Page last updated at 20:41 GMT, Friday, 6 February 2009

Second Severn crossing stays shut


Watch ice falling onto the old Severn bridge, from an overhead cable. Footage courtesy of Severn River Crossing Plc

The second Severn crossing is expected to remain closed overnight due to the risk of ice falling from gantries.

The M4 bridge was shut at 1000 GMT on Friday after three vehicles were struck by falling ice, damaging windscreens.

The closure is the first forced by weather since the three-mile (5km) structure opened in 1996.

The old Severn Bridge, the M48 crossing, was closed for much of the day after three vehicles there were hit by ice, but has since reopened fully.

No-one was reported injured in the incidents on either bridge, but the Highways Agency said the second toll bridge would remain closed for health and safety reasons "until further notice".

Drivers caught in the closure of the two Severn crossings describe their feelings.

Traffic Wales had earlier said it was working with Gwent and Avon and Somerset police forces, the south Wales trunk road agency, the south west regional control centre and Traffic Link "to deal with this situation as efficiently and effectively as possible".

After the bridges were closed, motorists wanting to use the Severn crossings eastbound were diverted off the M4 at junction 24, to join the M50 at Ross-on-Wye and the M5.

National Express later turned around coaches and suspended services east of Swansea.

Elsewhere, police said the A465 Heads of the Valley Road was "just passable" in both directions between A469 (Rhymney) and A4060 (Dowlais Roundabout).

Dyfed-Powys Police said both lanes of the A470 between Brecon and Builth Wells were open and it was passable with care.

Friday saw more than 300 Welsh schools closed, around half the numbers which have been shutting this week.

 Sheep and snowman  Photo: John Barnard, of Caerwent
Snow has also affected Powys, parts of south east Wales and the heads of the valleys

The Met Office is warning of a widespread, sharp frost across Wales on Friday night, with icy stretches likely on roads.

Rhondda Cynon Taf Council said the Bwlch, Maerdy and Rhigos mountain roads were to remain closed.

The council said a local forecast of up to an inch (2cm) of snow on higher ground on Friday night meant the the roads would remain treacherous to travel, even if they underwent a routine gritting exercise.

The council said it was "recognised as being one of the top three critical local authorities in Wales due to the rapid decline of salt currently in stock because of the demand throughout the UK.

In a statement, is said: "Although negotiations with the Welsh Assembly Government continue and some orders have arrived, the depleted stock may become extremely low by Monday morning when even further snow is predicted."

Wales rugby fans flying to Scotland for the team's match at Murrayfield were delayed at Cardiff International Airport until runways were cleared.

Meanwhile, more than 100 supporters were stranded in Bristol Airport on Friday night after all flights were cancelled.

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