Commuters battle against snow as airports forced to cancel flights

Elizabeth Fournier
COMMUTERS and holidaymakers were expecting further travel disruption today as snow settled across London and the home counties, with Heathrow airport cancelling one in 10 flights and train operators changing timetables in anticipation of delays.

Despite the Met Office dropping its amber weather warning for London and the south east over the weekend, temperatures overnight were still predicted to fall as low as -6°C, with sleet and snow expected throughout the day.

After cancelling 20 per cent of flights yesterday, Heathrow said last night it expected around one in 10 flights today to be affected, with the worst conditions coming from around 4pm.

On average, some 1,300 flights leave Heathrow daily. The airport, Europe's busiest, operates at close to full capacity after Britain's coalition government blocked development of a third runway in 2010.

“Many airports have plenty of spare runway capacity so aircraft can be spaced out more during low visibility without causing delays and cancellations,” said Heathrow, whose owners have campaigned hard for more capacity at the London hub.

“Because Heathrow operates at almost full capacity, there is simply no room to reschedule the delayed flights,” it said.

Meanwhile Southeastern Trains cancelled popular early morning commuter services into London from Canterbury, Tunbridge Wells and Orpington, and South West Trains cancelled some routes and warned passengers of a limited timetable on some services into Waterloo.

First Capital Connect said a normal service is planned to run on all routes today, but that delays were likely, with some routes already disrupted by emergency engineering works last night.

City airport said it expected its runway to open as usual today after cancelling more than 40 flights yesterday.

Stansted and Gatwick airports also said they were operating as normal yesterday but that they expected delays and some flight cancellations. As much as eight centimetres of snow was expected across southeast England yesterday, according to Met Office forecasts.

Insurer RSA has estimated the daily cost to the UK economy of workers being unable to reach the office at as much as £500m, with many parents also having to stay home to look after children as schools closed.

TfL said last night that both the Vauxhall bus station and one way system were now fully reopened following last week’s helicopter crash, but that some routes would be closed again in early February to allow work to be completed.

The roads had been closed since last Wednesday, when a helicopter crashed into a crane next to a skyscraper near Vauxhall station, killing two people and injuring a further 13.