Weather: Cold snap to last most of week

HUNDREDS of drivers were left stranded in freezing conditions while flights and rail services were cancelled as wintry weather caused further chaos across the UK yesterday.

Many roads remained impassable as police dealt with numerous calls from motorists trapped overnight in heavy snow and ice, reporting breakdowns, crashes and abandoned vehicles.

Edinburgh commuters suffered some of the lengthiest delays yesterday morning, according to one traffic report, with people stuck for just over 60 minutes on one of the main routes into the capital. However, the city council linked the three-mile hold-up on the A90 between the M9 and the city to ongoing gasworks rather than the weather.

A broken-down HGV on the A90 at Echline blocked one lane northbound south of the Forth Road Bridge, while an eastbound lane of the M8 at the Livingston junction was closed due to an accident.

Forecasters warned that the cold snap is set to stay for most of the week, issuing further yellow warnings for snow and ice in Scotland overnight and into this morning.

A Met Office spokesman said warnings for snow were in place for Grampian, Strathclyde and the east of Scotland from 5pm yesterday to 11am today, with five to ten centimetres possible on higher ground from 5pm.

He added: “There is a second warning for ice for the west of the country during the same time-period and it will be quite windy still, so there could be temporary blizzard conditions.”

Rail, air and sea journeys were also disrupted across the UK yesterday with Eurostar cancelling all trains to France and Belgium because of bad weather on the continent.

Some 500 passengers spent almost 20 hours at sea in stormy conditions on an Irish Ferries sailing until it was finally able to dock at the fifth attempt, at Cherbourg in France.

Jersey Airport was closed all day yesterday and UK passengers were delayed by bad weather at European airports. In France, the army was called in to help clear roads.

UK rail services were also hit by cancellations and delays, particularly in Sussex and Kent.

In Kent, lengthy tailbacks built up during rush-hour with traffic stretching back 12 miles on the M2, which was gridlocked for more than an hour.

Police in Sussex thanked scores of volunteers, including a former soldier, Christopher Kingswood, who slept in a cramped police box when he became unable to get home himself, after helping people stuck on the A259 and A27.

Dozens of drivers who were stuck overnight at an M23 service station in Sussex complained when they were threatened with £80 fines if they did not pay £12 “long stay” parking charges.

The A686 Hartside Pass in Cumbria was closed between Alston and Melmerby because of snow.

In Wales, strong winds led to speed restrictions on the M48 Severn Bridge in Monmouthshire, while in Somerset there were hazardous conditions on Brassknocker Hill in Monkton Combe.

No trains or bus replacement services were running between Redhill in Surrey and Tonbridge in Kent.

In Scotland, tributes were paid to a 38-year-old man who was killed in one of a spate of accidents in bad weather on Monday. First ScotRail duty manager Brian Crayford, from Dundee, died after his car left the A92 near Cupar, Fife.

A spokesman for the train operator said: “All our thoughts are with his family, friends and colleagues at this time.”

Meanwhile, UK celebrities joined countless members of the public venting their frustration on social media site Twitter as they struggled to get around.

Former Bucks Fizz star Cheryl Baker tweeted to complain about a lack of gritters after spending ten hours instead of one trying to get through snow and ice on her way to Brighton on Monday.

Toyah Wilcox and hip-hop duo Rizzle Kicks also posted details of their battles through snow-covered roads.