London’s roads ground to a halt after heavy snow showers as commuters prepared to tackle nightmare rush hour journeys home.
Police across the capital and the UK have urged motorists to avoid driving in the treacherous conditions on Wednesday afternoon.
Many of London’s bus routes were diverted, while road closures, crashes and stranded vehicles were widespread due to snow and ice after the “beast from the east” lashed the capital.
Drivers are being advised to avoid unnecessary journeys and stick to major routes where possible if they must travel.
National weather forecast as country braces for red alert
Icy conditions affected services across London’s transport network (PA Wire/PA Images)
Transport for London urged passengers to check before travelling on Wednesday afternoon.
It tweeted: “Snow and icy conditions are causing disruption to many services. Check the status of bus routes, Tube and rail.”
And National Rail warned of disruption to trains, with affected lines including c2c, Gatwick Express, Grand Central, Greater Anglia, Hull Trains, London Overground, Northern, South Western Railway, Southeastern, Southern, Stansted Express, TfL Rail, Thameslink, Virgin Trains, Virgin Trains East Coast.
The Met Office warned of further snow showers expected tonight while Londoners were told to brace themselves ahead of Storm Emma due to hit the capital tomorrow, bringing snow blizzards, gales and sleet.
UK Weather: Beast from the East freeze – In pictures
Whiteout: Londoners brave the snow in Piccadilly Circus
Three-year-old Wilfred Martin, enjoys sledding in the snow in Richmond Park, Londo
Snow storm over London
Victor the polar bear enjoys the snow at the Yorkshire Wildlife Park in Doncaster
Giant waves crash over Seaham lighthouse near Durham as the “Beast from the East” brings heavy snow and freezing temperatures to much of the country
Spectacular sunrise over Canary Wharf
James Burns/London from the Rooftops
Vehicles get stuck on a hill on the A30 near Land’s End in Cornwall following heavy snow that made driving conditions difficult
Battersea looking beautiful in the snow
People walk their dogs on Blyth Beach in Northumberland
A swimmer braves the snowy conditions at King Edwards bay near Tynemouth
Frozen foutains at Trafalgar Square
Stationary traffic on the M20 near Ashford, Kent
Pedestrians cross Whitehall as snow falls
Pedestrians walk across millennium bridge in front of St Paul’s as heavy snowfall hits London
A snow-covered Tube train early today Londoners woke to wintry scenes
A lorry shed its load on the M20 overnight
Kent Police RPU
Snow falls on Wimbledon Common
A London bus travels through the snow in Oxford street
Snow surrounds the Angel of the North in Gateshead
People walk past Buckingham Palac
People walk along Bankside, London in the snow
Snow at Horse guards in London
Rare snow seen at Brighton Beach
Toby Stanton walks to school in Ashford, Kent, as heavy snowfall is affecting roads across the UK
Cars travel through Great Chart in Ashford, Kent
A Eurostar train passes through Ashford, Kent
Vehicles on the M20 between Junctions 8 and 9, as heavy snowfall is affecting roads across the UK
A double decker bus carefully makes it way through the snowfall in London
Cars drive through falling snow on the A41 in Hemel Hempstead
Parents walk their children to school in Ashford, Kent
Newcastle Quayside following heavy overnight snowfall
Kent Police were forced to close several roads across the county
Kent Police RPU
A Virgin train leaves Newcastle Train station following heavy overnight snowfall which has caused disruption across Britain
Walkers in the snow near to Another Place by Anthony Gormley, on Crosby Beech near LiverpooL
Fishing boats moored in Scarborough harbour
Commuters battle the snoiw across London Bridge
Temperatures will plummet to minus 7C in parts of London tonight but there will be severe wind chill tomorrow as 40mph gusts blast the region when Storm Emma is predicted to bring snow blizzards, gales and sleet.
It will struggle to get above freezing in the capital tomorrow as the Met Office warned of “prolonged periods of snow” and possibly the coldest day in March on record.
Five tips for driving in the snow
A red weather alert was also issued by the Met Office for parts of Scotland between 3pm today and 10am Thursday morning.
The Arctic weather, thought to have brought London the most snow since 2009, has seen more 30cm of snow dumped in some parts of the UK causing crashes which have left four people dead.
Three women, believe to be in their 30s or 40s, were killed yesterday in Baston, Lincolnshire, and a man died during in a crash that involved three vehicles on the A47 near Peterborough.
Essex police said one person was injured in a 17-car pile-up on the A120 near Colchester.
Multiple collisions were reported across London’s roads throughout Wednesday.
A crash on the North Circular Road between Redbridge Flyover and the M11 blocked one lane shortly after lunchtime, causing tailbacks.
And a collision on the Victoria Embankment at the junction of Northumberland Avenue also caused delays.
Watch amazing timelapse showing London waking up to blanket of snow
The worst hit areas across the UK were Kent, East Anglia and north-east England but problems were spreading.
The RAC had its busiest day in 10 years on Tuesday with 9,500 call-outs, but believes this figure could be topped on Wednesday as conditions worsen.
In Yorkshire, the A61 was shut between Harrogate and Skipton due to the conditions, while further north, in Durham, the A66 was closed between the A1M and A685.
The A1 in Durham was also closed between Scotch Corner and Catterick after a lorry jackknifed.
Highways England said the A1 in Cambridgeshire had to be shut due to severe weather, between the A1M and A6121 at Tinwell.
A number of lorries jackknifed and vehicles were caught in queues for more than three hours.
In Norfolk, police also reported roads being blocked due to lorries and cars becoming stuck in the snow, including the A11 southbound at Wymondham and the A143 at Haddiscoe.
Public Health England (PHE) has urged people to plan ahead to ensure they have enough food and medicine.
There were cancellations of flights departing or arriving at Heathrow, with British Airways axing at least 103 services on mostly short haul routes.
London City Airport saw at least 98 flights cancelled. An additional six inbound flights were diverted or returned to their departure airports.
Gatwick Airport said flights were arriving and departing, but some flights were disrupted.