Snow brings chaos for city as centre left at standstill

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EDINBURGH awoke to heavy snow showers this morning bringing chaos for commuters.

• A hardy cyclist makes his way down Comiston Road. All pictures by Neil Hanna

The city's roads were worst affected, with the centre at a complete standstill as workers and shoppers tried to make their way through the whiteout.

The A68 closed at the Millerhill Junction shortly before 6.50am. One driver, travelling in from West Lothian, said: "The western approach to the city was an absolute whiteout at around seven o'clock, and there wasn't a gritter to be seen. What is the council playing at?

"The road had been gritted the night before, which was helping, but it was still completely snowbound. Hermiston Gait was an ice rink, and there were a lot of cars in the laybys."

Lothian Buses said they were operating a "limited service".

One city centre commuter, travelling in from the north of the city, said: "Many passengers just abandoned their journey at York Place and decided to make the rest of the journey on foot. I stepped off the bus and the snow came up passed my ankles."

Lothian Buses Marketing director Iain Coupar said: "There are buses out there and running, but early this morning we realised this was not good. The main routes might be passable, but when the buses go off into the housing areas, that's when they are starting to get stuck."

• A plough clears some of last night's heavy snowfall

Network Rail said passengers were likely to experience disruption and cancellations.

Train services between Edinburgh and Glasgow were subject to delays and the Edinburgh to Bathgate line was suspended.

Edinburgh Airport was still open with some flights delayed, though the runway was closed for sweeping at around 8am.

A BA flight to Heathrow and an Easyjet flight to Stansted were cancelled due to problems down south. The disruption to travel is more bad news for high street retailers as today was expected to be their busiest day of the year. Businesses were expecting high numbers of call-offs as staff struggle to get in to work.

Graham Birse, deputy chief executive of Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce, said stores would be hoping for a quick improvement in the weather.

He said: "A lot of people will look out the window and be deterred initially from travelling, but the forecast was for it to improve so that's what we'll hope for."

Figures released today show that footfall in the city centre is already down by 6.3 per cent compared to last December.

Temperatures fell below freezing overnight and heavy snowfall began around 5.30am.

The Met Office has forecast up to five centimetres of snow to fall throughout the day, with the snow clearing by the afternoon with widespread ice forming on untreated roads.

More sleet and snow is expected tomorrow, particularly in East Lothian.

There were several accidents and breakdowns causing severe delays on the city's main arteries throughout the day yesterday.

• A solitary pedestrian plots a path down Braid Road

Shortly after 8am a car hit the central reservation on the A1 near Haddington, closing the inside lane of the A1.

By lunchtime the problems really started to mount up, with a broken down HGV blocking a lane of the A720 at Hermiston Gait.

Just under an hour later a car transportation vehicle struck a car on the northbound carriageway of the A90 at the Scotstoun Interchange. No one was injured.

In England two women died and another 47 people were injured after a coach overturned in treacherous icy conditions.

The vehicle, which was carrying 48 passengers and a driver back from a trip to see a Christmas lights attraction, left the road and ended up on its side last night near Penzance in Cornwall.