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Christmas getaway: drivers warned against non-essential travel‎
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Christmas getaway: drivers warned against non-essential travel‎

Drivers heading home for Christmas Day have been warned to delay all non-essential journeys as icy roads continue to pose treacherous conditions.

By Andy Bloxham
December 24, 2009

Despite a day largely free of major incidents, the AA dealt with double the normal number of breakdowns between midnight and 9am on Christmas Eve, and said that roads could be "very busy and dangerous" due to the weather throughout the day.

Edmund King, the organisation's president, said: "Extremely difficult travel conditions persist across many parts of the UK as millions of drivers, who have not yet done so, travel to family and friends for Christmas.

"Many roads today are expected to be very busy and dangerous due to snow and black ice. If drivers can reasonably delay any non-essential trips until Christmas Day or Boxing Day, the weather and traffic should be better."

The foul weather has claimed several lives. A 20-year-old man was also stabbed to death after a snowball fight in the Rhuddlan area of North Wales. Anthony Finbar Burke died in hospital last night.

A six-year-old boy died after what police is thought to have been a tractor accident in the village of Bethlehem in Carmarthenshire, West Wales.

And a motorist is still in a critical condition following a multi-vehicle accident on the A180 between Scunthorpe and Grimsby in North Lincolnshire at about 8.25pm yesterday. There was also a part-closure of the A66 in County Durham.

The travel chaos that forced thousands of families to abandon plans to visit relatives eased slightly today as temperatures rose and the Highways Agency lifted roadworks at 44 sites until midnight on January 3.

Many travellers, however, still faced problems.

The budget airline easyJet has cancelled 16 services to and from airports including Gatwick, Edinburgh, Stansted and Liverpool, while trains services in Scotland and parts of the North East have been disrupted.

More than 12 million people are expected to take to the roads today and yesterday for the Christmas break, with delays reported on the M1/M45 junction in Northamptonshire and the M62 westbound.

Thousands of families have already abandoned Christmas plans to visit relatives after the freezing weather grounded flights and made many roads and railways virtually impassable during the past week.

David Grunwell from the Highways Agency warned drivers that snow was forecast to fall across Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire, Yorkshire, Humberside, and up to Northumberland.

There was also a risk of fog and freezing fog in central and southern areas, he said. "Conditions are very challenging. We have got a variety ... across the whole of the country.

"The key is for travellers to note the conditions before they set out and expect them to change."

Mr Grunwell added: "Many people are travelling long distances, longer than they would normally. The key is very much to be prepared for the journey."

Andrew Howard, the AA's head of road safety, said roads could still be dangerous even if they had been gritted.

"The trouble is that the salt gets washed away. If it refreezes then you don't have salt on the roads and there's very little you can do about it," he said.

"Even if a road has been salted, it doesn't mean it's safe."

There was some disruption to train journeys to and from Glasgow Central station today, airline easyJet has cancelled 16 flights so far today and there are delays expected at airports including Heathrow and Gatwick.

Temperatures fell as low as minus 16C in the highlands of Scotland and minus 11C in Edinburgh on Wednesday night, with many parts of the country set to suffer more below-freezing daytime temperatures.

In northern England the temperature sank to between minus 2C and minus 3C in Northern Ireland to between minus 4C and minus 6C.

In Wales the temperature hovered around zero C, while southern England was spared frost with temperatures of between 2C and 4C.

The weather has caused problems with the sporting calendar.

The National Hunt Boxing Day meeting at Towcester has been called off, with meetings at Sedgefield, Wetherby, Market Rasen and Huntingdon facing late inspections.


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