Snow, Ice Disrupt Travel Across Europe for Fifth Day as Flights Canceled
Snow and freezing temperatures are still affecting Channel Tunnel rail passenger services, while airport operators say travelers are likely to suffer further disruption as runways open again across Europe.
Eurostar Group Ltd. will cancel 10 trains through the Channel Tunnel tomorrow, and seven on Dec. 5, it said on its website. London’s Gatwick Airport, the U.K.’s second-busiest, opened this morning after being closed since Nov. 30. Passengers should expect some cancellations, according to its website.
The unseasonably cold weather caused the biggest disruption to European air travel since the eruption of Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull volcano in April grounded 100,000 flights in six days. Eurostar is modifying timetables to avoid a repeat of last winter’s freeze, in which five trains carrying 2,000 people became stuck in the Channel Tunnel after snow disabled their electrics, with 90,000 more stranded at stations.
“We have been advising that travel will be disrupted over the weekend,” Leigh Calder, a spokesman for Eurostar, said by telephone. “The snow in Kent is quite extraordinary. If travel is not essential we are advising customers not to do so. Quite a lot of people are staying away.”
Eurostar scrapped 17 services, six fewer than yesterday, and said trains still running today may suffer delays of 1 1/2 hours. For tomorrow, three services will be canceled in each direction between London and Paris and two each way between the U.K. capital and Brussels, according to its website. On Dec. 5, two services each way between London and Brussels will be cut, together with one from the U.K. capital to Paris, and two in the other direction.
Eurostar has slashed services after cutting speed limits from 300 kilometers per hour (186 mph) to as little as 160 kmph. While ticket holders can get a refund or rebook, no new tickets are available until at least Dec. 6.
At Gatwick, about 1,200 flights were canceled over 48 hours. The airport typically attracts about 70,000 passengers a day at this time of year, Chief Executive Officer Stewart Wingate said yesterday.
“We had tickets to fly out of Gatwick on Wednesday, but were told it was canceled,” said U.K. resident Jamie Wigley, 33, who was due to get married today in Barbados. “Although the airport is open, the flights that are going are fully booked, and our airline cannot tell us when the next available one is.”
BAA Ltd. said London’s Heathrow Airport was operating normally, but would have delays and cancellations because of disruption elsewhere. The company advised passengers using Edinburgh Airport to contact their airlines before traveling. Robin Hood Airport Doncaster Sheffield is expected to be closed until Dec. 5, according to its website. Airports in Geneva, London City, Dublin and Belfast resumed operations yesterday.
The earliest widespread snowfall in the U.K. since 1993 has disrupted road and rail traffic, with very low temperatures and widespread ice likely to last into next week, according to the Met Office. A wintry mix of rain and sleet is expected to cross the country from the west, with the chance of further snow during today and tomorrow.
Any impact of the severe weather conditions on the U.K. economy will be largely made up by early summer, the Centre for Economics and Business Research Ltd. said today in an e-mailed statement. Still, up to 1,000 additional businesses may run out of cash this winter as the recession has put more companies “close to the verge of bankruptcy,” it said.
CEBR estimates the weather disruption could cost the economy about 1 billion pounds ($1.57 billion) a day, while the German economy, where construction is climate sensitive, could be more severely affected.
Go-Ahead Group Plc’s Southern Railway Ltd., which operates commuter services from southeast England into London, will run a reduced service on a limited number of routes today until about 9 p.m. local time with snow and ice covering much of the company’s network, Southern said on its website today. Passengers can expect shorter trains on some routes.
Stagecoach Group Plc’s South West Trains, Britain’s largest commuter operator, said services are running out of London Waterloo to most destinations, subject to delays. Canceled services include Salisbury to Bristol and to Hampton Court.
German state railway Deutsche Bahn AG’s operations ran relatively well this morning, as the situation “eased considerably,” spokeswoman Kathrin Fellenberg said. The operator expects further improvement today though trains are still facing delays, especially in northern and eastern Germany.
Traffic at Frankfurt airport is running smoothly, with “no disruptions to aviation” there, Thomas Uber, a spokesman for operator Fraport AG, said. Of the 44 flight cancellations so far today, those caused by the weather were “not due to problems at Frankfurt, but at other” airports, Uber said.
France’s high-speed train network was running a full timetable today, although there are still minor delays due to temporary speed limits on areas of the network still under heavy snow, Julie Vion-Broussailles, a spokeswoman for the SNCF national railway, said by phone.
Lyon airport, which had closed to incoming flights due to low visibility earlier in the week, was open today. Passengers were urged to check their flights before setting out, operator Aeroports de Lyon said in a message on its website. Paris Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports were operating normally.
Freezing temperatures and blowing snow has claimed 28 lives across central Europe this week, according to Agence France- Presse. Two pensioners were found dead in separate incidents in Cumbria this week, the Press Association reported.
In Italy, heavy rainfall is causing flooding. Venice’s St. Mark’s Square was covered in water after the tide reached a high of 136 cm early this morning, the highest since Christmas Day of last year, according to the city’s official website. Heavy rainfall in Rome last night has raised the level of the Tiber river, putting the city’s civil protection services on alert.
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