Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 September 2014

Britons brave cold before Christmas

Heathrow managed to handle 200,000 passengers as the weather eased on Thursday
Shoppers brave the elements to do some last-minute Christmas shopping in Leeds
Hundreds of people had been forced to queue outside St Pancras Station in London for the Eurostar

Weather-weary Britons have battled ice and snow to get away for the Christmas break or to do last-minute shopping.

While Dublin airport had to shut for some of the day, conditions eased enough for Heathrow airport to handle 200,000 customers after many flights were cancelled or postponed earlier in the week.

Heathrow was able to operate about 90% of flights on Thursday, with British Airways managing to run all its long-haul flights at the west London airport and the vast majority of its short-haul flights.

The airline said it had put on larger aircraft on some routes and also chartered a number of planes, but a spokeswoman for the carrier said: "There may be some people who may not get where they want by the time they want."

Rail services, meanwhile, continued to suffer delays and cancellations with a number of train companies operating amended timetables. The East Coast company axed 13 services between London and Leeds on Thursday and will be cancelling 12 trains between the two cities on Friday.

Services in Scotland were again hit by the Arctic conditions, while First Great Western had to cancel some London to Cardiff services.

Motorists also faced delays as traffic built up on major road routes from early afternoon. There was congestion on the M25 and also on the A34 in Wiltshire, the A35 in Dorchester in Dorset and on the A49 at Leominster, Herefordshire. Other busy spots included the A5 near Leighton Buzzard in Bedfordshire, the A12 near Lowestoft in Suffolk, and the M1 through Bedfordshire.

But the Highways Agency has completed a number of roadworks in time for Christmas and has suspended others from 6am on Friday until midnight on January 3.

Forecasters said the chance of snow falling on Christmas Day - the bookmaker's interpretation of a white Christmas - was very small, but they added that the weather would remain cold, with the possibility of prolonged snow on Boxing Day night and December 27.

In Newcastle-upon-Tyne, police found the body of 21-year-old student Duncan Gibbon, from Northallerton, North Yorkshire, who had vanished in freezing conditions five days ago, while North Wales police were looking into whether a 48-year-old man found in Bangor city centre had died from exposure to the icy conditions.

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