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 Stranded passengers' hopes raised

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Join date : 2010-12-22

PostSubject: Stranded passengers' hopes raised   Wed Dec 22, 2010 7:58 am

Thousands of rail and air passengers stranded because of snow may finally be on the move as travel operators begin tackling lengthy backlogs.

Heathrow Airport plans to run two-thirds of flights, and Eurostar and the East Coast mainline from London to Scotland expect a near-normal service.

But several airports across the UK are still warning of disruption, including Edinburgh, East Midlands and Gatwick.

Warnings of heavy snow remain in place for the Midlands and eastern England.

Heathrow reopened its second runway on Tuesday evening, but warned travellers not to expect services to return to normal straight away.

It told passengers to travel to the airport only if their departure was confirmed, and said it was working with airlines to return to a normal schedule as quickly as possible.
Schools shut

The Independent's travel editor Simon Calder said the situation at Heathrow would get worse on Wednesday.

He told BBC Breakfast: "Everybody thinks 'oh well they've got both runways open, things will improve'. I'm afraid the backlog today is only going to increase - by another 60,000 people."
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WEATHER AND TRAVEL INFO

* Get the latest on travel problems and school closures via your local website
* Check if snow is forecast in your area at BBC Weather
* Details of motorway and local road closures and public transport disruption are available at BBC Travel News
* For advice on handling difficult driving conditions, see the Highways Agency website
* For information about severe weather warnings, see the Met Office website
* For information about staying healthy in the cold weather, see the NHS Winter Health website

Cross-Channel operator Eurostar said it was planning to run 43 out of 52 services from London St Pancras on Wednesday.

It advised passengers to turn up only if they have a valid ticket, and only an hour before they travel.

The BBC's Lucy Wilkins, travelling to Paris for Christmas, said she managed to leave St Pancras on Wednesday morning with just a 20min delay.

But she said there were still chaotic scenes and long queues, with some people waiting in line who had been due to travel two days ago.

In other developments:

* Delays and cancellations are reported on train services run by Northern Rail, First Great Western, First Capital Connect, National Express East Anglia, The Docklands Light Railway and Virgin Trains on the West Coast main line, and Arriva Trains Wales. National Rail Enquiries has more information
* In Wales, 102 schools yet to break up for Christmas closed
* Yorkshire Water has taken almost 7,000 calls from people reporting frozen pipes - nearly double the normal level
* Temperatures plummeted to -20.1C in parts of northern Scotland overnight

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East Coast Mainline chairwoman says snow brought down power wires

East Coast trains said journeys northwards from London King's Cross would take an extra 15 minutes after damage to overhead power lines near Huntingdon on Tuesday led it to suspend services between London and Peterborough.

Some trains between King's Cross and Leeds are cancelled.

East Coast chairwoman Elaine Holt said there were "a lot of lessons to be learned" from the past few days.

She told Breakfast: "Network Rail are going to look very closely at their infrastructure and what they can learn from this... what we could do better regarding customer information."

Rail watchdog Passenger Focus said the recent bout of cold weather should act as a wake-up call for the industry to provide better information.

Chief executive Anthony Smith told the BBC: "What we've seen recently is lots of cases where we've had websites saying different things, we've had phone lines saying different things and we've had staff saying different things as well.

"That confuses passengers and makes them feel that the system isn't looking after them."

The Met Office has issued severe weather warnings for the Midlands and eastern England, and forecasters say the cold weather is likely to continue in the coming days.

Earlier, heavy snow fell in parts of Wales with up to 10in (25cm) overnight on Anglesey.

Heathrow has been criticised for the length of time it took to clear tonnes of snow from runways and plane stands after a blizzard on Saturday dumped 5in in one hour.

The GMB union, which represents airport workers, said BAA chief executive Colin Matthews should have his 2010 bonus axed as a result.

National officer Mick Rix said: "Paying him a huge bonus would be an absolute slap in the face to the thousands of people who have been stranded at Heathrow for the past three days."

Last year Mr Matthews received £994,000 in pay and bonuses, excluding shares.

At a news conference on Tuesday, Prime Minister David Cameron said: "Even BAA's harshest critics have conceded that given the amount of snow that has fallen, extensive disruption is understandable.

"But if it's understandable that Heathrow had to close briefly, I'm frustrated on behalf of all those affected that it's taking so long for the situation to improve."

Airport operator BAA said it would investigate how airports have coped with the snow once services were back to normal.

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