A rail operator today urged commuters to get home for 6pm as a sub-zero Siberian blast — dubbed “The Beast from the East” — triggered fears of major travel disruption.
The vortex of cold air will leave parts of the UK feeling as cold as -9C this week, with forecasters predicting further heavy snowfall.
The Met Office warned of the “coldest week in five years”, adding: “Tonight it’s going to be cold, dropping to -3C or -4C.” Rail firm Southeastern said: “We recommend that where you can, you should complete your evening journey before 6pm to avoid possible disruption.”
Greater Anglia has reduced services – with trains suspended from 10pm – and C2C said services after 9pm could be altered or cancelled.
National weather forecast February 26th 2018
While TfL Rail said services will stop running at 11pm on Monday.
Southern, Thameslink and Gatwick Express said they are finalising release a contingency train service plan for Tuesday and the rest of the week.
Great Northern said the last train from London will be the 10.04pm service.
But with only minor snow flurries in London this morning, critics hit out at transport bosses for overreacting.
A woman walks to work on the Millennium Bridge (PA)
One Twitter user joked that Greater Anglia was axing services “in the hope that there will be some snow” and another told the Southeastern customer services team: “Bet you can’t wait to start cancelling trains.”
Public Health England told people to check in on vulnerable friends and family. Senior medics said the cold could put more strain on the “grave” situation in the NHS.
The Beast from the East: Siberian air brought a major chill to the UK today (Getty Images)
Travellers heading into the capital this morning suffered disruption, with delays on the Circle, Metropolitan and Hammersmith and City lines. South Western Railway, which carries more than 300,000 passengers a day, a third into Waterloo, warned of delayed and cancelled services to come, blaming “poor weather conditions”.
Southeastern, which operates services into Charing Cross, Cannon Street and London Bridge, said: “With heavier snow expected from 6pm, services may be disrupted.
February 2018: London Snow – In pictures
“We advise you to check before you travel and allow additional time for your journey.” It added: “Whether it snows or not, poor conditions caused by severe storms, frost or ice can hamper our ability to run trains safely.”
Greater Anglia, which includes services into Liverpool Street, said all trains would stop running from 10pm tonight. For tomorrow and Wednesday a reduced service will operate between 6am and 10pm.
Network Rail said: “We will have extra staff working around the clock in order to keep main lines as clear as possible but while we will do everything we can to keep people moving, some lines may be closed and services will be subject to delays and cancellations.”
Gareth Powell, Transport for London’s managing director of surface transport, said “everything possible” was being done to keep rail, Tube and bus services running. More than 100,000 tonnes of grit were ready to keep the capital’s main roads, bus routes and roads leading to hospitals and fire stations open.
Social media delights in London snow
The Met Office has issued yellow “be aware” warnings for snow for today, tomorrow and Wednesday. Temperatures were forecast to feel as cold as -9C on Thursday.
Dr Nick Scriven, president of the Society for Acute Medicine, said: “The onset of a spell of extremely cold weather is of great concern for acute medical units who are already struggling with the widely reported stresses of this winter.
“Last week’s performance figures showed an 11 per cent rise on the previous week in influenza admissions, along with sustained dangerously high bed occupancy rates, so the situation is grave.”