Severe weather in Britain and abroad is causing severe problems for tens of thousands of travellers.
The busiest sea link to and from Britain, Dover-Calais, was closed after a P&O ferry ran aground when leaving the French port. No injuries were reported aboard the 300 passengers on board Pride of Kent, but services were brought to a standstill. P&O Ferries said: “We are extremely sorry for the inconvenience passengers have been caused. Please be assured that we are doing everything we can to bring the ship back into operation.”
Hundreds of flights have been cancelled, diverted or heavily delayed, with Stansted and Luton airports closed for the first half of the day.
At Heathrow, the “flow rate” of arrivals has been reduced by air-traffic controllers, leading to widespread delays and cancellations.
British Airways has so far cancelled flights almost 100 flights to and from Heathrow. Most are domestic and European departures, but long-haul services to Washington DC, Toronto and Luanda have been grounded.
A BA spokesperson told The Independent: “We’re very sorry that some of our customers’ travel plans have been affected by severe adverse weather conditions. Heavy rain overnight and snowfall this morning, combined with a reduction in the number of flights able to land at Heathrow have caused disruption to our flight schedule. Like other airlines, we are experiencing some delays and cancellations.
“We’re asking customers to check for information about their flights on ba.com before they set off for the airport, and not to come to the airport unless their flight is operating.”
The airline is offering passengers due to fly between Europe and Heathrow today, Sunday December 10, to re-book for travel on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday.
Other airlines including Aer Lingus, Lufthansa, Brussels Airlines and Swiss have cancelled services from their hubs to Heathrow and back. Flybe’s domestic services are also hit.
Because so many gates are occupied by aircraft which have not been able to depart, passengers on some arriving aircraft report having to wait several hours to disembark.
To add to the problems, the Piccadilly Line of the Underground is severely disrupted to and from Heathrow because of power-supply problems.
A Heathrow spokesperson said: “Weather across the UK and Europe is resulting in some passengers experiencing disruption to their journeys. Passengers are advised to check their flight status with their airline before coming to the airport.
“Our operations team is working closely with the airport’s on-site Met Office, to monitor weather forecasts and minimise disruption to passenger journeys.”
At Stansted, 24 Ryanair departures and arrivals have so far been cancelled but more are expected. Ten flights have been cancelled by easyJet, and other airlines are also affected. The Stansted Express rail service is severely disrupted. Greater Anglia said: “Owing to points failures at various locations, trains between London Liverpool Street and Hertford East, Stansted Airport and Cambridge are subject to delays, alteration and cancellations.”
Birmingham airport closed at around 6am with all flights “temporarily suspended” following heavy snowfall. Dozens of flights have been cancelled, with Ryanair and Flybe worst affected.
Inbound flights from Barbados on TUI, Dublin and Barcelona on Ryanair, Frankfurt on Lufthansa, Istanbul on Turkish Airlines and Vienna on Austrian have been diverted.
Elsewhere, bad weather at Amsterdam airport has wrecked travel plans. A statement from the airport said: “Due to expected snowfall and strong winds on Sunday 10 December, flights from and to Schiphol may be delayed or cancelled, and travel times to the airport may be longer than usual.”
Dozens of short-haul flights between Amsterdam and the UK have been cancelled, including links to and from Bristol, Cardiff, Gatwick, Heathrow, Humberside, Leeds-Bradford, Luton, Manchester and Newcastle.
Hundreds of thousands of rail travellers face delays and disruption. In the Midlands, the first day at work for two brand-new train operators, West Midlands Railway and London Northwestern Railway, could not have got off to a worse start. Shortly before 11am they issued a joint statement saying: “Do not travel”
Many main-line services are also affected, particularly through Birmingham New Street, the biggest rail hub outside London. Virgin Trains on the West Coast line has lifted all restrictions, saying: “Your tickets will be valid for travel at any time today.”
Chiltern Railway services to and from Stratford-upon-Avon and Amersham were cancelled, with delays of up to an hour on the main London Marylebone-Birmingham Snow Hill line.
On Great Northern services from London KIng’s Cross, passengers are being advised not to travel “unless it is absolutely necessary” following three separate issues between the capital and Stevenage: an electricity supply failure between Knebworth and Stevenage, an object is caught on the overhead electric wires near Potters Bar, and overrunning engineering work on the Hertford North line
The Central Motorway Police Group tweeted: “Lots of snow overnight and it’s still falling, difficult driving conditions across the motorway network & regions roads please only travel if absolutely necessary, make sure your car is fit to travel in & take extra clothes, drinks and snacks in case you get stuck or delayed.”
Anyone planning to travel anywhere south of the M62 corridor or north of the M4 corridor, by road or rail, should be prepared for delays and disruption.
This story was originally published in independent