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Sunday, December 19, 2010

> Heavy snow freezes travel across UK

LONDON, Dec 19 : Millions of road, rail and airline passengers faced another day of chaos as the worst winter for 30 years continued to wreak travel havoc across Britain.

Planes were grounded at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted, while many regional airports were also severely affected by ice and snow.

Tens of thousands of airline passengers, whose flights were cancelled, were forced to bed down at Heathrow and other airports as hotels quickly filled up.

After being forced to shut Saturday, Heathrow said it would not be allowing any incoming flights and only a handful would be able to depart.

A spokeswoman for Heathrow, which experienced temperatures of minus 5.2C overnight, said: "Heathrow Airport will not be accepting arrivals on Sunday, and will only manage a handful of departures as our airfield team continues to deal with the impacts of yesterday's bad weather and prepares the airport for a full reopening on Monday.

"We are extremely sorry for the disruption this will cause to passengers and airlines and we stress that passengers must check with their airlines before travelling to the airport. We will provide regular updates."

Gatwick Airport reopened after planes were grounded for large period Saturday, but widespread disruption was expected with officials advising passengers to check with their airline before travelling.

Plummeting overnight temperatures were being blamed for leaving runways to icy for planes to land safely.

But frustrated passengers were questioning why airports in other countries with similar weather conditions were continuing to operate.

On the roads and rail networks similar misery was being experienced by tens of thousands of people struggling to get away for Christmas.

Meanwhile nearly a quarter of all train services suffered delays and cancellations, with operators in the south, including Southeastern and Southern Railway, struggling to keep ice from forming on the 'third' rail,which transmits power to the electric trains.

However other train companies managed to run a normal Saturday service on most mainline services after spending Friday night clearing snow off lines and points.

There was heavy snow across much of south and south west England, the south Midlands, Merseyside, Northern Ireland and Scotland and further falls were forecast for the coming days.

Forecasters warned that Britain was heading for the coldest December on record, with a current average temperature of minus 0.7C - five degrees below the long-term average.

The Met Office warned of more snow on Monday, particularly in north east England and northern Scotland. With many roads in a treacherous state there were warnings of fuel and food
shortages in some parts of the country.

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