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1959: Fog brings transport chaos

Dense fog - the worst for seven years - has brought road, rail and air transport in many parts of England and Wales to a virtual standstill.

London has been worst affected - but many areas of the Midlands, East Anglia, southern England and east and south Wales have also been shrouded in fog and frost for most of the day.

In 1952, London suffered from what became known as The Great Smog - fog intensified by thick smoke. More than 2,000 people died in the week ending 6 December mostly from chest and lung-related illnesses.

The Meteorological Office is predicting the latest "smog" will persist during the next 24 hours in the London area and possibly in some parts of South Wales, Birmingham and the industrial Midlands.

An AA spokesman said 28 hours of fog in the capital had left a nil-visibility ring around London.

He said: "It is a motorist's nightmare as rush-hour drivers grope their way through nil visibility in the Hendon, Finchley, Northolt, Wandsworth, Bromley and Sidcup districts."

Traffic patrols have reported nose-to-tail jams and vehicles travelling at a crawl from all parts of the capital.

At least six people were injured in three collisions on the ice-covered Kingston by-pass in Surrey. Thirty-five vehicles were involved in a collision in dense fog at Hampton Hill in Middlesex.

A London Transport spokesman said many buses had been unable to leave their garages because crews could not get to work on time.

London airport was closed with visibility down to 20 yards. Many flights were diverted into Gatwick.

Many long-distance trains from London were cancelled. Suburban services were also seriously disrupted.

There are some businesses benefiting from the smog. One Birmingham travel agent has reported bookings up 10% on last year and the number of inquiries has gone up since the fog descended.

Chemists are also reporting a boom in the sale of smog masks. One chemist in the centre of Manchester had sold out of masks by 1000 this morning.

In Context
In response to the smog of December 1952, the Clean Air Act was introduced in 1956.

It restricted the burning of domestic fuels in urban areas with the introduction of smokeless zones, but fogs continued to be smoky after the act as residents and operators were given time to convert.

The act was revised in 1968 when industries burning coal, gas or other fuels were ordered to use tall chimneys. In 1974 the first Control of Air Pollution act introduced regulations on the composition of motor fuels.

By the 1980s and '90s the increasing use of the motor vehicle led to a new kind of smog caused by the chemical reaction of car pollutants and the sunshine.

The 1995 Environment Act introduced new regulations for air pollutants.


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