UK weather latest: Tens of thousands of train and plane passengers left stranded by Storm Emma

Up to 50,000 British travellers are believed to be stranded abroad

Simon Calder
Travel Correspondent
Thursday 01 March 2018 21:43
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At the start of what should be a spring weekend, much of the UK is enduring a bleak midwinter that has brought large parts of the country to a halt. Up to 50,000 British travellers are believed to be stranded abroad after hundreds of flight cancellations.

As Storm Emma collides with the Siberian deep freeze, air and rail passengers face the fiercest disruption since wintry weather arrived on Tuesday.

Virgin Trains East Coast are advising customers NOT TO TRAVEL,” warns the train operator on Britain’s flagship line, connecting Edinburgh, Newcastle and Leeds with London.

The message is echoed across the country: “We strongly recommend that you postpone your journey,” urges Southeastern, the train operator for Kent and East Sussex. “If you do decide to travel, please allow yourself extra time. On Friday afternoon in particular, please try and travel as early as you possibly can given the heavy snow forecast.”

Passengers on ScotRail and Arriva Trains Wales are likely to face another day of disarray over much of their networks. ScotRail warns: “Lines need to be tested in the morning to check if they are safe, which means there won’t be any services in the affected areas during the morning peak.

Caledonian Sleeper overnight services between Scotland and London were suspended for a second night. In the north of England, Northern trains from Liverpool to Preston and Middlesbrough to Whitby are cancelled.

The weekend arrives early for Greater Anglia passengers in Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk. On Friday, the train operator is running a Saturday service on its main routes from London Liverpool Street to Ipswich, Norwich and Southend, and a Sunday timetable to and from Cambridge.

Rail travellers hoping to escape the country could be frustrated as Eurostar has cancelled 10 trains linking London St Pancras with Paris and Brussels on Friday.

But the scale of disruption for international rail travellers pales in comparison with the number of airline passengers now out of position.

The Independent calculates that up to midnight on Thursday, around 800 flights to, from and within the UK have been grounded by the week’s bad weather – representing over 100,000 passengers.

The UK’s busiest airport, Heathrow, is worst hit. Once again, the air-traffic control provider NATS, predicts the flow rate of arrivals will be slower than normal. The airport has ordered airlines to cancel more than 250 departures and arrivals on Friday, including long-haul flights to and from New York, Dubai and Singapore.

Almost 200 flights on British Airways to from Heathrow have been cancelled on Friday, about a quarter of BA’s normal service. A spokesperson said: “We are keeping customers informed and offering short-haul customers due to travel up to and including next Tuesday a range of flexible rebooking options, even if their flight is still due to fly as planned.

“We are sorry that the weather this week is leading to some delays and disruption to our schedules. We continue to do all we can minimise the effect the poor weather may have on our flights.​”

Aer Lingus has cancelled a total of 30 flights between Dublin, Cork, Shannon and Heathrow.

UK weather: Flights resume at Dublin airport after heavy snow cleared from runways

Air France, Lufthansa, Swiss, Air Malta and Alitalia have cancelled multiple flights, while United grounded five overnight services from the US to Heathrow.

For the first time major long-haul carriers with relatively few operations at Heathrow have been ordered to cancelled flights.

An Emirates A380 “Superjumbo” to Dubai, a South African Airways jet to Johannesburg and a Singapore Airlines service have all been axed.

With dozens of other cancellations at other UK airports, the number of British travellers stranded abroad is climbing towards 50,000.

Bristol airport was closed for most of Thursday, and more than 60 flights on Friday have already been cancelled.

At Edinburgh airport, staff are working through the night to clear the runway so that is “open for those airlines that wish to operate tomorrow”.

Ryanair and easyJet have said they will not start operations at the Scottish capital until the afternoon, though Jet2, Flybe and British Airways will begin earlier.

“Tomorrow is likely to remain challenging and there will be disruption,” Edinburgh airport said in a statement. “We understand that the fluidity of the situation can be frustrating and we thank passengers for their ongoing patience and support.”

However bad the disruption in Britain, it is even worse in Ireland. The Foreign Office issued a warning to UK travellers saying: “Due to severe weather conditions across the country, the Irish authorities advise that you should remain indoors until 3pm on Friday 2 March.”

Aer Lingus and Ryanair ended operations at Dublin airport in mid-afternoon on Thursday and will not re-start until Saturday morning. Ryanair said: “All flights scheduled to/from Dublin, Cork, Kerry, Knock & Shannon Airports on Friday 2 March have been cancelled.”

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