Snow chaos which led to multiple crashes and stranded hundreds of cars on one of Britain’s busiest motorways was caused by a lack of vehicles, Highways England has claimed.
Traffic was brought to a standstill on the M40 in Warwickshire, with motorists complaining that they had not seen any gritters, and that the road had been left covered in dangerous ice and slush.
Driver Carl Palmer said the motorway looked ‘like a war-zone, with crashed cars everywhere, others spinning around’, while motorist Rebecca Matthews said the situation was ‘shambolic’ with people forced to get out and push their cars up slip-roads.
However, Highways England claimed it had eight gritters patrolling the road continually but said there had not been enough cars in the morning to adequately spread rock salt across the road.
“There was a lot of snow, and the action of the salt relies on traffic, and it was a Sunday and the emergency services were telling people not drive, so there were not enough cars for it to be effective,” said a spokesman.
“It looks like ‘Black Monday’ for travel, with very severe winter weather,” said RAC spokesman Pete Williams.
“We’ll be incredibly busy on Monday, which is always our busiest day of the week.”
The worst snowstorms in Britain for four years closed roads and schools, left whole towns without power and grounded flights.
The Army was placed on standby and the police urged motorists not to travel unless their journeys were absolutely necessary.
Persistent heavy snowfall hit the Midlands, the home counties and Wales throughout Sunday, leading The Met Office to issue an amber weather warning, the first for such a large area since 2013.
Trains were cancelled across the country because of points failures and bus routes abandoned completely in the worst affected areas.
Rail firms ran empty ‘ghost trains’ overnight to clear snow and ice, while Network Rail deployed its thermal-imaging helicopter and 34 de-icing trains to keep tracks clear.
“We have teams on the ground to inspect infrastructure and respond,” said a spokesman.
Up to four inches of snow was expected to fall across much of England overnight while forecasters warned that double that could be seen in higher areas in Scotland and the Peak District.
The Met Office also warned of dangerous rush-hour conditions on Monday , with Sunday’s snow still lying up to a foot deep in some areas.
Met Office forecaster Sarah Kent said: “Monday morning will be challenging to say the least on some routes. We expect disruption.
“There will be plenty of lying snow from Sunday plus the risk of ice and black ice in areas which saw Sunday’s snow and rain.”
The entire town of Bicester in Oxfordshire lost power on Saturday as heavy snow brought down electricity cables. The popular outlet shopping centre Bicester Village was also left without electricity, and was forced to close early on Sunday.
Some 18,000 homes were reconnected after losing power as a result of stormy weather on Friday, Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks said.
An NHS trust in the West Midlands was forced to appeal for help online after the snow left hospitals with nurse shortages.
Heart of England trust, which represents hospitals in Birmingham and Solihull, appealed for drivers with four wheeled drive cars to shuttle their staff into work.
Snow flurries were expected to continue until Wednesday, before temperatures rise slightly, before freezing temperatures return next weekend.
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