Saturday, 19th January 2013

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Snow fl urries hit UK travellersí plans

 Travellers were engulfed in snow nationwide yesterday, with roads shut, trains cancelled or delayed and flights disrupted.

As the snow hit London and south east England, one of Heathrow’s two runways had to be closed for de-icing and snow clearance.

At first the Home Counties were spared the worst of the early-morning hazards.

 Millions who had decided conditions were not so bad after all were already at work when the first flurries hit the London area.

Driven by strong winds, the snow settled quickly and travellers who had had trouble getting on to reduced-service trains in the morning were wondering how they were going to get home tonight.

As the snow spread, so did the travel chaos. Earlier, Wales, the West Country, eastern England, the North East of England and Scotland had been the worst-hit areas. But soon the whole country was in winter’s grip, with flights cancelled at Heathrow airport and snow reaching London.

The northern runway at Heathrow was shut at about 10.20am for de-icing and snow clearing.

A Heathrow spokesman said the work, which was expected to take around 45 minutes, meant there were delays and cancellations at the west London airport.

He added that it was possible that the southern runway might have to be closed for similar work to be done once the northern one was reopened.

At least 70 flights were cancelled at Heathrow. British Airways said it had axed 60 flights. Airports where flights were cancelled included Southampton, Bristol, Glasgow, Jersey and Newcastle.

Some train companies had operated special timetables even before the snow arrived, prompting some passengers to complain of overcrowding.

Channel Tunnel rail firm Eurostar axed four services between London and Brussels, and there were amended services on a number of domestic routes.

Wales bore the brunt of the early-morning disruption. The M4 was closed between junction 36 at Bridgend and junction 37 at Pyle due to snow.

There were hazardous driving conditions on sections of the M4 in South Wales and on the M48 near Chepstow while the snow caused traffic tailbacks in Cardiff and Newport. Among towns where roads had to close were Rhondda and Treorchy.

In Devon a section of the A35 was closed in Honiton while snow also caused a section of the same road to shut in Dorchester in Dorset. A section of the North Devon Link Road in Rackenford was closed because of snow and a jack-knifed lorry.

On the A30 at Okehampton in Devon one lane was closed due to an accident and snow while hazardous road conditions were reported in the Bristol area.

In northern England there were hazardous driving conditions on the A1 around Alnwick because of ice and snow.

In Scotland, a section of the A821 in Stirling was closed due to snow.

The M50 was closed between Ross-on-Wye and Newent while the M4 near Cardiff was partially blocked between junctions 30 and 32.

Trains between Bridgend and Cardiff Central were being delayed while there were no services for a time between Radyr and Coryton in South Wales, nor between Liskeard in Cornwall and Plymouth in Devon, nor between Severn Beach and Avonmouth near Bristol.

There were 60-minute hold-ups for passengers on trains between Derby and Birmingham New Street due to a broken-down train at Burton-on-Trent.

Another broken-down train - near Gloucester- led to delays between Gloucester and Newport in South Wales.

The northern runway at Heathrow reopened shortly before midday, but the southern runway was expected to be closed later for clearance work to go on there.

By late morning, more than 170 flights - mainly short-haul ones - had been cancelled at Heathrow.

At Gatwick, the single runway remained open and the only cancelled flights at the West Sussex airport yesterday were ones to and from the Channel Islands.

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