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Commuters face chaos as more snow is forecast

Commuters can expect travel chaos tomorrow after forecasters predicted significant snowfall in the South-east of England. The Met Office issued a 24-hour severe weather warning for Friday, saying that travel networks might be affected.

Up to 10cm of snow could fall on low ground and 20cm over hills in Essex, Kent, Sussex, Surrey, London and parts of East Anglia, forecasters said. Heavy snow was also forecast in parts of central and northern England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

Sarah Holland, a Met Office forecaster, said: "We have a severe weather warning out for West Sussex, Surrey, Kent, Essex and Suffolk for Friday."

A blast of cold air from Russia brought a light dusting of snow to central London yesterday, falling on Christmas shoppers and office workers before turning to rain in the afternoon.

The wintry conditions have sparked concern that a shortage of grit may lead to a repeat of the chaotic scenes earlier this year, when a foot of snow fell in some areas. The Highways Agency said: "The snowfall in February was the worst the UK has seen for at least 18 years and was a tough test of our winter preparations.

"We were well prepared for the severe weather and able to help a number of local highway authorities experiencing difficulties with shortfalls in their salt levels."

The early snowfall prompted bookmakers to cut the odds on a white Christmas in London. Ladbrokes was offering 5/2, among the lowest odds ever.

Rupert Adams, spokesman for William Hill, said: "The million-pound snowflake is something we have always talked about in hushed tones and, for the first time this millennium, it looks like we could get collared."

Sub-zero temperatures are expected to continue at least until the weekend. The lowest temperature recorded on Tuesday night was -7.4C at Charlwood, near Gatwick Airport.