New big freeze brings fresh chaos

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Lunchtime joggers brave the snow in London's Embankment Gardens

Christmas commuters are facing further transport chaos after Britain was battered by fresh blasts of heavy snow that show little sign of easing.

Overnight blizzards and plummeting temperatures buckled a huge chunk of the nation’s road, air and rail networks on what is traditionally the busiest weekend for travellers and retailers before Christmas.

The North West of England was hit with reported deluges of up to 10in of snow causing widespread disruption and accidents on major roads and motorways. Police said hundreds of motorists were stranded on the M6 in Greater Manchester.

Parts of the south were also blanketed by snow overnight, with the blizzards predicted to dump as much as a foot of snow on parts the South East and the Midlands today.

Temperatures dropped as low as minus 13C in Chesham, Buckinghamshire, overnight with Gatwick producing a reading of minus 11C. Forecasters expect the mercury will struggle to break freezing over the course of the day.

This weekend is expected to be the busiest for retailers and commuters in the run-up to December 25, but many are expected to face misery as airports, rail networks and roads feel the force of the big freeze.

Officials advised all air passengers to check their flight status before travelling to the airport.

The Highways Agency advised motorists in the North West to only travel if absolutely necessary as the heavy snow left motorists stranded in gridlocked traffic while Kent Police issued motorists with a warning of dangerous road conditions after blizzards and plunging temperatures.

Severe weather warnings of heavy snow and widespread icy roads are in place in London and the South East, the South West, the Midlands, the North West and Yorkshire and Humber. Wales, northern Scotland and Northern Ireland – which had experienced its heaviest snow for 25 years – were also issued with severe warnings.

Transport Secretary Philip Hammond met RAC Foundation chairman David Quarmby to receive his audit on how well Britain was prepared for poor weather conditions. The report is due to be published next week. Transport minister Norman Baker has written to local authorities reminding them of earlier independent recommendations to reduce the amount of salt they spread on roads in an attempt to conserve stocks.

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