Roads, trains and planes all hit as big freeze returns

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Britain ground to a halt today as the big freeze returned, throwing early getaway plans into jeopardy and threatening to leave homes without heating or presents at Christmas.

Arctic conditions meant flights were cancelled at several airports while some rail services were axed entirely and traffic was brought to a standstill on roads north of the border.

Plunging temperatures meant motorists faced "possibly the worst driving conditions imaginable" in Aberdeenshire as Scotland saw a near-repeat of the chaos earlier this month.

Today's disruption came as travel companies prepared for one of the busiest weekends of the year, with schools breaking up for the festive period and shoppers flocking to the high street.

However, there was misery for those who opted to order gifts online as many were left facing the prospect of depleted Christmas stockings after a number of retailers stopped deliveries entirely.

This came as weathermen suggested some parts of the south of England could see further snowfalls of up to 10 inches (25cm) tomorrow.

Aisling Creevey, a forecaster with MeteoGroup, the weather division of the Press Association, said the weekend looked bleak for almost every part of the UK, with some areas experiencing "significant" snowfall.

"Pretty much everywhere in the UK will be affected by snow showers at some point this weekend and temperatures will really struggle to rise above freezing during the day," she said.

The Met Office issued heavy snow warnings for much of the country today, with more forecast for tomorrow.

Those hoping to travel were warned they may be forced to delay their plans.

Gavin Hill-Smith of the AA said: "The weather will undoubtedly cause disruption for people heading off for an early Christmas break, if they live in one of the affected areas.

"The issue today is that traffic will generally be busier nationwide as there will be more long-distance traffic as people start to head off for Christmas and the retail distribution network clears the backlog."

The breakdown service said it had received 11,000 call-outs by 3pm today, roughly 1,300 every hour.

Mr Hill-Smith added: "There are horrendous driving conditions in some parts, especially in Aberdeenshire, with driving, drifting snow and bad ice making for possibly the worst driving conditions imaginable, even for experienced drivers."

AA patrol officer Stewart Topp, who has 15 years' experience, said many motorists were "caught out" by sheet ice today in Croydon, south London, where conditions on the roads were the "worst I've ever seen".

"It was just like driving on an ice-rink. I have never seen anything like it," he said.

While working on a breakdown on a minor road, he witnessed three car accidents in the space of ten minutes.

Elsewhere, two pedestrians died after being hit by a Range Rover in Glasgow; a 17-year-old boy was killed when his car ploughed off the road in Bilsington, Kent; a woman in her 60s, thought to be from the Inverness area, was killed in a three-vehicle pile-up in Huntly, Aberdeenshire, and a 19-year-old man was stabbed in the neck after asking a group of teenagers to stop throwing snowballs.

Meanwhile, there was yet more misery for families, with fears a backlog of around four million parcels could increase during the latest cold snap as private carriers struggle to overcome delays caused by the first spell of ice and snow.

Industry insiders have suggested this could be the first year in which depots and offices do not clear all their gifts.

Rocketing oil prices and restricted deliveries have already left many without fuel and the Government has warned that the situation could become "very serious" if the cold weather persists. Some homes are now having to wait as long as four weeks for fuel to be delivered.

Downing Street has played down suggestions that oil may have to be rationed over the winter.

There was also bad news for business. Douglas McWilliams, chief executive of the Centre for Economics and Business Research, told the Daily Telegraph that as many as 800 or 900 firms could go bankrupt.

And many of those hoping to travel abroad saw their plans thrown into disarray as flights were cancelled and runways closed at Exeter Airport, Belfast International and London City Airport.

Budget airline easyJet has cancelled all its flights in and out of Gatwick airport between 6am and 10am tomorrow.

The British Red Cross has released £21,000 to support its response in Scotland, while volunteers across the country are gearing up to brave the elements in support of the emergency services.

But the snow brought some joy.

Many children delighted in a day off school ahead of their Christmas holidays - however, those hoping to enjoy a day at Cardiff's Winter Wonderland would have been disappointed as the attraction was forced to close.

FootballGerman sparks three goals in four minutes at favourite No 10 role
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
A long jumper competes in the 80-to-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Radamel Falcao was forced to withdraw from the World Cup after undergoing surgery
premier leagueExclusive: Reds have agreement with Monaco
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Life and Style
Walking tall: unlike some, Donatella Versace showed a strong and vibrant collection
fashionAlexander Fury on the staid Italian clothing industry
Arts and Entertainment
Gregory Porter learnt about his father’s voice at his funeral
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Life and Style
Children at the Leytonstone branch of the Homeless Children's Aid and Adoption Society tuck into their harvest festival gifts, in October 1936
food + drinkThe harvest festival is back, but forget cans of tuna and packets of instant mash
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
New Articles
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
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

Volunteer Trustee opportunities now available at The Society for Experimental Biology

Unpaid Voluntary Position : Reach Volunteering: Volunteer your expertise as Tr...

Early Years Educator

£68 - £73 per day + Competitive rates of pay based on experience: Randstad Edu...

Nursery Nurse

£69 - £73 per day + Competitive London rates of pay: Randstad Education Group:...

Primary KS1 NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam