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UK snow forces transport to halt

Snow covered airportThe first snow for south and east England and the Midlands has caused havoc on transport services, even though it was only a few centimetres deep. The weather forced flight delays and cancellations, as well as chaos for rail services and road travel, making it hard for commuters to get to work.

Travellers were probably most frustrated in Essex, where Stansted Airport was forced to close just as planes were preparing to take off. This resulted in a total of 43 flights being cancelled – 20 arrivals and 23 departures. Ryanair was impacted the most from the situation, as it runs most of the routes operated from the airport. The airline apologised for the inconvenience in a statement.

A Stansted Airport spokesman said that the worst of the snow hit northern Essex, and they had to close down the airport at 6am. Although the closure was only for about two hours, the damage had been done, and the airport was criticised for flights having to be cancelled due to only a few centimetres of snowfall. The airport defended its efforts, saying it was satisfied with how it handled the situation considering the conditions. Passengers were also warned that there would still be some flight delays even after the airport reopened.

Stansted Airport head of communications Mark Davison said he sympathised with travellers affected by the closure. However, he explained that the snow came early and was followed with falling temperatures. Then when more snow fell, it settled on ice and only made the situation worse. Forecasters didn’t even predict conditions would be that bad. They had the runway reopened in two hours, he added, and they are satisfied with that.

Despite Stansted taking most of heat, Luton City and Aberdeen airports also had delays and cancellations. Luton actually closed for a time, but was reopened shortly after; while flights at Aberdeen were delayed throughout the day. However, Heathrow and Gatwick airports were unaffected by the snowfall.

While it seems that airport and airline services were hit the hardest, there was also some disruption to rail and road travel. Trains couldn’t operate between Watford Junction and Harrow and Wealdstone, and services between Reading and London were disrupted as well. No trains were running between Barnes and Hounslow, and London-Ashford International services suffered from delays, along with trains between Sevenoaks and Hither.

Many Southeastern Trains services were disrupted, with up to 45-minute delays and cancellations. South West Trains delays between Reading and London were up to 90 minutes long, while London Overground services to Harrow and Wealdstone from Watford Junction were halted until at least 10am. Buses were replacing trains between Tonbridge and Redhill.

As for road travel, motorists were being warned that many Home Counties roads were affected by the snow. The A505 was impassable between Letchworth and Hitchin, while there were poor conditions on the A2 in Kent. Other affected roads were the A120 in Essex and A171 near Scarborough. On the A299, a 10-car pile-up was caused by the poor weather at Whitstable. Continued flooding, sleet and ice were also the cause of several crashes around the Home Counties.

Drivers in the north east of Scotland were also being warned to drive with care due to the affect the snow and ice was having on several roads. The Met Office issued an amber snow warning for Scottish commuters for today, following a cold night. Temperatures were dropping down to -6˚C in rural locations, and Transport Minister Keith Brown confirmed a multi-agency response team was prepared to offer assistance throughout the transport network.

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