PM 'frustrated' by Heathrow disruption

Prime Minister David Cameron said today he was "frustrated" by the continued disruption at Heathrow as the Government offered military support to help clear the snow.

While thousands of air passengers remained stranded, rail travellers were also hit by widespread disruptions, with hundreds of people evacuated from stricken trains.



The East Coast line, one of the country's main railway arteries, was suspended between London and Peterborough with passengers advised to stay at home.



And with Christmas the busiest travel period of the year, the AA was preparing for increasing problems on the roads.



Speaking at a Downing Street news conference, Mr Cameron said: "If it's understandable that Heathrow had to close briefly, I'm frustrated on behalf of all those affected that it's taking so long for the situation to improve.



"There have been intensive discussions between (Transport Secretary) Philip Hammond and BAA about how best to ensure that normal flying capacity is resumed as soon as possible.



"I can tell you now that snow ploughs are on that second runway as I speak and the second runway will be open by this evening."



He added: "The people stuck there are having an incredibly difficult time, especially just a few days from Christmas, and everything must be done to either get them on holiday or get them home safely."



Heathrow said it will operate about a third of scheduled flights until at least 6am on Thursday.



Passengers were urged to check the airport website to see if their flight was listed for departure and then confirm with the airline before setting off.



BAA chief executive Colin Matthews and BAA chairman Sir Nigel Rudd met Mr Hammond at Heathrow.



Mr Hammond told Sky News: "What we're trying to do now is focus our entire energy on providing BAA with the maximum support to get as many passengers away as possible before the holiday weekend.



"We've offered BAA the use of troops if they need additional manpower for snow clearing although they tell us they've actually got the manpower they need here."



There were also flight disruptions at Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow, as well as Gatwick, London Luton and London City airports.



The EU Commission slammed Europe's air travel disruption as unacceptable and urged airports to "get serious" about better planning for bad weather.



Meanwhile, hundreds of passengers were evacuated from trains earlier in the day following damage to overhead power lines at Huntingdon near Peterborough.



A total of eight trains were affected, with five of these reaching stations for passengers to disembark.



But about 200 people were forced to climb down onto the tracks when an East Coast service ground to a halt, and about 80 more passengers from two First Capital Connect services also abandoned carriages.



The trouble followed an incident overnight in which more than a hundred people were stuck for six hours on a train in Kent when lines froze.



Southeastern said the train, from London Victoria to Ashford, was stranded between Kemsing and Otford after heavy snowfall. The travellers were eventually rescued at 3am after another train was sent alongside as a "last resort".



Eurostar was operating a reduced service with the company asking customers not to travel unless essential.



Speed restrictions were in place on its high-speed lines, adding up to two hours to journey times.



The rail company said: "We are asking all customers booked to travel before Christmas to refund or exchange their tickets free of charge if their travel is not essential."



Disruptions also affected rail services including Northern Rail, London Midland, Chiltern, Virgin, ScotRail and First TransPennine Express.



Robin Gisby, Network Rail's director of operations and customer services, said: "I must apologise to passengers using services on the East Coast today. I have scores of engineers on site fixing the overhead power lines and I expect some limited services to resume later this evening and a full restoration for the morning."



Michael Roberts, chief executive of the Association of Train Operating Companies (Atoc), said: "Across the country, the vast majority of trains have continued to run and most have arrived on time. However, there has been disruption today and we apologise to any passengers who have had trouble getting to where they want to go.



"Network Rail and train companies will continue to work flat out through the coming days and nights to keep as many services running as possible in the run-up to Christmas."



The AA, which yesterday experienced its busiest ever day, was dealing with 2,000 breakdowns an hour, twice the normal rate.



Darron Burness, head of AA Special Operations, said: "Daytime temperatures have continued to remain below freezing in many areas today and we're still seeing some perishingly cold overnight lows. Although the outlook is better for the latter half of the week, it is still December, so will hardly be tropical - ice will remain a risk, especially when dark."











Andy Ratcliffe, forecaster at MeteoGroup, the Press Association's weather division, said Heathrow and Gatwick could expect temperatures of 1-2C tomorrow.



Overnight a band of snow was set to develop through Wales, East Anglia and the Midlands, with the possibility of heavy snow early tomorrow.



"We're not expecting any snow after tomorrow at Heathrow and Gatwick but temperatures will stay cold so there will not be a rapid thaw," he said.



"The cold spell will keep its grip on the country at least until the weekend."

Suggested Topics
Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
News
The University of California study monitored the reaction of 36 dogs
sciencePets' range of emotions revealed
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
Arts and Entertainment
The nomination of 'The Wake' by Paul Kingsnorth has caused a stir
books
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
film
News
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
News
i100
Life and Style
food + drinkZebra meat is exotic and lean - but does it taste good?
Arts and Entertainment
Residents of Derby Road in Southampton oppose filming of Channel 4 documentary Immigration Street in their community
tv
Voices
voicesSiobhan Norton on why she eventually changed her mind
News
i100
Extras
indybest
Sport
Scottish singer Susan Boyle will perform at the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony in Glasgow
commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules
filmReview: The Rock is a muscular Davy Crockett in this preposterous film, says Geoffrey Macnab
Life and Style
tech
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

BI Manager - £50,000

£49000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client is...

BI Project Manager - £48,000 - £54,000 - Midlands

£48000 - £54000 per annum + Benefits package: Progressive Recruitment: My clie...

VB.Net Developer

£35000 - £45000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: If you're pa...

SAP Business Consultant (SD, MM and FICO), £55,000, Wakefield

£45000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP Business...

Day In a Page

Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it