2 Dec 2010

Transport network straining under UK weather conditions

With the freezing temperatures showing no sign of abating, the snowfalls have again caused travel and economic chaos, closing railways, four major airports and bringing motorists to a halt.

More than 7,000 schools have turned children away from the gates as almost half the working nation was forced to stay at home causing further economic problems.

The Transport Secretary Philip Hammond has ordered a review of how the transport operators have coped, as travel chaos hit much of the country.

His Labour shadow, Maria Eagle said: “The country is in chaos with passengers forced to sleep at stations, stuck freezing all night in broken-down trains and trapped in their cars – all at a cost to the economy of up to £1.2 billion a day.”

Mr Hammond replied: “When there’s extremely high snow and extremely low temperatures, there will be disruption to the transport system.”

Interviewed on Channel 4 News later, Mr Hammond said that, by and large, the strategic road network was still working.

“The rail network – outside the Southeastern and Southern franchises – are operating services,” he added. “We have had arguably the heaviest fall of snow for this time of year since 1965. There is bound to be some kind of disruption to the transport infrastructure.

“If we believe that delivering additional resources will address any problems, we will do that.”

The conditions have been captured in an amazing satellite photo showing the entire country blanketed by snow. The photo, taken by the NASA satellite ‘Terra’ was taken this morning courtesy of NEODAAS and the University of Dundee.

Nightmare journey as UK snow hits the London commute

Around 300 people were stranded on a train in west sussex overnight. One passenger tells Channel 4 News of their nightmare in freezing conditions:

Left Victoria on the 8.17pm to Littlehampton, all going fine for a while.

Then about 20 minutes in we started seeing sparks coming off the rails, accompanied by losses of power. Gradually we slowed down, made Gatwick, then after a little while more stopped, and were informed of two broken trains in front of us, and some iced up points ahead. A little later, we heard there was a train down behind us as well, so we couldn't go back to Gatwick either.

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Amazing satellite photo of the country beneath a blanket of snow, as taken this morning by the NASA satellite 'Terra'. Courtesy of NEODAAS/University of Dundee.

On the trains, Southeastern, Southern, First Capital Connect, National Express East Anglia, East Coast, Grand Central, First Transpennine Express, and Scotrail all have major delays and cancellations.

Airports have also been hit: Southampton, Gatwick, London City and Robin Hood Airport near Doncaster have been closed all day. Heathrow cancelled nearly a hundred flights and Edinburgh airport only reopened this afternoon.

On the roads the worst traffic was 50 mile jam on the M20 in Kent during the morning rush hour. The M25 towards Ipswich between the junctions with the A120 Colchester West and the A133, A12 in Essex was partially closed all morning, a jack-knifed lorry closed the M3 northbound for several hours, and the between the junctions with the A1 and the A685 A66 in Cumbria was closed both ways for much of the day.

As the country struggles to cope with the onslaught of winter weather, Channel 4 News visits the streets of Kent to find snow-capped roads and a peculiar rise in the sale of wild bird seed: 

"Since the snow started falling earlier this week much of north Kent has come to a standstill with schools shut, shops closed and travel chaos spreading. In the Sevenoaks and West Malling area the snow began to settle lightly on Tuesday and seems as if it hasn't stopped since.

The greenery of the North Downs, usually visible in the distance, has disappeared behind a grey cloud of incoming snow..."

Read more: UK snow - coping in the winter weather

Earlier, drivers were left stranded overnight in South Yorkshire as heavy snow caused major disruption.

Treacherous driving conditions on a stretch of the A57 between Todwick, South Yorks, and Worksop, Notts, meant many drivers were stranded in their vehicles.

For some drivers it was the second night they were forced to sleep in their vehicles.

Other motorists were forced to spend the night at a nearby Methodist hall where they were given shelter and hot drinks, South Yorkshire Police said.