Last updated: January 18, 2013 7:19 pm

Snow causes widespread travel disruption

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Forecasters warned of further travel disruption over the weekend after snow brought chaos to large parts of the country on Friday.

The south of England and Wales were hardest hit by the storm, which dumped up to 25cm of snow in Powys and 16cm in Devon. Problems were also reported in the Midlands, northern England and Scotland.

The conditions brought widespread travel disruption to airports, roads and railways, although advanced notice from the Met Office meant transport authorities had time to prepare and avoid the widespread chaos caused by heavy snow in December 2010.

Forecasters warned that while the snow was expected to ease off over the weekend, the threat of further travel problems remained as temperatures remained below freezing, turning slush to ice.

“As the snow eases across many areas, ice is expected to become the main hazard,” said Phil Evans of the Met Office. It warned that the southeast and the east of England should expect more snow on Sunday.

There was significant disruption at Heathrow, Europe’s busiest airport, on Friday with more than 400 flights – about a third of the daily total – cancelled after aircraft were restricted to operating on just one of the London hub’s two runways.

The airport’s operator had to alternate closure of its two runways in order to clear them of snow until lunchtime.

A spokesperson for the airport said it was “a difficult day”.

There was also chaos on the roads with many main routes in Wales, the south and the Midlands shut at times owing to snow or accidents. The M4, M5 and M1 were all affected and motoring organisations warned drivers against making unnecessary journeys.

On the railway, many operators cancelled trains and operated a revised timetable. Southeastern, which operates services from London into Kent, warned of significant disruption. Southwest Trains, which operates between London, the south coast and the west country, was also badly affected.

In London, Transport for London had contingency plans in place for the Underground but there was little disruption other than on the Overground rail network, which was partially suspended for a period.

The Highways Agency warned drivers to check the latest forecast before setting off and advised motorists in the worst-affected parts of the country to consider delaying travel until conditions improved.

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