TRAVELLERS between Scotland and England faced severe disruption last night as 100mph winds battered the west coast of Britain.

The conditions forced the closure of a stretch of the rail network linking Glasgow and London.

Virgin Trains called off services after a fire broke out on an overhead cable at Crewe, and Network Rail announced it would shut the line between Carlisle and Preston at 7pm for a several hours because of the high winds.

No buses were laid on to allow passengers to complete their journeys - with Virgin blaming dangerous road conditions.

The storm was described as an "almost unparalleled natural crisis" by Assistant Chief of the Defence Staff Major General Patrick Sanders, who is coordinating the armed forces' response to the flooding in England.

The severity of the rail problems emerged when Virgin announced around 6pm on the social media site Twitter that no further trains would leave London Euston, because of "various problems across the network". It also posted a message urging "all customers to abandon travel".

Network Rail announced late last night that the line had reopened and that operations today were expected to be normal.

Two years ago, Network Rail, which is responsible for the line, was fined £4 million after a Virgin train derailed on the line, claiming the life of Margaret Masson, 84, from Glasgow, and seriously injuring 28 other passengers.

Earlier yesterday, desperate travellers expressed their anger at the travel disruption.

Darren Milner tweeted: "Total joke. All Virgin trains to Manchester cancelled. Euston utter chaos."

At Glasgow Central, Algerian tourist Adel Bouhassane, who was heading to London to see relatives, said: "I was told the train I was booked on wasn't going to London and to get on another train, but they said that one was only going to Birmingham and I could try get to London from there.

"I didn't want to risk being stuck in Birmingham.

"I'd rather be with my family in Glasgow and go to London later."

By 10.10pm last night it seemed the worst of the wind had subsided, with ScotRail's south and north-bound sleepers between Glasgow and London poised to depart as normal.

Meanwhile, as warnings were issued over high winds and snow for most of Scotland, police said the weather conditions had caused "carnage" on some roads.

An accident in the Highlands involving a lorry and a van left one man trapped on the A9 at Drumochter Pass at around 2.20pm. Both drivers were taken to hospital but their injuries were not life-threatening.

Elsewhere, the M74 southbound was closed at Happendon Services, South Lanarkshire, following an accident at around 5.40pm.

In Wiltshire a pensioner died of suspected electrocution while attempting to move a fallen tree which had brought down power cables.

The man in his 70s died at around 3.20pm near Chippenham.

A Wiltshire Police spokesman said officers were en route to dealing with the fallen tree when they learned the man had been injured.

The man, who lived locally, was pronounced dead at the scene.