Travellers suffer delays on trains and planes but the roads stay trouble-free

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Virgin Trains and British Airways apologised yesterday for separate incidents that caused lengthy delays to passengers returning home for Christmas.

The transatlantic British Airways flight BA0202 finally arrived 24 hours late at Heathrow airport on Christmas Day after its 98 passengers were forced to change aircraft.

They were kept in a hotel overnight in Detroit while engineers tried to remedy a fault with anti-icing equipment before eventually arriving at 6.23 am yesterday.

Virgin Trains also apologised after a series of technical glitches on one of its trains meant that more than 70 people were delayed by nearly four hours on a trip from Manchester to London on Christmas Eve.

The service, which was due to arrive at about 8pm, trundled into Euston station at nearly midnight. Passengers were told there had been problems with the train's brakes and that couplings were broken. Three carriages had to be removed from the train.

Alastair Williams, a student who was travelling from university in Manchester to be with his family for Christmas, said: "First it broke down 10 minutes short of Stoke and they had problems with the brakes. When we got to Tamworth there was a smell of burning behind the carriage. They decided to remove it but had problems because the coupling was broken."

A Virgin Trains spokesman said: "All of the passengers on the train will be eligible for compensation and we will look favourably on each case."

The problem came after about 300 Virgin Trains staff working in stations staged a 24-hour walkout from 6pm on Sunday. The company said the action caused no disruption to services. None of those involved was a driver. A second 24-hour strike is scheduled from noon on New Year's Eve.

Eurostar passengers also experienced delays of up to two hours on Christmas Eve, with four outbound trains and two inbound services cancelled because of problems over the weekend.

However, those incidents appeared to be the exceptions during what has proved to be a relatively trouble-free festive period for thousands of travellers. AA Roadwatch said the rush for home had been spread out over several days because Christmas had fallen on a Tuesday and severe hold-ups had been avoided.

"We've had pockets of congestion, but generally people have heeded warnings, planned their journeys and set off in good time," a spokesman said.

Aberdeen was the first city yesterday to see a white Christmas with a couple of inches of snow covering the ground by early morning. There was further snowfall in the Highlands, Stirling and Lerwick.

Newcastle and Durham in north-east England, Wrexham in north Wales and Aldergrove, Co Antrim, also had some light snowfall. Light snow in Manchester yesterday afternoon meant the bookmaker William Hill will have to pay out an estimated £50,000.