Just two centimetres of snow cause transport chaos across UK

Stranded passengers reacted with anger as Stansted Airport closed its runway after just a couple of centimetres of snowfall caused transport nightmares across the country yesterday.

While road and rail travellers in many parts of the Midlands and southern England suffered from closures and cancellations, travel frustration was at its highest inside the terminal buildings of the Essex airport, where operations were called off at 6.20am just as planes were about to begin taking off.

Despite 23 outgoing and 20 incoming flights being cancelled – with Ryanair, which runs the majority of routes at Stansted, the worst affected airline – the airport said it was "satisfied" with its performance, given the conditions it had to cope with, re-opening its runway after two hours.

Luton and Aberdeen airports were also affected by the weather, which led to a 10-vehicle pile-up on the London-bound A299 at Whitstable in Kent.

Trains were cancelled or running with severe delays in Hertfordshire, Surrey and Kent, as sleet, ice and continued flooding made for perilous driving conditions in and around the Home Counties. About 50 schools were closed.

But Michael Dukes, director of forecasting at MeteoGroup, said the snow amounted to "only one or two centimetres in places, it is not very much".

One passenger stuck at Stansted, Eija Martin from Finland, said: "For us, this is crazy. A couple of inches of snow, which we would think nothing of in Finland, has caused so much chaos. They really should be better prepared to cope with problems like this."

Mark Davison, head of communications for Stansted, said: "We had early snow followed by falling temperatures and then more snow, which settled on ice, compounding the problem."