zakynthos, Zante is a popular island in the Ionian Sea, with a plethora of alluring beaches. The most famous is Navagio, which is surrounded by dramatic, honey-coloured cliffs and often called ‘Shipwreck Beach’ after the cargo boat which ran aground there in 1980, another must-visit is Agios Nikolaos, a serene pebbly stretch on Zante’s northern shore.

Stay at the luxury Domes Aulus Zante Autograph Collection, a laidback beachfront paradise on the south coast, near the quiet resort town of Kalamaki, where you can spot endangered loggerhead turtles. Zante has its own Blue Caves, a set of geological formations turned azure by the reflections of the sea, while its capital, Zakynthos Town, offers architecture influenced by its former Venetian, French and English rulers. Don’t miss the imposing Church of Agios Dionysios with its signature bell tower, and the ruins of the old Venetian Castle.

Sprinkled with Hollywood stardust, scenic Kefalonia was the location for the Nicolas Cage and Penelope Cruz movie, Captain Correlli’s Mandolin. Key scenes were shot in the harbour town of Sami, the stunning Antisamos beach and in the picturesque fishing village of Fiscardo. Kefalonia’s jagged coastline is made up of limestone cliffs, bays and strips of dazzling white sand, like Myrtos Beach in the north. Other standout beaches include Skala, bordered by thick trees and rocky outcrops, and the unusually named Xi beach, where white cliffs contrast with rare, rust-coloured sand.

Stay at the luxurious, contemporary, adults-only Thalassa Boutique Hotel Kefalonia on the southwest coast, a short drive from capital, Argostoli, where you can explore the Archaeological Museum, Municipal Theatre and historic castles and monasteries. For something more adventurous, explore the vast azure lake inside Melissani cave or hike Mount Ainos, the island’s highest peak, covered in pine forests and home to wild horses. Visit a winery such as Robola or Haritatos for a tasting.

Jet2holidays, the UK’s number one tour operator, offers package holidays you can trust where everything’s included. With you every step of the way, Jet2holidays has an incredible range of great-value, expert-rated getaways for all types of holidaymakers, across more than 50 stunning destinations. From the five-star luxury of Indulgent Escapes by Jet2holidays® to the compelling cities of Jet2CityBreaksVIBE by Jet2holidays for Insta-worthy stays that suit your style to family-friendly Jet2Villas, the boxes are ticked for every age, budget and interest. What’s more, with holidays secured for just £60pp deposit* and flexible payment options**, plus a host of perks like 22kg baggage and return transfers included††, it’s easy from start to finish. It’s all ABTA and ATOL-protected too, so you can enjoy sunshine with peace of mind. To find out more and book with the best, head here.

*On bookings made ten weeks or more before departure. **Terms and conditions apply. Please visit www.jet2holidays.com/part-payment for details. †Based on 4 people. On all holiday departures until 31 October 2025. . T&Cs apply. £60pp discount does not apply to Free Child Places. See http://Jet2holidays.com/promotions#60OFFMYJET2SALE ††Transfers are not included as standard on Jet2CityBreaks. Jet2Villas packages include car hire instead of transfers.

The Tory party’s reaction to comments about Diane Abbott is shameful

Was what the leading Tory donor Frank Hester said about Diane Abbott racist and sexist? The words, allegedly spoken at a private meeting of the software company he owns some years ago, are certainly not pretty.

They speak for themselves: “It’s like trying not to be racist, but you see Diane Abbott on TV, and you just want to hate all Black women because she’s there, and I don’t hate all Black women at all, but I think she should be shot.”

The fact that race and gender are the whole point of his remarks necessarily makes them racist and sexist, whatever personal philosophy Mr Hester may have tried to develop for himself about these societal challenges.

Can Reform UK hit the Tories at the ballot box?

Opinion polls will soon give us some idea of the electoral impact of Lee Anderson’s journey from deputy chairman of the Conservative Party to Reform UK’s first MP. As big as news of his defection was, it’s probably not going to move the political dial much further, but it might help Reform UK build some momentum in the coming months, eroding what’s left of the Conservative vote. On past evidence, the Budget won’t have boosted the government’s chances of winning a fifth term either. More defections, and grumbling about Rishi Sunak’s policies and leadership, might follow.

There could well be. As Shakespeare put it: “When sorrows come, they come not single spies but in battalions.” The speculation is that a few – less than a half dozen – might switch, if only because they think they have little to lose. Only two Tory MPs have thus far come out and called for Sunak to quit: Andrea Jenkyns and Simon Clarke, the latter of whom seems content to carry on as unofficial secretary of the Liz Truss Fan Club. Other potential recruits include Marco Longhi (Dudley North) and Jill Mortimer (Hartlepool), who’ve both recently defended Anderson, and perhaps Miriam Cates (Penistone) and Danny Kruger (Devizes). Interestingly, Hartlepool was where Reform UK party leader Tice stood in 2019 and won a creditable 25.8 per cent of the vote, and where he is due to stand again.