South's first snowfall brings transport to a standstill

Passenger fury as just two centimetres cancels flights at Stansted and Luton

Stranded passengers reacted with anger as Stansted airport closed its runway after just a couple of centimetres of snow caused transport nightmares across the country today.

While road and rail travellers in many parts of the Midlands and southern England suffered from closures and cancellations, travel frustration was at its highest inside the terminal buildings of the Essex airport, where operations were called off at 6.20am just as planes were about to begin taking off.

Despite 23 outgoing and 20 incoming flights being cancelled – with Ryanair, which runs most routes at Stansted, the worst affected airline – the airport said it was “satisfied” with its performance given the conditions it had to cope with, re-opening its runway after two hours. Luton and Aberdeen airports were also affected.

The poor weather also led to a 10-vehicle pile-up on the London-bound section of the A299 at Whitstable in Kent. Trains were cancelled or running with severe delays in Hertfordshire, Surrey and Kent, as sleet, ice and continued flooding made for perilous driving conditions in and around the Home Counties, causing dozens of crashes. About 50 schools were closed.

But Michael Dukes, director of forecasting at MeteoGroup, said the snow amounted to “only one or two centimetres in places, it is not very much”.

One passenger at Stansted, Eija Martin from Finland, said it was difficult to understand from a Scandinavian perspective how the UK was unable to keep its airports operating. “For us, this is crazy,” she said. “A couple of inches of snow, which we would think nothing of in Finland, has caused so much chaos. They really should be better prepared.”

Patrycja Kubiak, a 20-year-old music student from Poznan in Poland, added: “I’m just surprised that such a small amount of snow can cause these problems. It only snowed for half an hour.”

There were also complaints that they had been told conflicting, or wrong, information. Stephen Allen, 49, who was attempting to get to Spain to watch a Barcelona football match, said: “The most frustrating thing is nobody is telling us what’s going on.”

Mark Davison, head of communications for Stansted, said he had “sympathy” for those affected but defended its efforts. “We had early snow, followed by falling temperatures and then more snow, which settled on ice, compounding the problem. It was certainly worse than had been forecast,” he said.

“We had the runway open again within two hours which, under the circumstances, we are satisfied with. A total area of 500,000 square metres needed to be cleared.”

In a statement Ryanair said “we sincerely apologise for any inconvenience”.

Forecast: The next three days

Thursday: Rain and snow in north-west Scotland will reach northern England and Wales in the afternoon. Some early sunny spells across the rest of England leading to rain by evening.

Friday: Cloudy across eastern areas of England with outbreaks of rain, sleet and hill snow. Brighter elsewhere with sunny spells, but there will be a scattering of showers in western areas, heavy in Wales and south-west England.

Saturday: Early mist and fog patches will slowly lift to leave a cold but bright day with plenty of sunshine. However, turning cloudier in northern Scotland with rain here later.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Sir David Attenborough
people
Life and Style
Young girl and bowl of cereal
food + drink
News
Comic miserablist Larry David in 'Curb Your Enthusiasm'
peopleDirector of new documentary Misery Loves Comedy reveals how he got them to open up
Arts and Entertainment
Henry VIII played by Damien Lewis
tvReview: Scheming queens-in-waiting, tangled lines of succession and men of lowly birth rising to power – sound familiar?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Sport
football
Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Ready to open the Baftas, rockers Kasabian are also ‘great film fans’
musicExclusive: Rockers promise an explosive opening to the evening
Life and Style
David Bowie by Duffy
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
Hell, yeah: members of the 369th Infantry arrive back in New York
booksWorld War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel
News
advertisingVideo: The company that brought you the 'Bud' 'Weis' 'Er' frogs and 'Wasssssup' ads, has something up its sleeve for Sunday's big match
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
i100
Environment
Dame Vivienne Westwood speaking at a fracking protest outside Parliament on Monday (AP)
environment
Life and Style
tech
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

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: This post arises as a result of the need to...

Tradewind Recruitment: Class Teacher Required ASAP In Uminster

£120 - £150 per annum: Tradewind Recruitment: I am recruiting on instruction o...

Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Director - London - £70,000

£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wimbledon, SW London

£24000 - £28000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wim...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness