Mid-March misery: Drivers stranded overnight and planes and trains cancelled as blizzards and freezing temperatures hit UK

British emergency services continue to rescue motorists as travel woe spreads to northern Europe with the closure of Frankfurt airport and suspension of all Eurostar services

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The Independent Online

A man who was hit by a falling telegraph pole last night is fighting for his life in hospital, police said today.

The man, 27, suffered head injuries and a cardiac arrest after being hit by the falling pole in Spanish Road, Wandsworth, south-west London, at around 6.50pm last night.

He was resuscitated by ambulance crews and taken to St George's Hospital in Tooting where he remains in a critical condition, Scotland Yard said.

The pole is thought to have fallen due to last night's strong winds as heavy snow and freezing temperatures left thousands of motorists stranded overnight.

Though many braved icy conditions to get into work today, thousands were recovering from a night spent trapped on icy roads with many still caught in jams and police continuing to help those still stuck in their cars.

The Met Office has issued yellow "be aware" warnings for parts of Scotland and the South East, after motorists on the M23 in Sussex and the A23 in Kent spent the night sleeping in their cars or ditching their vehicles for the warmth of service stations. The A27 at Worthing in West Sussex and the A259 at Beachy Head in East Sussex remain closed.

Emergency services, local authorities and the Highways Agency worked through the night attending hundreds of incidents.

Drivers, including singer Cheryl Baker, spoke of taking several hours to complete short journeys, while a party of 120 German students had to be put up in Hastings town hall in East Sussex for the night when families due to look after them were unable to reach them.

It wasn't only the roads that have been effected by the adverse conditions as some rail and air travel providers were forced to cancel journeys or run dramatically reduced services.

Jersey Airport was shut and will remain closed all day due to snow, while travellers heading for Gatwick were advised to allow extra time to reach the West Sussex airport due to snow-hit roads in the area.

Frankfurt airport in Germany - Europe's third biggest hub - shut down because of snow and the Eurostar high-speed London to Paris train line has services suspended due to the snow spreading across northern Europe.

In Britain, delays of up to an hour were reported on on all services run by the Southern train company and passengers were warned to expect short-notice cancellations.

Cross-Channel ferries were operating "as far as possible" but passengers were advised to allow extra time to reach ports due to bad conditions on the A2 and A20 in Kent.

Former Bucks Fizz star Baker said she had taken 10 hours to complete a one-hour journey back from Brighton.

At one point she tweeted: "So 8 hours later, STILL stuck on the A25. Could have flown to NY by now. Was it the wrong kind of snow?"

Motorist Jonathan Lara took eight hours to travel less than eight miles after leaving work at Gatwick airport to go home to Brighton.

John Hall, Gloucestershire's chief fire officer, said his journey from just north of Oxford to Brighton by car took him 14 hours.

No trains were able to run between Redhill in Surrey and Tonbridge in Kent, with no replacement bus service able to operate either.

On First Capital Connect, journeys between Bedford and Brighton were subject to short-notice cancellations and delays of up to 45 minutes.

Southeastern services were being delayed by a signalling problem between Paddock Wood and Strood in Kent, while there were cancellations to some Gatwick Express services.

Amid the mid-March misery, forecasters held out a ray of hope in the form of slightly higher temperatures today.

Chris Burton, a forecaster with MeteoGroup, the weather division of the Press Association, said: "The winds won't be as strong today, which was a big factor yesterday.

"There will be highs of between 3C and 5C (37F and 41F), a couple of degrees warmer than it was yesterday, but still a lot colder than the average for this time of year."

It was not known if the company was going to be able to operate any more trains today.

On domestic UK services, trains between Brighton and Victoria station in London were only able to run on an hourly basis, calling additionally at Gatwick Airport and Haywards Heath.

In the West Midlands, an overhead wire problem led to delays between Walsall and Birmingham New Street, while a signalling problem meant hold-ups of up to 60 minutes for passengers travelling between Shoeburyness in Essex and Fenchurch Street in London.

An obstruction on the line caused disruption between Tottenham Hale and Stratford in east London, while in South Wales a broken-down train led to hold-ups between Barry and Cardiff Central.

Another problem in Wales was at Port Talbot Parkway where a signalling problem meant delays to trains between Swansea and Bridgend.

Many Sussex and Kent roads remained treacherous today, with a section of the M20 in Kent blocked and part of the A2 Dover Road closed.

In Sussex, a section of the A22 was closed and conditions were particularly bad on the A23 Brighton Road.

Kent Police Acting Chief Inspector Kay Maynard said: "We have been trying to get to as many people as possible to offer reassurance as well as deal with problems on the roads caused by collisions and broken down vehicles."

The force said they had dealt with hundreds of calls from motorists reporting collisions, broken-down vehicles and those that had to be abandoned as drivers had been unable to continue their journeys. Many minor and rural roads had become impassable.

Snow, high winds and freezing temperatures are expected to continue throughout today so motorists in Kent were being advised to only travel if necessary.

Elsewhere, the A686 Hartside Pass in Cumbria was closed between the Alston junction and the Melmerby junction because of snow.

In Wales, strong winds led to speed restrictions on the M48 Severn Bridge in Monmouthshire, while in Somerset there were hazardous driving conditions on Brassknocker Hill in Monkton Combe.

A broken-down vehicle and a car fire led to hold-ups on the M25.