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Snow storms hit UK travellers’ plans

UK 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 in the evening.

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.

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.

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.

With the snow continuing to fall, train passengers in central London faced delays of up to 60 minutes to services through Blackfriars station, due to a broken-down train.

On the Isle of Wight, where old Tube trains operate on the Island Line, all services were suspended until the end of the day.

The northern runway at Heathrow reopened shortly before midday. 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 today were ones to and from the Channel Islands.

Southampton airport said there would be no flights before 5pm at the earliest. Bristol airport said its runway was clear and flights were departing. But it warned passengers to expect delays and cancellations.

But management at the west London airport added that restrictions on the flow rate of aircraft had been imposed by air traffic control company Nats due to low visibility.

Flights remained suspended at Birmingham Airport, with snow still falling.

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