Airport chiefs criticised for ‘third world’ service

Airport chiefs criticised for ‘third world’ service

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Published Date: 20 December 2010
By Chris Benfield
Thousands of travellers faced another day of long queues and grim conditions at UK airports yesterday as the snow and ice wreaked havoc.

Transport Minister Philip Hammond last night relaxed the rules on night flights in a bid to ease the passenger backlog at Heathrow, following airport operator BAA’s confirmation that its second runway will remain closed today. Only a third of scheduled flights at Heathrow are expected to operate today.

London mayor Boris Johnson said: “It can’t be beyond the wit of man, surely, to find the shovels, the diggers, the snow-ploughs or whatever it takes to have more than one runway going.”

Former Labour Transport Secretary Lord Adonis accused the airport operator of making Britain look like “a third world country in terms of its transport systems”.

He added: “BAA has big explaining to do about its failure to open Heathrow properly for a third day running.”

Last night Gatwick Airport grounded all outbound flights until 6am today because of snow.

The big freeze has not only affected those trying to leave the UK by air. Eurostar passengers also experienced major problems, some having to queue for more than seven hours to board a train at St Pancras.

The UK’s road and rail network has also been badly hit.

Mr Hammond told MPs in the Commons that disruption was “inevitable” given the severity of the weather conditions.

He said the transport system would “struggle to recover” in the days leading up to Christmas with more arctic weather expected.

Yorkshire is expected to endure more savage weather this week. It should remain dry today and tonight, but very low temperatures are predicted. Tomorrow and Thursday, north-easterly winds will bring snow back to much of the East Coast.

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