Snow travel chaos 'cost £280m a day'

A worker operates a snow plough near the second runway at Heathrow BAA said flights were grounded at Heathrow after more snow fell than anticipated

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Transport disruption in freezing weather over the winter cost the UK economy about £280m a day, Transport Secretary Philip Hammond has said.

Heathrow suffered "enormous damage" to its reputation from cancellations and delays just before Christmas, he added.

Appearing before the House of Commons Transport Committee, Mr Hammond said the rail network operated "quite well given the extreme conditions".

But communication with rail passengers had been "inadequate", he said.

Mr Hammond said that Heathrow had failed to adequately manage the extreme weather that almost brought the airport to a complete halt in the days before Christmas.

The ability to introduce special flight timetables during such weather was essential, he said.

"This would avoid the unacceptable spectacle of passengers turning up for flights that were never going to happen and being held in substandard conditions in terminals," he told the committee.

Appearing before the MPs last week, BAA chief executive Colin Matthews apologised and admitted Heathrow had been "overwhelmed" after far more snow fell than the 6cm (2.4in) it had planned for.

"There will always be [airport] disruption if we get 6in or 8in of snow," Mr Hammond said on Monday.

He told MPs that, on railways in southern England, the weather had caused problems with the third rail carrying electricity to trains.

While the network generally operated "quite well given the extreme conditions", Mr Hammond added: "The lack of communication was one of the key complaints that passengers had."

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