More freezing weather predicted after brief thaw

Freezing temperatures will return to much of the UK today following a temporary reprieve from the big chill.

After days of shivering and travel chaos for commuters, parts of the nation enjoyed a thaw yesterday with snow and ice melting as the mercury rose slightly.

The change allowed travel operators to get Britain's delay-hit transport network moving again.

After temperatures well below zero, London enjoyed a much improved 6C. But it will not last.

Weathermen warned that sub-zero temperatures will be back across Britain this week.

Billy Payne, of MeteoGroup, the Press Association's weather arm, said: "Into next week temperatures drop away again and lots of areas could be struggling to reach zero degrees and there will be sharp frosts.

"It is still very cold into next week but from Wednesday onwards there could be a slight recovery."

Though meteorologists believe Britain has had the worst of the snow, it will continue to fall in Scotland from tonight onwards.

It emerged yesterday that at least seven people have died during the bleak weather.

They included two men who were killed in a motorway crash on the M62 in Humberside and two teenage girls who died when their Peugeot 206 collided with a Royal Mail box van in Cumbria.

The men, aged 30 and 56 and both from Nottinghamshire, were travelling in freezing conditions on the eastbound carriageway between junctions 35 and 36 at 11.50am on Friday when the crash happened.

Their silver pick-up truck was in collision with a white lorry.

The lorry driver, a 36-year-old Manchester man, was arrested on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving, Humberside Police said.

It also emerged yesterday that the two girls' deaths happened in treacherous road conditions, which police said could have contributed to the tragedy.

Grace Simpson and Jessica Lakin, both 19, were killed on the A595 in Carlisle.

A Cumbria Police spokesman said: "The treacherous road conditions appear to have been a factor in this collision."

Earlier in the week two Cumbrian pensioners in Kirkby Stephen and Workington died after falling in their gardens where they spent hours lying in sub-zero temperatures until they were found.

And a good Samaritan who stopped his car to help a stranded motorist in the Yorkshire Dales was killed when he was struck by another vehicle.

Amid fears of essential supplies not getting through, the Transport Secretary Philip Hammond yesterday temporarily relaxed restrictions on truckers' working hours.

The nine-hour daily driving limit was raised to 10 hours for HGVs to help vital supplies of fuel, food and gritting salt be delivered.

The weekend's sporting calendar took a thumping from the weather.

All but one fixture in the Scottish Football League were postponed - with Alloa Athletic's Second Division home fixture with Peterhead FC surviving because of its artificial pitch.

The highest profile casualty was Manchester United's Premier League game at Blackpool, and many other matches throughout the English Football League and involving non-league clubs were postponed.

Councils said their gritting crews worked to keep non-motorway roads as clear as possible, but large amounts of black ice remained.

Peter Box, chairman of the Local Government Association's transport board, said: "The early cold snap may have caught some by surprise, but councils have been well prepared.

"Councils massively increased their salt stocks this year and will do whatever it takes to deal with whatever the weather throws at us.

"Gritters will salt as much of the road network as they realistically can and communicate their plans to residents well in advance. But we have to remind people that councils have never been able to treat every single road in their area."

Northern Rail said the aftermath of the severe weather continues to affect some train services in Yorkshire and Humberside and the North East, with a number of routes closed.