Page last updated at 13:39 GMT, Monday, 2 February 2009

Snow strains technology networks

Train sign at Mortlake 2 Feb 2009
Transport websites and mobile networks all reported increased traffic

Some of Britain's technology was pushed to its limits this morning, as heavy snow put the brakes on the Monday morning commute.

Travel websites, including Transport for London (TfL), crashed as hundreds of thousands of users looked to see how (or if) they could get to work.

Mobile phone networks also buckled under the strain from the sheer volume of calls.

A spokesperson for TfL said its site was now working properly.

The trouble started after heavy snow fell across large parts of the UK, disrupting travel networks and closing hundreds of schools.

Further heavy snowfall is forecast to fall throughout Monday.

In London, the entire bus network was suspended, with severe delays on many underground lines. Train services in the South East were also badly affected with many cancellations and reduced services.

The problems meant that many users turned to the net and looked at travel and transport sites to see if their usual journey was still feasible.

People are being warned to avoid non-essential travel

National Rail Enquiries said website enquiries were up 800% compared to a normal Monday morning. At its height, more than 32,000 users were visiting every second. A spokesman said that the site was running, although at a reduced pace.

Sites belonging to regional rail networks also reported an increase in traffic. South West trains reduced its homepage to a bare minimum and posted a note about the heavy web traffic slowing it down.

Transport for London (TfL) also got an abnormally high number of users logging on. The site actually went down for a while, however a spokesperson for TfL said it was now back up.

Enquiries on the AA and RAC website were also well above average. A spokesman for the AA said it was getting a "huge number of enquiries but we're coping well".

Mobile networks also experienced a surge of traffic, with many people reporting difficulties in making calls due to network congestion. Some got "network busy" messages while checking with colleagues and family on the way to work.

Some mobile users were also reporting that text messages were taking an abnormally long time to arrive.

A spokesman from mobile network 3 said: "We've seen a very steep jump in the number of picture messages sent across the network as snowmen make an all too rare appearance in gardens across the country."

T-Mobile said it had seen a jump in network traffic too. On the morning of 2 February it saw 73% more calls than usual, 21% more texts.

Demand for broadband was also up by 20% caused by people working from home, said a spokesman.

The heavy snowfall has also kicked off a dedicated interest group on micro-blogging service Twitter.

The "#uksnow" group has been collecting responses from Twitter users documenting how much snow had fallen in their region and whether they were trying to get to work or staying at home building a snowman.

Twitter user Ben Marsh built a mash-up that put all the tweets on a Google map of the UK. Comments about snowfalls were automatically added to the map when Twitter users sent a message containing the first half of their postcode and a score out of 10 for local snowfalls.

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SEE ALSO
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