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Bad weather puts Christmas gifts delivery in doubt

Millions of Christmas gifts are stacking up in warehouses and might not be delivered in time for the big day, a haulage expert said today.

A backlog of more than four million parcels has built up as private carriers battle to overcome the 'bottleneck' in the system caused by the snow and ice.

Today, Simon Veale, director of Global Freight Solutions, said there was a chance "Father Christmas won't be coming" to certain parts of the country.

He said: "There is the very real possibility that for the first time everything won't be delivered."

He said those most likely to face a frustrating and disappointing yuletide were in Scotland and the North East - which bore the brunt of the worst weather.

"This year in Scotland and the North East it is likely Father Christmas won't be coming," Mr Veale said.

GFS is a parcel and carrier manager which acts as a barometer for the industry.

Mr Veale said dealing with the backlog was like "bailing water out of a sinking ship".

He added: "There are likely to be more than four million new parcels in the system every day this week on top of several million more which still had to be cleared from the recent extreme weather.

"No one in the industry likes the prospect of not making collections or deliveries and everyone's working around the clock to do what they can to ensure that items arrive on time but the reality is that some will not.

"We are being told by certain of our carrier partners that things are so severe in Scotland that they're running out of trailers in the rest of the country, impacting on deliveries in England and Wales.

"If there are additional falls of snow, as the weather forecasts are suggesting, the unhappy situation will be compounded further still."

Carriers have begun restricting the number of non-urgent packages they will deliver in a bid to ensure essential items reach their destinations on time, he added.

"It's not only consumers but businesses too who rely on the parcel system operating properly," said Mr Veale.

"It is vital to Britain's economy just as it is to making sure that people get their presents in time for a happy Christmas.

"We are doing all we can on behalf of our customers in an effort to help.

"They understand the lingering effects of the bad weather and know that there's only so much that the big parcel carriers can do, even though they are making intensive efforts to resolve whatever difficulties there are."

Insurance company RSA estimated that the earlier cold snap had already cost the UK economy around £4.8 billion and icy blasts due over the next few days could mean businesses taking a further £8.4 billion hit.

RSA director David Greaves said: "The latest bad weather couldn't come at a worse time for some businesses. The impact will be felt across the whole UK economy.

"Small businesses in particular could be hardest hit by long-term poor weather conditions. Despite showing initial resilience earlier this year, many smaller businesses may not be in a position to cope with a sustained loss of income caused by a new fall of snow."