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Snow and ice cause new disruptions to European transport

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-01-08

Eurostar cancelled 50 percent of its London-to-Paris trains on Friday as freezing temperatures continued to disrupt transport across Europe, causing long delays at airports and raising concerns among UK fuel suppliers.

AFP - Europe was blasted by more snow and ice on Friday amid a brutal winter that has caused travel chaos across the continent.

Britons were enduring their coldest night yet of the freezing winter, with temperatures expected to fall below the previous low point of minus 18 degrees Celsius (zero degrees Fahrenheit).

"Temperatures will struggle to rise above freezing across most of the country by day, with severe and penetrating frosts at night," said chief forecaster Richard Young at the Met Office.

The conditions also raised fears for energy supplies in Britain, suffering its worst winter for decades, as gas was cut off on Thursday to almost 100 major firms in a bid to avert a crisis.

The beleaguered Eurostar train service linking France, Britain and Belgium, faced further disruptions after a train got stuck in the Channel Tunnel.

Air travellers in Europe waited anxiously to see if flights would depart after services in France, Britain and Ireland were cancelled on Thursday as treacherous conditions kept planes firmly on the runway.

At Orly airport, south of Paris, outgoing flights were cancelled or delayed, and incoming ones diverted, a spokesman for Aeroports de Paris told AFP.

In Britain, budget airline easyJet axed around 80 flights citing weather conditions, mostly from Gatwick airport, and British Airways said it had cancelled services and others were delayed.

In Ireland, there were flight cancellations and delays at Dublin airport.

Eurostar's troubles continued Thursday when a train travelling between Brussels and London got stuck in the tunnel for two hours, and passengers eventually had to be towed to safety.

French railway operator SNCF --- the biggest shareholder in Eurostar -- blamed the problem on a signal failure in the train driver's cab.

Eurostar breaks down again

The disruptions came as Eurostar was already reeling from bad publicity after its pre-Christmas breakdown.

Meanwhile in Britain, major supplier National Grid ordered 95 big companies and industrial manufacturers to turn off their gas and switch to alternative fuels Thursday as demand rocketed and temperatures hit their lowest yet.

The company said the number of companies asked to use alternative supplies would be reduced on Friday.

Transport links across the country were snarled up and the salt used to thaw out roads was running perilously low as the long chill dragged on.

British media reported that at least 22 people have died in accidents related to the weather since before Christmas when the country was hit by the wintry blast, which the Met Office weather service has called the worst cold spell since 1981.

Ireland has been swept by severe weather not seen for almost 50 years, with forecasters warning that a thaw was unlikely to come for six or seven days.

Snow caused the closure of a section of the A9 autoroute linking southwestern France with Barcelona in northeastern Spain.

The route crossing the Pyrenees mountains was reopened early on Friday, but a line of trucks seven kilometres long was waiting in France for weather to improve further, highway authorities said.

On Thursday, Norway was among the coldest countries, with temperatures ranging from minus 15 to minus 40 degrees Celsius. Oslo had a reduced bus service as engine oil froze, while ice kept ferries from sailing.

The only winners from the big freeze sweeping northern Europe appeared to be children -- hundreds of schools in Britain in Ireland remained closed, giving the youngsters an extended Christmas holiday in the snow.

Date created : 2010-01-08