'Wrong kind of snow' causes commuter chaos
Last updated at 12:35pm on 8th February 2007 Comments (14)
A snowball fight takes place in Parliament Square
The heaviest snowfalls to hit London in seven years caused misery for thousands of commuters today.
Four inches fell across the city in a matter of hours and the Met Office warned it will continue through the day with the prospect of icy conditions tonight and tomorrow.
It made one in four trains late today, caused chaos on the Tubes and roads as well as closing airports and hundreds of schools.
But this wasn't any old snow. It was big snow, and this is the problem, according to the Met Office.
The flakes covering shivering commuters in London and the South-East are of an unusually large variety. These giant snowflakes with their increased moisture are sticking together far more than expected, causing it to settle quicker and deeper.
Yes, it was the heaviest snowfall in seven years but quantity is not the issue - when it comes to snow, size really does matter.
One in four mainline trains were late or cancelled this morning and treacherous conditions on roads and at airports caused delays. Scores of schools in London and 200 in Essex were shut.
The M25, A3 and A22, were blocked at the height of rush hour after several lorries jackknifed. Essex police reported 23 crashes by dawn.
Luton and Stansted airports were shut. At least 26 flights were cancelled at Heathrow, while Gatwick's runway only opened after a four-hour delay, leading to dozens more flights being scrapped.
British Airways said: "Gatwick is worst hit, with severe delays to domestic and European short-haul flights."
There were major delays on the Jubilee and Northern lines. At London Bridge platforms were closed because of severe overcrowding.
Services on the Bakerloo and Piccadilly were partially suspended throughout the morning due to a combination of signal failures and train breakdowns caused by the snow. The Northern line, the busiest on the network, was suspended between Morden and Kennington after a train broke down.
There was also confusion as commuters tried to switch over on to buses.
Frozen points, which brought much of the mainline rail network to a standstill two weeks ago when less than an inch of snow fell, again caused disruption on routes into London. Southeastern services from Kent and south-east London into Charing Cross, Cannon Street, Blackfriars and Victoria were worst hit.
Southern Railways, which operates services including the Brighton line into Victoria, reported delays, while Virgin Trains announced a restricted service between Euston and the North.
The snowfall, the worst since December 1999, was predicted in the Lite on Tuesday.