'Looking good' for stranded travellers at airport
HOPES that tens of thousands of stranded passengers will make it home for Christmas grew last night after airport chiefs said flights should operate on schedule over the next two days.
The Dublin Airport Authority said that assuming the weather remained favourable, flights should continue to depart and arrive as planned in the run-up to Christmas.
Today is expected to be the busiest day in terms of people coming home, when 65,000 passengers will arrive at and depart from Dublin Airport.
Extra capacity has been added by the airlines, with Ryanair adding 14 extra flights.
"Thursday is going to be really busy in terms of extra numbers. It's looking good but it's weather dependent," a DAA spokeswoman said.
It came after flights in and out of the country were finally given lift-off yesterday.
Dublin Airport reopened an hour early at 7am and airlines battled to clear the backlog of cancelled flights after a day of chaos that left 40,000 people stranded on Tuesday night.
But some were told it could be St Stephen's Day before their plane left Ireland.
There were also problems de-icing planes, with passengers bound for Bucharest in Romania delayed for four hours.
"There's some delays and problems de-icing aircraft," a spokeswoman for the airport said. "As a consequence there is some knock-on delays to the schedule. De-icing is not the responsibility of the airport authority. We have had a meeting with the handling agent to see what help can be given."
There also was good news finally for road users. All main roads were open and a shipment of more than 7,000 tonnes of badly needed salt arrived in the country last night.
Tens of thousands of tonnes more are due to arrive in the next two weeks to address the chronic shortage that has resulted in few roads being cleared or salted in recent days.
But weather-weary travellers face further disruption as Met Eireann warned that temperatures would remain below freezing up to Christmas Day at the earliest, meaning journeys by road will be dangerous.
The much-hoped-for thaw will not now come until St Stephen's Day.
"This is almost unprecedented weather," forecaster Gerald Fleming told the Irish Independent.
"It's unusual for us to go 24 hours without temperatures going above 0C. We've had five days and probably will have eight or nine before warmer weather comes. You have to go back to January 1963 for a comparable month."
Public transport services improved yesterday across the State as local authority gritting crews began spreading fresh supplies of salt on heavily-trafficked and important local roads.
But there were long delays during the evening rush hour in Naas, Dublin, Galway and Cork.
Bus Eireann said most of its services around the country were operating as normal, with delays and diversions in areas.
Iarnrod Eireann operated full services across Intercity, DART and commuter routes, with some delays, while most Dublin Bus services were running, but with diversions.
The Defence Forces continued to work clearing snow from roads and footpaths and transporting staff and medical supplies to remote areas.
Local authorities, including Limerick County Council, expanded their road gritting operations to treat regional roads and make them passable for the holiday period.
However, road hauliers criticised the lack of gritting on some main routes, claiming it was affecting their business and putting lives at risk.
The National Roads Authority said that the main roads were kept open.
Parents were warned to keep their children off frozen canals and rivers, being told the ice would not hold their weight and could break.
Farmers also called on the NRA to pay them to keep the roads gritted.
Water restrictions remain in place across Dublin and there are shortages in the Midlands. Dublin City Council said there would be no restrictions between tomorrow and next Tuesday.