Snowfalls that crippled road, rail and air travel in northern Europe today have prompted Eurostar Group Ltd. to scrap eight services tomorrow as transport links including Frankfurt airport struggle to return to normal.
Eurostar canceled two trains in each direction between London and Paris and London and Brussels, spokeswoman Lucy Drake said by telephone. With tomorrow’s services already full, passengers can only rebook for travel from March 14, she added.
The Channel Tunnel express operator shut down soon after noon today, citing “severe weather conditions overnight in northern France and Belgium.” More than 350 flights at Europe’s third-busiest airport were also canceled before owner Fraport AG suspended operations, with limited services resuming later.
“A high-pressure area north of Britain is pulling in the cold from Russia and that’s colliding with a large area of low pressure over northern France,” said Helen Chivers, a forecaster at the U.K. Met Office. “Where the two meet you’re getting a lot of snow because the air coming from the north is so cold.”
Hundreds of people were stuck at St Pancras station, Eurostar’s London terminus, with many abandoning their trips before the company finally shuttered the service amid continued blizzards on the continent.
While Frankfurt’s runways were being continuously cleared, the snow didn’t allow for safe operations, Fraport spokesman Matthias Nossek said. Services were halted before noon, with limited takeoffs resuming from 2:20 p.m. local time on a single runway and incoming flights suspended until at least 9 p.m.
A lack of available parking stands and de-icing capacity limited the airport’s ability to resume services, air traffic supervisory agency Eurocontrol said on its website. Deutsche Lufthansa AG (LHA), Europe’s second-biggest carrier, scrapped almost 400 flights before 3 p.m., mostly from Dusseldorf and Frankfurt.
French authorities preemptively grounded one-quarter of services at Paris’s Charles de Gaulle airport, the second-busiest in the region. Air France-KLM Group (AF), Europe No. 1 carrier, said on its website that 35 percent of short- and medium-haul operations would be canceled at the hub, and at least a fifth of flights were also scrapped at Paris Orly.
No early cancellations have been initiated for tomorrow, said Eric Heraud, a French civil aviation authority spokesman.
Local rail services were also hit, with SNCF asking people to avoid travel to Paris, while trains to London’s Gatwick Airport suffered short-notice cancellations because of stock displacement, National Rail said.
The network south of the U.K. capital also suffered signal failures as switches at junctions had to be cleared of snow after widespread heavy falls, according to the body, which represents Britain’s 20 or so train-operating companies.
Channel Tunnel owner Groupe Eurotunnel SA (GET) said its vehicle shuttles, which pick up and set down at either end of the subsea link, were still running, though trucks were stood in line at the U.K. end because of concern about road conditions in France.
Dozens of motorists slept in their cars in southern England after as much as six inches of snow fell, while at least 100 vehicles were involved in a pileup in poor weather on the A45 highway north of Frankfurt, injuring several dozen people, Deutsche Presse-Agentur reported.
About 600 vehicles were stuck overnight on the A16 in the Nord Pas-de-Calais region north of Paris, with 100 still at a standstill today, Agence France-Presse said. Some 70,000 homes in northwest France also lost power as a result of the snowfall.
Meteo France, the country’s weather service, placed 29 districts in the north on “orange” alert before moving two of them -- La Manche and Calvados -- to “red” status, forecasting average falls of between 5 and 15 centimeters (2 to 6 inches). In Normandy, wind-blown drifts reached a depth of 1.5 meters.
The high winds that brought the snow also caused moderate to severe delays at London Heathrow, Europe’s top hub, according to Eurocontrol.
Operations at London City, close to the U.K. capital’s financial district, were slowed by the wind and also affected by de-icing work, though Stansted to the north, the biggest base for Ryanair Holdings Plc (RYA), said its runway was clear.
On the water, a ferry from Rosslare, Ireland, to Cherbourg, France, carrying 500 passengers failed in four attempts to dock due to heavy winds and the sea swell, with one crew member suffering a broken leg, Irish Continental Group Plc (IR5A) said in a statement. A further attempt to land was to be made today.
Brussels airport said mid-morning that it was open, though experiencing some delays, diversions and cancellations for de-icing and snow-clearing operations.
The cold snap has sent temperatures across Europe plunging below seasonal norms, according to CustomWeather Inc. data on Bloomberg. Frankfurt will average minus 3 degrees Celsius, or 5 degrees below the 10-year average, while the same forecast for Paris is about 8 degrees below the usual mid-March reading.
In northern Germany, temperatures could fall as low as minus 10 degrees, forecaster Deutscher Wetterdienst said on its website. In the U.K., a low of minus 2 degrees is predicted for London, versus a 3-degree seasonal norm, CustomWeather said.
Strong winds are also forecast across western Europe, including gales in Britain, with warmer temperatures and light breezes anticipated from March 15, according to the Met Office.
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