Snow shuts British airports amid growing complaints

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Airports were shut, trains were stranded and roads were closed in Britain on Thursday amid a week-long freeze that has sparked questions about why the country grinds to a halt when snow falls.

Britain's second busiest airport, London Gatwick, was closed for the second consecutive day and snow also shut Scotland's main hub, Edinburgh, leading to the cancellation of hundreds of international flights.

Hundreds of rail commuters spent a freezing night aboard an abandoned train and many other trains were cancelled in southeast England.

About half of Eurostar train services between London and Paris, and London and Brussels, were cancelled on Thursday because of bad weather, a spokeswoman said.

The government started an urgent review of how Britain's transport systems were performing amid criticism of the country's preparedness for the icy conditions and a lack of communication to commuters.

Transport minister Philip Hammond said while Britain had built up stockpiles of salt to treat icy roads after supplies ran short last year, he was concerned at the state of transport since the freeze started last week.

"I share the frustration of the travelling public and we need to be sure that we are doing everything possible to keep Britain moving," he said.

"Unfortunately, in extreme weather conditions some disruption is inevitable but there is no excuse for poor communication with passengers and motorists."

Hundreds of passengers were forced to bed down for the night in a freezing train which failed at a station in Sussex, southeast England.

Passenger Rebecca Forsey told the BBC: "It was an absolute nightmare. We had to wait around for several hours in the cold on a freezing platform. We finally got something to eat at 4:00 am."

Air travellers complained they had made their way to Gatwick because they were told flights were likely to resume on Thursday, only to find all flights were cancelled until at least 0600 GMT on Friday.

Up to 20 centimetres (eight inches) of fresh snow was expected to fall on eastern England on Thursday, with London and southeast England also hit by more blizzards. Large parts of Scotland remained blanketed by snow.

Forecasters offered some respite, predicting that the wintry weather will ease slightly on Friday.

© 2010 AFP

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