Heavy snow leaves roads treacherous


Heavy overnight snow brought severe disruption to road, rail and air travel today with motorists being urged to take extra care in treacherous conditions.

Many motorway drivers were forced to spend the night in their cars as the snow brought traffic to a standstill on the M25, while Heathrow Airport cancelled a third of its flights.

The big freeze brought snowfalls of up to 16cm, with forecasters warning it would linger on the ground in some areas and temperatures would remain low this week.

It also wreaked havoc with sporting fixtures, with Derby County's Championship match against archrivals Nottingham Forest postponed because roads and pavements around Derby's football stadium were dangerous.

Snow fell over Scotland, northern England and the Midlands yesterday before moving down to London and East Anglia.

Paul Mott, senior forecaster with MeteoGroup, the weather division of the Press Association, said at 10am today: "It's stopped snowing now.

"Through the rest of the day, temperatures are going to recover in western areas, maybe reaching as high as 7C (45F), but in the south east it will stay cold, reaching 1C (34F) at best.

"Snow that is lying, particularly around Lincolnshire, East Anglia and Kent, will stay there throughout the day.

"In London temperatures may reach 2C (36F), and we expect a partial thaw.

"It will be a largely dry day and this evening there may be fog, after a cold day, with wet surfaces of snow on the ground. There are likely to be some fairly dense patches of fog, particularly in the Midlands and Lincolnshire.

"It will be cold again tonight, though not as cold as it has been - temperatures are expected to fall to a degree or two below freezing in the east and south east. We expect the coming week to be mostly dry, and staying cold."

The flights at Heathrow Airport were axed because of the snow and the possibility of freezing fog.

A Heathrow spokesman said: "We have about 850 of our usual 1,231 flights scheduled for today.

"That's been agreed with the airlines, but we are asking people to check with their airlines before travelling to the airport."

A full schedule of flights is planned for Gatwick Airport, but passengers were warned of possible disruptions because of the weather.

Stansted, Birmingham and Luton airports were forced to suspend operations for a period last night as snow piled up on the runways, but operations resumed today with some delays.

On the roads, motorists faced what the RAC described as a "dangerous cocktail of driving conditions" and were urged to stay at home where possible. Some minor routes closed altogether.

Thames Valley Police said the snow caused a tailback between junctions nine and four southbound on the M40 from about 9pm until the early hours of today.

Drivers on sections of the M25 in Hertfordshire were trapped in gridlock throughout the night.

One motorist, Tom Jones, was stranded in his car for more than seven hours, telling the BBC: "We joined the back of a tailback, never realising we would be spending the night on the motorway."

The Highways Agency said today that the M25 was now flowing well.

A spokeswoman said freezing temperatures remained in some areas.

She added: "Our winter fleet is out spreading salt and ploughing lying snow, and we are working around the clock to keep the motorways and other strategic roads in England open.

"Drivers are advised to pay particular care at locations where local conditions such as slopes, bends or overhanging trees could create an increased risk of slippery road conditions.

"It is still necessary to drive with care, even after road surfaces have been treated with salt."

Police in Kent warned people not to travel unless "absolutely essential", and urged people not to cause an obstruction if forced to abandon their vehicles.

A spokesman said: "Kent Police is advising people to be prepared and take great care.

"If drivers feel their journey is essential, they should listen to traffic updates on local broadcasts before setting off."

Kevin Andrews, RAC patrol ambassador, said the wintry weather and sub-zero temperatures had left roads "extremely treacherous".

The motoring organisation said it had attended 70% more breakdowns than normal while a spokesman for the AA said it dealt with around 1,500 call-outs per hour yesterday.

Rail services were also affected, with disruption set to continue today.

Southern Railway said trains were subject to delay and cancellation, with journey times extended by up to 30 minutes.

A North Yorkshire Police spokesman said there had been around 60 minor road collisions across the county since yesterday afternoon as a result of the weather.

He said road conditions were still "somewhat treacherous" but were beginning to improve.

The A169 between Pickering and Whitby was closed for a short time yesterday as drivers had difficulty in the snow but the police spokesman said there were "no major issues with drivers being stuck".

In the capital, all bus routes were operating this morning following a few "curtailments" to the night bus services, Transport for London (TfL) said.

Tube services were said to have started well but with "some issues" on the outer reaches of the Central and Jubilee lines. These were resolved by 8.25am, a Transport for London spokeswoman said.

Surrey Police said several inches of snow fell across the county causing travel problems in some areas, but most roads were passable with care.

Detective Superintendent Ray Marley said: "Most people have listened to early weather warnings which has meant traffic problems have been kept at a minimum throughout the county as the adverse weather conditions set in over the weekend.

"I would urge people to only make essential journeys and to allow additional time to get to their destination.

"I would also like to ask people to check on elderly and vulnerable neighbours, friends or relatives and make sure they are safe and warm."