Snow disrupts travel across Europe, hits economy (Third Lead)

December 21st, 2010 - 12:43 am ICT by IANS  

London, Dec 20 (IANS) Thousands of flights and train services have been cancelled across Europe due to heavy snowfall, throwing holiday plans of many travellers into disarray, even as the freezing winter has left a deep impact on the region’s economy.Few flights were leaving London’s Heathrow, Europe’s busiest airport, and one third of flights were cancelled in major hubs like Paris and Frankfurt, BBC reported Monday.

Hundreds of passengers slept at airports in France and Germany as they waited for their cancelled flights to be rescheduled.

Heavy snow and sub-zero temperatures have cost Europe’s aviation and retail industries many millions in lost revenue during one of the most crucial weekends of the year.

In Britain, the Met Office has warned of more snow and ice in many parts of the country.

The lowest temperature in Britain overnight, recorded in Chesham, Buckinghamshire, was -19.6 degree C.

Millions of workers, travellers and shoppers were expected to stay at home in the run-up to Christmas rather than brave the icy conditions.

The Royal Sun Alliance has put the cost of the weather to the British economy at one billion pounds per day, a sum that is thought to be hitting retailers, restaurants and bars the hardest, according to The Independent.

Departures from Brussels airport were to be cancelled until Wednesday due to a lack of de-icing liquid.

Roads in a number of countries have been described as treacherous.

Britain, France and Germany were among the worst-hit areas, with forecasters warning of freezing weather all week.

There were severe delays on the Eurostar rail service between Britain and France and Belgium, and Thalys trains between France and Belgium were also affected as speed restrictions hit rail travel in England and northern France.

Further snowfalls in the Paris region caused serious problems for drivers, and heavy goods vehicles were barred from major routes.

Paris bus operator RATP cancelled a number of its services.

A concert by Lady Gaga at Bercy stadium in Paris was called off Sunday night because a convoy of lorries carrying tour equipment could not get there.

German rail services were also affected. Heavy snow in Berlin caused problems for commuter trains and on the roads.

As a sign of how bad conditions are, even in Moscow, where 9,000 snow ploughs are in action, some roads are at a virtual standstill.

In Italy, the airports at Florence and Pisa reopened after a weekend of cancellations.

The schedules at Schiphol Airport near Amsterdam, Heathrow Airport and airports throughout Britain were littered with cancellations and delays.

Transport officials are struggling to cope with the current weather, compounded by the backlog caused by severe weather over the weekend.

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