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Trains, British Airways planes, and automobiles all yield to Europe's snow

British Airways flights were canceled and delayed today due to snow and ice, with forecasters predicting bad weather through Wednesday. Travelers' frustrations mounted at airports over poor snow removal.

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Along with planes, trains and automobiles across Europe have been affected.

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And the snow continues to fall. Britain's national weather service, the Met Office, forecast up to 20 cm (8 inches) of additional snowfall today across southwest England. "The icy weather shows no sign of loosening its grip on the UK over the next few days, with further snow in some areas potentially leading to disruption to travel networks," the Met said in a statement Sunday.

The BAA and GIP, the companies that operate Heathrow and Gatwick airports, respectively, have come under heavy criticism for failing to adequately prepare for the weather despite reportedly investing millions in snow removal equipment.

Both airlines are responding by pledging to beef up their ability to combat the snow. BAA has pledged to spend another £3 million ($4.65 million) in the next two years to boost Heathrow’s 69-vehicle snow clearance fleet, reported the Financial Times, while GIP announced that it plans to spend another £8 million ($12.42 million) in the next year to double its number of snow plows from 47 to 95.

The BAA has offered an apology amid incredulity that London's airports could be shut down while other northern airports – such as Stockholm and Moscow – rarely face such delays. "I'm really disappointed to have disrupted so many thousands of people's Christmas plans," BAA Chief Executive Colin Matthews said on the BBC Radio 4 Today.

The apology, however, seems unlikely to smooth over the cold feeling among flyers.

"Grinch-like angst was the overarching theme at airports and travel hubs," the Monitor's Ben Quinn reported Sunday from London, adding: "While some Britons are enjoying a winter wonderland, the inclement weather has brought the country to a near standstill, affecting the economy and costing at least one politician his job."

Scotland’s Transport secretary, Stewart Stevenson, resigned on Dec. 11 after admitting to failures in his handling of the response to snow.

London Mayor Boris Johnson seemed to sum up the frustration today in his comments to the BBC.

"It can't be beyond the wit of man surely to find the shovels, the diggers, the snow-ploughs or whatever it takes to clear the snow out from under the planes, to get the planes moving and to have more than one runway going," he said.

On a similar note, in a comment on the Guardian's website, an American reader said of Heathrow: "The Airport itself said only a few inches of snow fell, calling it 'an extreme amount of snow.' What? ... My hometown's little airport in the US regularly handles a foot of snow."


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