Weather and traffic news: Beast from the East halts M20 as lorries abandoned on motorway and snow cancels trains and planes

One of the UK’s biggest motorways ground to a halt today as Arctic weather conditions swept the south-east.

The M20 turned into a lorry car park as drivers were left stranded due to snow.

Hundreds of trucks were pictured at a standstill on the motorway as a week-long cold snap – dubbed the Beast from the East – hit the UK bringing heavy snow and sub-zero temperatures.

Hundreds of trains and dozens of flights were today cancelled as London’s transport services were thrown into chaos due to Arctic conditions sweeping the southeast.

Temperatures are set to plummet to minus 8C in parts of London tonight with snow showers expected through the day and overnight.

Hundreds of thousands of rail commuters suffered major disruption during the morning rush hour with some lines closed and hundreds of trains cancelled.

Kent and north east London were worst hit as up to 15cm  of snow covered power rails and blocked points, threatening chaos for commuters travelling home this evening. Drifting deepened the snow to 30cm in some places.

Heavy snow brought the M20 to a standstill (Kent Event Marshals/Twitter)

The disruption is set to last the rest of the week with more blizzard conditions forecast across the London and south east area and temperatures set to drop to as low as minus 10C as the country is hit by Siberian air dubbed the ‘Beast from the East’.

Air passengers were also facing chaos as British Airways cancelled more than 60 short haul flights either departing or arriving from London Heathrow in a bid to protect punctuality. EasyJet also warned disruption to its flights was expected.

Roads across the region have already seen a blanketing of snow, in some places up to 10cm, with police forces reporting treacherous driving conditions.

The M20 in Kent had become blocked by a number of stranded lorries overnight, while the A249 was shut due to a crash.

Meanwhile supermarkets in one part of Kent was running out of basic essentials.

Shelves at an Asda in Gillingham, Kent, were cleared of bread and customers at a nearby Tesco Extra branch also complained of empty shelves.

Panic buying caused barren shelves in supermarkets across the country (Twitter/ Richard Harding/ @laughingradiodj )

The Met Office, which has issued an amber warning for snow in the south east, warned the cold snap will last the rest of the week with heavier snowfall forecast in London on Thursday.

Meteorlogist Alex Burkill said gusty winds of up to 30mph will sweep the capital tomorrow, so despite sunny spells, it could feel as cold as minus 8C during the day. He said temperatures all week would struggle to get higher than a several degrees below freezing.

Snow blankets Newcastle’s Quayside (PA)

Virtually all rail routes serving London were affected by the weather today including c2c, Gatwick Express, Great Northern, Greater Anglia, South Western, Southeastern, Stansted Express and all Transport for London rail services.

Worst hit was Greater Anglia, including trains into Liverpool Street, with 200 services cancelled. Southeastern, which serves Charing Cross, London Bridge, London Victoria, London St Pancras and Cannon Street, cancelled at least 76 services.

Commuters on all routes were advised to check train times for journeys home this evening.

Greater Anglia said it services would finish early at 10pm today and tomorrow and start later tomorrow morning.

The company said services are running but would be “lower and less frequent” on routes to and from Norwich, Ipswich, Colchester, Southend, Cambridge, Stansted Airport and London. 

TfL announced cancellations and delays to London Overground and TfL Rail services including a later start and earlier finish.

Network Rail, which operated empty trains throughout the night on main routes to keep the tracks open, said on a national basis it was “coping well” with the weather but services were “thinned out” in Kent and Anglia regions.

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