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4:11am UK, Sunday February 05, 2012
Heavy snowfalls across Britain have caused transport chaos, with cars abandoned on roads and airports closed.
According to Sky sources, a number of cars were abandoned on the northbound side of the M40 between High Wycombe and Stokenchurch.
A spokesman for the Highways Agency later told Sky News: “We were prepared as possible. As soon as the snow started to fall we had the gritters out.”
The M4 heading west out of London was reduced to a single lane and the M25 clockwise ground to a halt between junctions 24 and 25 after HGVs blocked the route.
:: Read the Sky News live blog on Britain’s road, rail and air transport status
Elsewhere across the country vehicles, including buses and fire trucks, needed rescue after becoming stuck in snow.
Train delays in a number of area were cleared overnight however National Rail warned passengers across the Southeastern network to check departures.
Meanwhile, thousands of airline passengers have faced problems, with Luton, Stansted and Birmingham airports severely affected.
A spokesman for Birmingham airport said a number of flights were cancelled while some were diverted, but it hoped to operate normally later this morning.
“The airport’s been closed for a few hours because of really heavy snow over the Midlands,” the spokesman said.
“A clean-up operation is in full-swing. We have had some flights diverted to other airports and some are waiting to go.
“We have had some cancellations as well.”
Shoppers brave the snow in Harrogate
The runway at Stansted was shut “temporarily” for snow clearing, a spokesman said.
Passengers at Gatwick airport were warned of possible delays, while Heathrow’s operators were criticised for a pre-emptive decision to cancel around a third of today’s flights.
A Heathrow spokesman said: “We have to take pro-active action to cancel flights to minimise disruption for passengers. This was a specific recommendation of the report into last winter’s problems, and (it is) the first time this system has been implemented.”
However some massive delays at the airport have already been reported by disgruntled passengers.
One said that he boarded a plane at Heathrow at 8pm on Saturday and was still stuck on the Tarmac at 2.30am this morning.
“We’re not really being told anything so we have no idea what’s going on,” Andy Brown told Sky News Online.
“Passengers are getting very annoyed with the staff, there’s no aircon, so its hot, stuffy, smelly.”
Airport operators have urged passengers to check with their airlines about delayed or cancelled flights.
Heathrow airport released a list of airlines website and telephone numbers.
Leicestershire-based software developer Ben Marsh has also set up an online interactive map, encouraging Twitter users to tweet news and pictures of snow in their area using the hashtag #uksnow.
The transport mayhem comes as Church Fenton in North Yorkshire recorded over 16cm (6in) of snow, while up to 15cm was forecast for parts of Cumbria, Lincolnshire, East Anglia, North Yorkshire, the Peak District and the Midlands.
Most parts of the country are expected to wake up to between 5cm (2in) and 10cm (4in) this morning.
Forecasts have also warned of reduced visibility and the possibility of freezing fog.
With most of the UK on amber alert, the Met Office’s second highest severe weather warning, a string of sporting fixtures have also fallen victim to the big chill.
Britain shivered through the coldest night of the winter so far on Friday with temperatures plunging to minus 12.4C.
Salt and grit stocks across the country are some 30% up on reserves held last winter.
But many road users have complained about a lack of snow ploughs clearing routes after snow started to fall on Saturday.
:: A 35-year-old woman was taken to hospital with hypothermia after being rescued from a frozen lake near the Attenborough Nature Reserve in Beeston last night.
:: Click through the gallery of Sky News viewers’ weather photos below