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Snow transport chaos to be reviewed

An urgent review of how the UK's transport systems have performed during the big freeze is under way as thousands face yet more disruption.

Two major airports - Edinburgh and London Gatwick - have been closed and travellers using roads and railways faced major delays.

With criticism mounting of efforts to keep Britain moving during the cold spell, Transport Secretary Philip Hammond announced a review of how transport operators have coped.

He said: "We took urgent action during the summer which means we're better prepared for severe weather than last year - a national strategic salt reserve exists for the first time. But I share the frustration of the travelling public and we need to be sure that we are doing everything possible to keep Britain moving.

"Complacency is not an option. There are lessons to be learned from our performance in every bout of bad weather and it is important that we learn those now. Unfortunately, in extreme weather conditions some disruption is inevitable but there is no excuse for poor communication with passengers and motorists."

Up to 20cm (8in) of fresh snowfall is expected to fall on the east of England on Thursday, with London and the South East also being hit by more blizzards. Temperatures across the UK will struggle to break zero but experts offered some respite, predicting that the wintry weather will ease off slightly tomorrow.

The Met Office has issued severe warnings of heavy snow in the North East, Yorkshire and Humber, the East, the South West and London and the South East. Temperatures fell to minus 18.6C in the Scottish Highlands on Thursday morning, with warnings also applying to Grampian, Strathclyde, Central, Tayside, Fife, South West and Lothian and Borders.

Gatwick Airport will remain closed all day due to the severe weather conditions, with officials warning it will not reopen until at least 6am on Friday. Edinburgh Airport was also closed this morning, but staff were hopeful the runway would reopen later and at London's City Airport the runways will remain closed until noon.

Derek Turner, director of operations at the Highways Agency, said there was no shortage of salt: "At this stage I don't think the country has a salt shortage at all. Certainly the Highways Agency has more salt than it had last year, and we have supplies coming from overseas to create a national stockpile should the weather continue."

But he added that people should be cautious about making any journey: "Safety is paramount and it's really important that people who are setting out have to think about whether their journey is really necessary and, if it is, they take appropriate precautions - taking a shovel, warm clothing, something to eat, something to drink, so that should their journey be obstructed or longer than they anticipated, they are safe.


From Belfast Telegraph