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Britain Faces Coldest Winter For 25 Years

PTI January 03, 2010 8:35 IST

Families heading home after the Christmas break faced perilous driving conditions tonight as Britain faced up to the coldest winter for a quarter of a century.

Police and motoring organisations warned drivers to take extreme care as a fresh wave of snow and freezing temperatures caused major disruptions on the roads and one motorist died.

The scale of the big freeze will be underlined by Met Office figures due to be released on Monday which are expected to show the country is currently experiencing the coldest winter for 25 years.

Treacherous: The A1 near Gateshead as snow made driving conditions highly dangerous Lancashire Police said the conditions could have been to blame for the death of one driver who was killed in a crash on the M55 motorway near Blackpool around 8am.

The transport network also suffered as a number of rail lines were closed in Scotland and more than 45 bumps and crashes were recorded on the roads.

Six vehicles crashed in Greater Manchester on the M6 near Orrell shortly after 10.30am, causing long delays.

Poor driving conditions were reported on the M60, M602 and the M66 while and Snake Pass, which runs between Manchester and Sheffield, was closed.

Police closed the M9 in Scotland between junctions one and two near Edinburgh Airport for three hours after the area was 'inundated' with snow flurries.

Drivers were forced to abandon their cars causing further problems on the road according to Lothian and Borders Police. It was reopened at 8pm with traffic still moving slowly. Inverness Airport  was closed due to snow and ice.

A handful of 3rd round FA Cup ties also had to be called off and Sandown Park race course was forced to abandon an afternoon fixture.

In East Sussex a teenage driver and female passenger were seriously injured when their car hit a patch of ice and crashed into a tree on a country road on Friday night.

A third teenager was also hurt when the black Peugeot 207 veered off the A26 at Boarshead just before 11pm.

Forecasters say the big freeze is set to continue for the first half of the month with fresh snowfall, severe frosts and ice on the roads.

A Highways Agency spokesman said: 'Our winter fleet has been working flat out and will continue to treat the network as long as the cold weather continues.

'Our advice to drivers is to drive according to the conditions, and even when roads are treated they should still be negotiated with care.'

The AA said that by 4pm today it had dealt with more than 11,000 breakdowns, with the number expected to rise to 16,000 by the end of the day. This compares with 8,000 calls for help on a average Saturday.

The biting conditions, which are expected to last for the first 10 days of the new year, follow the coldest December in more than a decade.

Forecasters said temperatures could drop as low as minus 15C in some parts of Scotland and northern England over the next few days.

A family of four were recovering from hypothermia today after their canoe capsized in an 'icy cold' river.