Fury of the travellers grounded by snow storms

Railways and airports creak back to life as weathermen forecast 'gradual warming'

Winter storms continued to wreak havoc across Britain yesterday as thousands of travellers struggled through what has become one of the most fraught Christmas getaways ever.

Heavy snow showers forced thousands of drivers to abandon their vehicles and airports struggled once more to keep runways clear of snow, leading to hundreds of flight cancellations. With more long queues in departure lounges, passengers again lamented the inability of airlines to keep flying once snowflakes start falling.

Those hit worst by travel delays were families flying with easyJet, which cancelled 46 flights in and out of the UK and 100 more across Europe. Departures were also disrupted at Scottish airports. Although Heathrow and Gatwick managed to keep their runways open all day, there were delays and cancellations caused by the knock-on effects of earlier closures.

There were angry scenes at Luton when easyJet passengers whose flights were cancelled were told they were unlikely to find another flight with the airline until after Boxing Day.

However, there were signs of a slow recovery for travellers, most noticeably at Eurostar, which began ferrying the thousands of rail passengers who had been stranded on both sides of the Channel Tunnel since services were suspended on Friday.

Weather forecasters also offered a glimmer of hope to those hoping to get away by tomorrow, with the Met Office predicting a "gradual warming" over coming days that should see an end to the blizzards that stranded so many. However, it warned that road travel at night would remain treacherous because of freezing temperatures, and said further snow storms were likely over the Scottish Highlands and Lowlands and the North-West of England.

As another icy dawn broke over the Home Counties, vast swathes of the region were blanketed in another thick carpet of snow. Between Monday night and early yesterday, the AA received its highest number of callouts in 25 years as an estimated 2,000 motorists abandoned cars around Basingstoke. Many people were forced to walk home or return to their offices to spend the night, including staff at the AA's headquarters just outside the town.

Judy Latcham of Lamb Brooke, a Basingstoke legal practice, said: "It was absolute craziness. We had senior partners sleeping at their desks, with one even driving two miles on his way home before abandoning his car and walking back to the office."

Edmund King, the AA's president, also found himself stuck in snowdrifts in Basingstoke. He blamed councils for not getting their gritting lorries out early enough, saying: "They should have acted sooner and more thoroughly."

His claims were refuted by the Local Government Association, which said gritters had been hampered by a "perfect storm".

The Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading cancelled all non-emergency operations and appointments. Power cuts hits about 14,000 homes in West Berkshire and Hampshire and a further 900 in Buckinghamshire.

The human toll of the bad weather extended beyond frustrated journeys. Last night, police said a man's body had been pulled from Brightwell Lake in Northamptonshire. He is thought to have got into difficulty trying to rescue a dog during a duck shoot.

Richard Brown, the chief executive of Eurostar, admitted that the company would not resume a full timetable until after Christmas but said it would do all it could to get passengers home after the chaos at the weekend. "If you want to travel and you have to travel, we will carry you," he insisted.

But for those booked to travel today or tomorrow, the uncertainty continues. One 28-year-old Frenchman, who asked not to be named, was trying to get home to Paris to visit an uncle who had just been diagnosed with terminal cancer, but still had no guarantee he would be on a train in time. "My mother has not seen him since she was 18 and has only just got back in contact with him," the man said. "This will be our only Christmas together."

In Scotland, almost every train out of Glasgow Central Station was suspended after some got stuck in snow amid major signalling problems. Police in Aberdeen said snow was causing "mayhem" for lorries stuck on the A90. Cars travelling to and from Wales experienced tailbacks after the new Severn bridge was closed temporarily because of falling ice. Meanwhile, a woman in Hyde, Manchester, gave birth in the back of a mountain rescue 4x4 vehicle after snow and ice prevented ambulances from reaching her.

Snowbound: The problems and the predictions

Snowfall last night

Temperatures are expected to drop as low as -8C in some parts with heavy snow forecast for the North-west, south-west Scotland and the Highlands. Snow should ease up across the south.


Most places should see a relatively fine and bright day. Milder air will start to come in from the south-west leading to some showers and sleet. Potential snow in the North-west and Scotland.

Christmas Eve

Potential for snow across the Pennines, Lake District and the Welsh Marches but elsewhere slightly warmer air should stop any large-scale snow storms. Conditions at night will remain icy


The Met Office warns of ‘widespread icy roads’ in the North-west, Yorkshire and Humberside, Newcastle and Gateshead, London and the South-east. Heavy snow is forecast for Scotland.


Southeastern and Southern trains were forced to cut services because of the weather yesterday. Snow could also affect services up the west coast. Checkfor live service updates on www.nationalrail.co.uk


Passengers travelling with easyJet or out of Luton should be prepared for delays. Manchester and Scotland’s airports could be hit by snow overnight. Passengers should check airport websites before they set off.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Recruitment Genius: Doctors - Dubai - High "Tax Free" Earnings

£96000 - £200000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Looking for a better earning p...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer

£32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly expanding company in ...

Recruitment Genius: PA

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A PA is required to join a leading provider of...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness