Hordes of travellers stranded in chaotic capital
TENS of thousands of commuters and air passengers were left stranded in the capital last night as Dublin Airport closed and traffic in and out of the city centre ground to a halt as a result of snow and ice.
At the airport, more than 10,000 faced long delays and cancellations after managers suspended all incoming and outbound flights at 3.30pm. The airport officially re-opened at 8pm last night, but most scheduled flights were cancelled.
Dublin Airport Authority said it hoped to resume services as normal this morning, but could not rule out further cancellations today.
Even getting to the airport proved to be a nightmare for hundreds of passengers, who were left without transport as icy roads left traffic at a virtual standstill in the city centre from around 3pm onwards.
Cars were left abandoned at the side of the road and buses parked up because of slushy snow and compacted ice that made roads virtually impassable throughout much of the city centre and suburbs.
AA Roadwatch advised motorists to avoid all unnecessary travel, while many taxis stopped running or were running two hours late, leading to lengthy queues at taxi ranks throughout the city centre.
Dublin Bus cancelled all services from mid-afternoon, including its Airlink airport express bus, leaving just one independent operator, Aircoach, as the sole provider of public transportation to the airport.
Some passengers were waiting for more than 90 minutes just to board a coach and were looking at journeys of up to three hours that would normally take less than an hour.
One passenger bound for Birmingham Airport said he was forced to walk from Ballsbridge to O'Connell Street to get the coach due to gridlock south of the Liffey and waited more than an hour for the bus.
Other Dublin Bus passengers were forced to find alternative transport, including heading home on foot, which proved treacherous for many people attempting to navigate icy pavements and footpaths without slipping.
Some Bus Eireann passengers were also forced to find overnight accommodation after all services out of Busaras were cancelled at 7pm last night.
Iarnrod Eireann operated all services despite the freezing conditions, albeit with minor delays due to ice and snow build-up on the points systems at major hubs like Connolly and Pearse stations. Spokesman Barry Kenny said staff would be on hand this morning to ensure the point systems would be kept clear. There were also delays on DART and commuter services because large volumes of people, normally reliant on the bus, had to find alternative routes home. Dublin City Council had five gritting trucks working in the city during the afternoon, but a spokesman acknowledged that heavy traffic meant they were not as effective as they could be.
The council normally grits roads from 3.30am when there is little or no traffic about, and yesterday afternoon were trying to make 300km of road safe. The Air Corps was also pressed into service, carrying out four air ambulance operations.