Sprinkling of snow causes transport meltdown

Stranded motorists on the A169 high up on the North York Moors near Goathland, North Yorkshire.
Stranded motorists on the A169 high up on the North York Moors near Goathland, North Yorkshire.
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A SPRINKLING of snow sent UK transport into meltdown today, with a major holiday airport shut for more than two hours and road and rail journeys delayed.

Forecasters said the snow had amounted to no more than “one or two centimetres in places” but nevertheless air and train passengers endured a difficult morning.

Barrington in Cambridgeshire, following a light covering of snow across the county overnight.

Barrington in Cambridgeshire, following a light covering of snow across the county overnight.

Stansted airport in Essex was shut from about 6am to 8.30am, as passengers complained of being given incorrect information.

Luton and Aberdeen were among the airports affected by the wintry conditions that also caused considerable problems on the railways.

Train travellers have had to contend with floods and a series of non-weather-related problems of late.

Today many routes in southern England were hit by poor rail conditions.

No trains were able to run between Watford Junction in Hertfordshire and Harrow and Wealdstone in north west London, while snow caused delays of up to 90 minutes between London and Reading in Berkshire.

Trains were unable to run between Barnes and Hounslow via Brentford in west London, while there were delays between London and Ashford International in Kent and also between Sevenoaks in Kent and Hither Green in south east London.

In London there were delays on the London Overground, and the Metropolitan, Central and Bakerloo Tube lines, while a faulty train led to delays on the Victoria line.

Buses had to replace trains between Redhill in Surrey and Tonbridge in Kent.

The A120 was one of the many roads in Essex to be affected by the weather. The A171 near Scarborough was one of Yorkshire’s snow-hit routes.

There was also disruption on the rails after a person was hit by a train near Wakefield. Services on the east coast main line were delayed and some diverted away from Leeds.

Traffic information company Inrix warned drivers that many roads in the Home Counties were snow-affected, with the A505 blocked between Hitchin and Letchworth in Hertfordshire.

Among other roads with poor conditions was the A2 in Kent.

Michael Dukes, director of forecasting at MeteoGroup, the weather division of the Press Association, said the cold snap was due to remain for “some time yet”.

He went on: “There has been a band of sleet and snow moving through parts of the east Midlands, east England and south east England late in the night, towards morning.

“It has produced only one or two centimetres in places, it is not very much. Most of the snow has been on higher ground but there has been a little bit of snow on lower ground as well.

“This band of sleet and snow in the South East is moving out of the way in the next hour or so and many places today will be bright and sunny but cold.

“The exception to that is the North Sea coastal areas because there will be further sleet and snow showers in the counties bordering the North Sea. Other areas will be mostly sunny.”

He said tonight would be cold, with some areas seeing temperatures plunging to as low as minus 8C (18F), with another band of rain and snow due to affect Scotland and the North West England.

Mr Dukes continued: “Tomorrow morning will be a bit of a problem. Right at the end of tonight another band of rain and snow comes into Scotland and the North West of England. That will fall on very, very cold roads because it will have been cold overnight.

“There could be some widespread ice issues tomorrow morning in Scotland and in north west England. There will be some rain, sleet and snow falling over frozen ground.”

Stranded passengers spoke of their frustration over cancelled flights from Stansted today.

Patrycja Kubiak, from Poznan in Poland, was due to fly home on the 7.05am flight, but at around 8.30am she was told it had been cancelled.

The 20-year-old music student said passengers for nine or 10 flights to destinations including Warsaw and Poznan in Poland, the Canary Island of Fuerteventura and Berlin in Germany were forced to wait.

She said: “It snowed for 30 minutes, and we were waiting by the gates. We were all waiting for an hour. They kept saying the flights were delayed, and after an hour and a half they said all flights were cancelled.

“It was really cold and really unpleasant, and the gate had no carpet. I was sitting on the floor. Some of the people were stuck for two hours on the planes.”

The flautist, who was in Cardiff for an audition yesterday, said they were given incorrect information by staff.

She went on: “Somebody checked on her phone and it said on the website that the flights were cancelled, but the lady on the gate said ‘No, they are just delayed’. Half an hour later she said we were right.”

Miss Kubiak said she would have to go back into London to a friend’s house to look for other flights - or even buses - back to Poland.

She said: “I really have to get back home. There’s a slim chance of getting our money back. I’m just standing in a really long queue from the beginning of the departures terminal to get a voucher to say the flight was cancelled.

“We have to buy a ticket if we want to get another flight, but I don’t know if they will pay us back.”

She added: “I’m just surprised that such a small amount of snow can cause these problems. It only snowed for half an hour. There’s no snow on the roads now.

“And the snow started to melt shortly after it started snowing. I can’t imagine the airport has no forecast for this.

“It was snowing in Poznan yesterday, and they just had minor delays. I think it’s just too much panic for that amount of snow.”

There was a 10-vehicle crash on the London-bound A299 at Whitstable in Kent this morning, Kent County Council’s highways department said.

According to local radio reports, the road reopened but traffic was moving slowly.

Flights from Gatwick Airport in West Sussex and sailings from the Port of Dover were running normally.