SNOW LATEST: Airport reopens as South Yorkshire returns to normal - but wrap up Monday

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SHEFFIELD and the rest of region is returning to normal after the first snow fall of the season caused serious travel disruptions to the road, rail and air network, writes Graham Walker.

Motorists have been warned to allow extra time to get in to work early tomorrow as snow which remains in some parts could turn to ice. But most major roads are now passable with care.

Doncaster Robin Hood Airport re-opened at 4pm after snow on the runway forced it to close.

It had taken four hours longer than planned to clear the runway because of freezing temperatures, explained spokesman Robin Tudor.

Heavy snow also hit bus services on Sunday.

Bus operator First Bus said Sheffield routes were operating on main roads only and many Rotherham routes had been disrupted. Buses were as normal in Doncaster.

Sheffield City Council gritters had not been able to clear some secondary routes because of abandoned vehicles but the major road network was “passable with care”.

Supertram services were operating normally although some delays were expected due to the weather and road conditions.

A Met Office spokesman said the region would continue to shiver un til the end of the week. He said: “Most of the snow melted away as temperatures rose today to around 3C today and that should set the tone for tomorrow.

“But that’s still cold and there will be areas of lying snow affecting some parts. There may be a return to more settled conditions from Tuesday as easterly winds become established.

“But at this stage the cold weather looks likely to last through to the end of the week.”

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The Travel South Yorkshire website - the hub of public transport information for the county - crashed last night. But TravelSYorkshire was continuing to give regular updates on its Twitter site at @TravelSYorks

Half of all flights were axed at Britain’s busiest airport - hours after it stopped snowing.

More planes were grounded today at London’s Heathrow Airport following Saturday’s adverse weather and the airport’s decision to axe 30% of its flights. The decision came as wintry showers ceased across the country and forecasters predicted dry conditions and a partial thaw.

A spokesman for Heathrow said the move was designed to minimise disruption and in anticipation of possible freezing fog. While the runways, taxiways and stands have been cleared of snow, only 50% of the 1,300 scheduled flights are now going ahead. But the airport insisted its “snow plan” had worked “far better” than in previous years.

A spokesman said the airport was “getting back to normal” as it worked to clear the backlog of flights, and added: “By cancelling flights in advance airlines have been able to rebook some people on to flights that are departing, and passengers have had better quality information about whether they can fly or not.” Extra staff were being drafted into terminals to help passengers rebook flights.

Heathrow’s usual flight schedule is due to operate tomorrow but passengers were warned there may still be cancellations because of today’s disruption, with aircraft and crew needing to be repositioned. Travellers were advised to check the status of their flights ahead of departure.

Other airports affected included Stansted, Birmingham and Luton where operations were suspended for a period on Saturday night as snow piled up on the runways. Their services resumed today, albeit with some delays. A full schedule of flights was planned for Gatwick Airport but passengers were warned of possible disruption.

The latest upheaval came after a night of heavy snowfall which saw Britain wake up to a carpet of white. The big freeze brought dumps of up to 16cm, with forecasters warning the snow would linger in many areas as temperatures remained low. Away from the picturesque scenes, motorists battled with treacherous conditions as the weather brought severe disruption to the roads. Many drivers were forced to spend the night in their cars as traffic came to a standstill on the M25. Train services were also affected - Southern Railway warned of potential delays and cancellations, with journey times extended by up to 30 minutes.

Transport Secretary Justine Greening defended the decision to cut flights at Heathrow and said bosses had taken the “right approach”, adding: “Actually cancelling flights in advance so passengers don’t get to the airport and then find their flight being cancelled was one of the main recommendations of the inquiry that Heathrow held into the debacle last year when we saw huge disruption. They are clearly trying to manage the airport and I think the most important thing is making sure that we put safety first. We’ve got to get planes up into the air and down on to the ground safely. That does take a little bit more time to make sure wings are de-iced and that the runways are clear, but overall they’re trying to do their best.”

London Ambulance Service experienced a surge in 999 calls with 2,500 coming in between midnight and noon - an increase of more than 26% on the same period last Sunday, it said.

* For photos, reaction and more on this story see The Star tomorrow.