UK Snow Chaos: Heathrow Shut

In Europe, Floods & Storms, News Headlines

Passengers have been forced to sleep overnight in airport terminals around the country as heavy snow continues to cause chaos across Britain’s transport networks.

Heathrow airport has announced that it will not accept any new plane arrivals on Sunday and will only deal with a small number of departing flights.

Thwarted travellers from around the country have sent Sky News photos of the chaos inside terminals, as passengers try to sleep beneath thermal blankets and makeshift beds.

Passengers have complained of airlines and airport staff not being able to provide information about flight delays, while friends and families have slammed airline websites for not providing updates.

Other disgruntled people have complained bitterly about airline enquiry numbers that are constantly engaged or not answered.

Meanwhile, road travellers have sent photos of gridlocked roads and large snow drifts, while others have complained about a lack of grit trucks and snow ploughs on main routes.

A spokesman for Heathrow operator BAA said: “We have listened carefully to the advice of our airside operations team and have reluctantly judged that while Heathrow’s northern runway remains clear, the change in temperature overnight has led to a significant build up of ice on parking stands around the planes.

“This requires the airfield to remain closed until it is safe to move planes around.”

“We are removing 30 tonnes of snow from each stand, but the temperature remains firmly below zero and Heathrow’s capacity is limited to the extent that all parking stands are occupied by aircraft, making the job of clearing and treating them more difficult.”

Terminal 5 airline BA has announced limited planned departures today, including BA207, BA279, BA117, BA982, BA740, BA962 and BA346.

BA warned: “All other long and shorthaul British Airways flights from London Heathrow today before 18:00 are cancelled as a result of the closure. Please do not to come to the airport unless you are flying on one of the above services today.”

Gatwick airport was reopened for Sunday. However, staff warned of delays because of the impact of weather across Europe.

“While Gatwick’s runway remains open, the impact on airline operations across Europe will inevitably lead to delays and cancellations today,” a spokesman said.

“Today is Gatwick’s busiest day of the festive getaway and we are doing everything we can to get passengers on their way and aircraft in the air. However, passengers must check with their airline before setting out for the airport to reduce congestion and avoid disappointment.

“We also advise that passengers check with transport operators before planning their journey to the airport.”

As at Heathrow, Gatwick passengers hoping to depart were forced to sleep inside the terminals.

The chaotic conditions came after the Met Office issued a warning of heavy snow for the London area and parts of the South East.

It cautioned that “only essential travel should be undertaken” and warned of disruption to the travel network.

On Saturday Transport Secretary Philip Hammond told Sky News that the Highways Agency had confirmed all strategic roads were open and have been gritted.

He added: “We have got adequate supplies of salt, public transport networks are working with reduced levels of services, which you’d expect in conditions like this.

“The priority for transport operators is to get routes cleared and get services back to normal in time for the Monday morning travel to work period.”

Many road travellers, however, claimed gritters were not being fully utilised.

Eastern Scotland is expected to be hit by a fresh blast of Arctic wind and the south of England near the coast is warned of further snow falls.

Sky News meteorologist Dr Chris England said: “The area between approximately Birmingham, Portsmouth, London and Kent has had prolonged snow, and there have been some more showery outbreaks over Wales.

:: Click here for live travel updates for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland

The Met Office said Saturday’s snow was heavy for several hours and gave the heaviest fall of 20cm at Farnborough.

About 9cm fell at Heathrow and London saw between 5-10cm with higher values in places.

Temperatures on Saturday night dropped overnight with a low down to minus 18.4C in Pershall, Gloucestershire.

As well as disruption at Heathrow and Gatwick, there are also problems at other regional airports.

Click here for phone numbers and websites of airlines operating out of Heathrow.

There is disruption at Exeter, London City, Aberdeen and Cardiff airports.

Southampton airport has reopened but is warning of delays.

Belfast International Airport says delays and cancellations are expected through the day.

Glasgow airport remains open but there are delays and cancellations.

Travel across Europe has been hit with airports in Germany, France, the Netherlands and Denmark experiencing problems, and snow caused road chaos in Italy.

Some flights heading across the Atlantic have also been diverted to Iceland, with passengers put up in hotels.

Wales, northern Scotland and Northern Ireland – which has experienced its heaviest snow for 25 years – have also received warnings.

The South East has been badly affected with delays on the M4 eastbound in Berkshire between junctions 8 and 4B.

There has been heavy congestion clockwise on the M25 through both Surrey between junctions 7 and 9 and Hertfordshire between junctions 20 and 22.

The M1 has severe delays in both directions from junction 1 to junction 15, and it is partially blocked southbound at junction 10 due to two jackknifed lorries.

The M5 in Worcestershire has been closed northbound between junctions 6 and 3. There have also been delays southbound between junctions 4A and 5.

The M6 and M61 in Manchester reopened this morning after hundreds of drivers were left stranded overnight when a lorry jacknifed, but drivers are being advised to avoid the area.

The M58 and M57 have been affected, and there have been reports from Sky News viewers of long delays on the M40 in Oxfordshire.

:: Click here for road closures in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland

In Northern Ireland, there are delays on the M1 and in Scotland a number of A roads are shut.

A driver who died after his Mini collided with a lorry near Eastbourne, East Sussex, on Friday, has been named as Daniel Martin, 31.

Paramedics tried to save Mr Martin in the back of an ambulance which in turn skidded off a country road and into a bush.

A Sussex Police helicopter and Kent Air Ambulance attended the second crash but Mr Martin, from Horam, was pronounced dead.

Two women – Mhairi Convy, 18, and Laura Stewart, 20 – died after being hit by a Range Rover in Glasgow city centre on Friday.

Police launched an inquiry into their deaths and appealed for witnesses.

A 17-year-old boy was killed when his car ploughed off the road in Bilsington, Kent, and a woman in her 60s died in a three-vehicle pile-up in Huntly, Aberdeenshire.

Emergency roadside services have dealt with more than double the number of call-outs – peaking at 1,200 every hour – during the big freeze.

Nearly a quarter of all overground rail services were either running late or not at all on Saturday with many operators planning reduced services.

Travellers were advised to contact Network Rail inquiries for details.

Transport for London says many Tube line services are partly suspended and passengers are facing delays.

National Express says it is operating the majority of its coach network but warned of delays and diversions in the worst hit areas.

Eurostar is operating with a speed restriction, with journeys to the continent taking up to an hour longer than usual as a result.

Sport is also being hit with dozens of football league matches cancelled.

Chelsea’s Premier League match against Manchester United today is the highest profile sporting casualty of the cold spell.

Shoppers have had mixed fortunes as the snow forced many to abandon their trips, while others managed to pick up bargains on the last weekend before Christmas.

Brent Cross shopping centre in north London was forced to close, but bargain hunters flocked to the West End where shops remained open.

Experts are predicting it to be the coldest December on record, with a current average temperature of minus 0.7C – five degrees below the long-term average.

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