From Eurostar to Heathrow, snowy Europe struggles to move
Much of Western Europe has come to a halt as governments, airports like Heathrow, and train operators like Eurostar appeared unprepared for fast-moving winter storms.
A thick blanket of snow has left thousands of travelers across Western Europe stranded and wondering if they will make it home for Christmas.Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures European snow storm
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While the view outdoors couldn’t be more seasonal – children playing in fluffy snowflakes more often seen in snow globes than under the street lights – for many this Dickensian Christmas means canceled flight, delayed trains, road closures, and plenty of aggravation. Travelers have been stranded for days at Heathrow airport.
Britain and Ireland are the worst affected but snow has carpeted France, Belgium, Germany, and the Netherlands, too. Snow appears to be the deepest in Germany with about 15 inches and England saw an average of 4 inches.
But it doesn't seem to be the depth that was so troubling. Snows arrived quickly and caught many airports and municipal authorities off guard. Over the weekend in Britain, as much as 5 inches fell in some areas within an hour. What's more, according to local news reports, accompanying ice led to air travel delays that appeared to only worsen as they rippled across Europe.
The snowy standstill may also have an economic component to it. Under a banner headline reading, “Rule of austerity causes winter chaos,” the German edition of the Financial Times said the problem was the weak economy.
German railways have buckled under the pressure from having too many passengers since many Germans have given up their cars, the newspaper quotes Karl-Peter Naumann of the rail passengers’ association Pro Bahn saying.
Ireland has virtually run out of salt to put on the roads. Early this afternoon, workers in Dublin were advised to go home, but many roads were impassable, trains were delayed, and buses were curtailed. Shipments totaling 15,000 metric tons of salt are expected over the Christmas period.
But while Europe's belt-tightening may be contributing to its wintry woes, many say governments simply failed to respond effectively.
Flights across the continent have been canceled with unhappy travelers left sleeping in airport terminals. The channel tunnel train service between Britain and France is averaging five-hour delays and operator Eurostar is urging passengers to take refunds rather than turn up and add to the waiting time.
Airlines in Germany are encouraging their passengers to travel by train instead, but rail operators, fearing worse overcrowding, have urged passengers to stay at home, Reuters reports.
London’s Heathrow airport is one of the worst affected, with some passengers already stranded for up to three days. Flights have resumed but will remain on a restricted basis until Thursday.