Heavy snowfall hits schools and transport

LONDON (Reuters) - Heavy snowfall across northern Britain forced hundreds of schools to close on Thursday and caused transport havoc, after as much as 15 cm (6 inches) of snow fell overnight in some areas.

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Schools closed across Scotland, Yorkshire, Cumbria, Greater Manchester, Northumberland and the Newcastle area.

A Met office spokesman said the borders region had seen the highest levels of snowfall, with up to 15 cm on areas of high ground, with more still falling.

On Wednesday, the Met office issued severe weather warnings for Scotland, the north of England and the Midlands, predicting heavy snow, blizzards and strong winds.

But conditions look set to ease over the weekend.

“It’s going to clear away very soon, it’s just going to be confined to parts of northeast Scotland where we’ll see some more falling over the higher ground during the course of the day,” the Met office spokesman said.

Many roads in the north of England were blocked by snow on Thursday as police urged motorists to take extra care, and only make essential journeys.

North Yorkshire Police said they had seen a steep increase in road collisions as ice and snow hit the region.

Air and rail passengers also faced disruption.

National Rail warned of delays of up to two hours on trains between Carlisle and Glasgow or Edinburgh while flights to and from Leeds Bradford International Airport and Newcastle International faced “severe” disruption.

Bookmakers have slashed the odds of a white Christmas as the cold weather and forecasts of further snowy spells prompts a rush of bets on snow falling on December 25.

Reporting by Kylie MacLellan, Editing by Steve Addison