UK & World News

  • 13 March 2013, 1:52

Snow And Ice Cause Chaos On Rail And Roads

Mid-March travel misery has continued for millions as late blasts of winter caused closed roads, disrupted flights and cancelled trains.

Ice warnings were in place for much of the country, and drivers in snow-hit areas urged to postpone journeys if possible.

The Met Office issued yellow "be aware" warnings for parts of the South East, South West, northern Scotland, Ireland and western parts of Wales.

In London, police said a man was fighting for his life after being hit by a telegraph pole that is thought to have been blown over during strong winds.

The 27-year-old was resuscitated by ambulance staff and treated for a head injury after the accident in Wandsworth on Monday night. He was taken to hospital, where he was said to be in a "serious condition".

Temperatures were expected to stay below freezing in many areas for the next few days, with the minimum as low as -7C.

Up to 10cm (4in) of snow was forecast to settle in the worst-affected areas, including Kent, Sussex and southern Hampshire, and over higher ground in areas including the Pennines.

Among the roads where driving conditions were at their worst were the M20 in Kent and the A2.

Rail services also faced disruption and Southern warned of short-notice cancellations and delays of up to an hour on all services.

There were delays to Southeastern services between Paddock Wood and Strood in Kent because of a signalling problem, while some Gatwick Express services were cancelled.

On First Capital Connect, journeys between Bedford and Brighton were also subject to short-notice cancellations, with delays of up to 45 minutes.

Ice and snow made roads across much of the South East impassable, with Dover and Folkestone among the worst affected.

The Channel Tunnel reopened after technical issues, with delays back to Junction 10 (Ashford) on the M20.

Eurostar suspended its services for the day because of bad weather in France and Belgium.

A message on its website said: "Our advice to passengers is not to travel today and not to come to our stations. Exchanges and refunds will be available to affected passengers."

At the Port of Dover in Kent, cross-Channel ferry operations were operating "as far as possible", but passengers were advised to allow extra time for their journeys amid possible road blockages on the A2 and A20.

Jersey Airport was closed for the day, while travellers heading for Gatwick were warned to allow extra time to reach the West Sussex airport due to snow on roads in the area.

Speed restrictions were in place on the M48 Severn Bridge in Monmouthshire due to strong winds.

Around 500 passengers on a ferry from Ireland to France were forced to spend the night anchored off shore after the vessel failed to dock due to high seas.

A number of French children on a school trip to Ireland were among those on board Irish Ferries vessel Oscar Wilde, which made numerous attempts to dock in Cherbourg in the north-west of France

Police in Sussex said they had attended more than 300 crashes on Monday, with some motorists trapped in their cars in the snow for up to 10 hours in blizzard-like conditions.

The force received nearly 2,500 emergency and non-emergency calls - around 700 more than an average March weekday.

The British Red Cross sent emergency teams out to help those stranded in the freezing conditions overnight on the A23 with tailbacks stretching 30 miles.

Cheryl Baker, member of Eurovision-winning pop group Bucks Fizz, was among those stuck on the A23 as she tried to make her way to Brighton to her children. At 10.30am she tweeted: "WE'RE HOME!! Only taken 15 1/2 hours!!"

Fellow 1980s singer Toyah was also forced to endure weather related delays and tweeted: "Still on A23, not moved yet northbound is moving freely. 6 hours! Come on snow isn't that bad :-O."

The disruption followed a night of chaos on the roads during which snow ploughs and gritters struggled to get through to clear the roads after a number of vehicles jackknifed causing gridlock.

Temperatures plummeted to as low as -3C (27F), forcing many people to abandon their vehicles for service stations.

Abandoned cars had to be moved to allow the gritters, snow ploughs and emergency teams to pass.

Police community support officer Christopher Kingswood, a former soldier, was forced to put his survival training into use when he became stranded after hours of helping drivers on the A259 and A27.

Unable to reach his home at the end of his marathon shift, he bedded down in a cramped police box, with his head and feet touching both ends, before returning to duty at 7am.

A number of motorists questioned why gritters had failed to keep the roads clear despite clear forecasts of heavy snow.

The Highways Agency said extra gritters had been out on the roads since 6am on Monday preparing for the freezing weather.

Advertisement