The UK has been hit with travel disruption due to a snowstorm that dropped as much as 16cm of the white powder in some areas. The Met Office issued nine warnings for air, rail and road travel as the snow fell over Scotland, northern England and the Midlands and worked its way down to London and East Anglia.
At Heathrow Airport, some 41% of flights were cancelled – 30% of which were axed before the flurries started falling, an attempt to prevent the disruption from causing havoc further into the week. This meant 380 of the scheduled 1,231 services were scrapped. However, it’s understood that a further 133 flights were cancelled due to some glitches. Heathrow Airport has been criticised for the number of cancellations when other airports have been able to operate near-complete schedules under worse conditions.
A spokesman for the airport, however, didn’t have any remorse about the decision to cancel so many of the flights, which was made in conjunction with air traffic controllers and airlines. If they had the same conditions again, he said, they would probably take the same preemptive action and cancel the flights. With the airport running at 99% capacity, the cancellations were the only way to have some leeway in the system, he added. The airport was operating normally on Monday morning, but warned that there was a backlog of cancellations.
The decision to reduce large numbers of flights at the airport during the weekend prevented the long queues endured last winter when wintry weather hit the country, according to Downing Street. Prime Minster David Cameron’s spokesman said that Heathrow and the British Airports Authority (BAA), its owners, had to make some judgments based on the best information at the time, resulting in cancelled flights. Part of this was because of the significant queues and problems they had last time with the snow, which resulted from people arriving at the airport for services that didn’t operate.
The spokesman added that, after the inquiry that followed that disruption, one of the recommendations was that airports and airlines make judgments sooner in order to avoid similar disruption, which is what they did this time. This prevented the long queues.
At other airports, flight cancellations weren’t as bad. Gatwick Airport was operating a full scheduled but passengers were warned of possible disruption. On Sunday night, operations at Stansted, Luton, Manchester and Birmingham airports were suspended as snow built up on the runways. However, services resumed on Monday.
Flights weren’t the only form of transport that was disrupted. Rail services were affected, which was expected to continue for at least Monday. Southern Railway said that trains were subject to delays and cancellations, while some journeys would take as much as 30 minutes longer. Motorists also weren’t having any luck at getting to where they wanted to go, with motorways and other major roads coming to gridlock in some places on Sunday night. Authorities were advising drivers just to stay home unless they absolutely had to go out.
Most of the UK was still under an amber alert on Monday due to icy conditions. MeteoGroup forecaster Billy Payne said that there were patches of snow falling across south and east England, which was due to fade away. He predicted that some would melt, but that cloudier parts in the east would see the snow for longer.
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