Widespread travel disruption after heavy snow

Snow plough on the M40 near Warwick
Image caption A snow plough cleared the M40 near Warwick

Heavy snowfall has caused major disruption to motorists and public transport networks across England.

The AA said by 14:00 GMT it had dealt with about 6,800 breakdowns, which was about 900 an hour.

It said the busiest areas were the south coast, parts of the South West, the Midlands and London.

London Heathrow, Birmingham, Bristol, Southampton and East Midlands airports have been affected as well as rail services.

The Met Office has issued amber alerts for the Midlands, London and the South, the east of England, the South West and North West.

The AA said by the end of the day it expected to attend about 11,000 call-outs compared to some 9,500 on an average Friday.

'Longer journeys'

Drivers were being urged to check weather forecasts and allow extra time for their journeys.

Darron Burness, the AA's head of special operations, said: "There's been a big impact on the roads as the snow fell so heavily with traffic crawling on many routes and we've had reports of journeys taking three or four times longer than usual."

Driver Kate Jones, from Lancaster, described conditions on the roads as "horrendous".

"I took a chance today and drove back from Wrexham to Lancaster," she said.

"I'm an experienced driver but I was quite scared.

"Conditions were horrific up until Preston, where the blizzard fizzled out."

In Warwickshire, the M40 was blocked and there was slow traffic at junction 3a for the M42.

Two coaches broke down on the A3 in Hampshire with one passenger being treated for a diabetic condition.

Image caption Horses graze in a field in Oakley, Suffolk

Drivers stuck northbound from the Liphook services were told not to abandon their vehicles.

Heavy snow also caused treacherous conditions on the M5 in Somerset between junctions 26 and 19.

Sussex Police said there were hazardous conditions on the A27 Chichester by-pass because of the weather.

Heavy snowfall across Dorset prompted police advice not to travel unless necessary.

Image caption Drivers are being urged to check weather forecasts before travelling

The A35 Dorchester to Bridport road was closed in both directions, with the Dorchester to Bere Regis section having long delays.

A gritting lorry got stuck at Warminster and an ambulance was trapped in snow at Lyneham in Wiltshire.

Rail operators were running altered timetables, in a bid to keep services operating.

Flights were suspended at Birmingham Airport until 18:00 GMT.

About 20 flights in and out of East Midlands Airport have been cancelled, or diverted as teams tried to clear snow from the runway.

Services were also temporarily suspended at Southampton Airport.

Flights from Bristol Airport continue to face delays after snow closed the runway.

More than 350 flights were cancelled at London Heathrow.

Airport staff said both runways reopened shortly before 14:00 GMT, although delays were likely.

At Gatwick, the runway remained open, with only flights to and from the Channel Islands affected.

Delays have also been reported to flights from Stansted.

Four journeys on the Eurostar were cancelled with other services running with delays due to speed restrictions in the snowy weather.

Meanwhile, more than 2,000 schools were closed with about 700 of those across Herefordshire, Worcestershire, Warwickshire and Staffordshire.

In Ilminster, Somerset, John Jeffrey, head of Greenfylde school, slept there overnight to ensure it could open for pupils.

Many council offices closed early in the West Midlands as did the University of Wolverhampton.

About 300 homes were left without power in Coleford earlier because of snow on power lines.

Western Distribution said power has been restored to 150 homes and said the issue would be fully fixed by midnight.

Sports events have also been affected, with a number of horse racing meetings and football matches cancelled because of the weather.

At Ascot, racing has been cancelled on Saturday, with two inches of snow on the track and conditions expected to become worse over the weekend.

A planned service to honour torchbearers at Durham Cathedral on Saturday has also been cancelled because of heavy snow.

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Hospitals are preparing for a rise in admissions this weekend as high numbers of people are expected to be injured in falls on icy ground.

South West Trains is running a revised timetable on a number of routes. No services are running from Ascot to Ashvale, Salisbury to Bristol and Virginia Water to Weybridge.

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UK forecast for 14/11/2018

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