Dusting of snow brings chaos to travel network

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The Independent Online

The first light snowfall of winter brought travel chaos for thousands of commuters yesterday as parts of the transport system struggled to cope.

Travel problems were worst in the south and east as two centimetres of overnight snow and ice severely disrupted rail services and caused heavy traffic congestion on commuter routes.

The highways authorities and the rail and underground operators will be under pressure to improve their response with the weather expected to worsen in the south-east.

Gritters in London barely coped as roads into the capital were affected by crashes. London Underground and Network Rail were accused of failing to react to frozen points on the tracks. Metronet, which was criticised during the hot summer weather, was accused of failing to send out Tube trains overnight to clear tracks of snow and ice.

But a spokesman for Network Rail defended its performance, saying: "When you have extreme weather you can never guarantee there will never be disruption."

The Highways Agency last night advised motorists to take extra care, after crashes led to severe congestion on the M25 and M23 motorways. In East Sussex, a car skidded into a gas main in Buxted, causing a number of homes and commercial premises to be evacuated.

Heathrow Airport reported about 21 morning cancellations and a handful of delays caused by de-icing of planes.

British Airways cancelled three flights at Gatwick while Norwich Airport also suffered some early delays.

Snow falls of up to 15cm were expected in Kent, Surrey and Sussex last night, although forecasters said that cold winds over the North Sea would also mean snow showers in Scotland, north-east England and Yorkshire.