Trains, planes and automobiles come to a halt as blizzards blanket Europe

Transport disruptions likely to continue with more falls expected over the coming days

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 22 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 22 January, 2013, 6:49am


Air, road and rail traffic across much of Europe suffered major disruptions yesterday as heavy snow and freezing weather gripped the continent.

The problems at airports were particularly severe, with flights scrapped at Europe's busiest three hubs.

Air passengers faced long delays and disruptions at other airports in Germany, Britain and France, following widespread cancellations on Sunday.

The Hong Kong Airport Authority said 11 flights from London's Heathrow, Charles De Gaulle in Paris and Germany's Frankfurt airport were delayed.

More than one in 10 flights were scrapped at London Heathrow, Europe's busiest airport in terms of passenger numbers, while 40 per cent were scrapped in Paris and more than a quarter were wiped out at Frankfurt.

Heathrow decided to cut its flight schedule by 10 per cent, or 130 flights, in expectation of poor visibility later in the day, but more than 180 services in total were cancelled as the day wore on.

"The additional cancellations are because a number of airports elsewhere in Europe are experiencing problems so that has a knock-on effect for us," a Heathrow spokesman said. "The number could rise as the day goes on."

Flights were suspended at regional airports in northern and central England after fresh snow fell overnight, with planes grounded at Manchester, East Midlands and Leeds Bradford.

Under-sea train services between Britain and continental Europe were also hit, with Eurostar cancelling six trains linking London with Brussels and also Paris due to speed restrictions on the tracks in northern France.

At Germany's main air hub Frankfurt - Europe's third-busiest airport after Heathrow and Paris' Charles de Gaulle - 325 take-offs and landings were cancelled, a spokesman for operator Fraport said.

Heathrow airport has spent £36 million on improving snow equipment since 2010 when it was forced to close shortly before Christmas, but a spokesman said that sheer busyness made a reduction in flights inescapable.

He said: "Many airports have plenty of spare runway capacity so aircraft can be spaced out more during low visibility without causing delays and cancellations. But because Heathrow operates at almost full capacity, there is simply no room to reschedule the delayed flights."

Freezing rain and snow also led to treacherous conditions on railways and roads. In southwestern Germany, police recorded more than 1,000 weather-related accidents.

Additional reporting by The Guardian