Reading has become famous this week, for all the wrong reasons.
Abandoned cars scattered the town centre after drivers too stuck to move gave up getting home last night.
With car journeys taking up to nine hours, those who had a bed to sleep in within walking distance gave up and left their cars on the road. Hundreds of motorists were stranded for hours after the roads suddenly became gridlocked as shoppers and office workers tried to get home. With the major routes in and out of the town - M4, A4, IDR, A329M and A33 - also jammed, the traffic had nowhere to go. In nearly three hours, drivers moved no more than a few feet and the conditions on the roads became more treacherous.
A lack of grit made journeys dangerous with cars skidding on the ice. Two refuge centres set up at the Civic Centre and The Oracle were set up after an emergency meeting between Thames Valley Police and Reading Borough Council last night. In a police statement issued at 9.20pm, seven hours after the snow started, drivers were advised not to abandon their cars and to avoid travel where possible. Councils are expected to waive car parking fees this morning for motorists who were stranded in the weather conditions.
Two Reading Buses were in collision with a row of stationary cars in Russell Street, West Reading, shortly before 5.30pm and a car towing a boat is blocking the middle and inside lane on the M4 between junctions 10 and 11. A car skidded on the snow and slammed into a house in Thatcham, a car overturned in ice near Newbury and a lorry and another car were in collision on the M4 near Hungerford.
Reading Borough Council held an emergency meeting earlier this evening and Royal Berkshire Hospital is urging night staff who live within three miles of the hospital to walk into work.
Hospital spokesman Joe Wise said: "Our main priority is getting staff into work who are on duty tonight but who are stuck in the gridlock. We are also working on plans to get staff in from further afield." Accross town staff are bedding down in offices rather than risking driving home. For many it was the start of a long and slippery walk home. At the Ibis and the Novotel hotels in the town centre the queues were stretching around the corner by 5pm. And by 6pm the Premier Inn was fully booked and turning people away.
Many homes in and around Reading are also without power this afternoon, after the snow knocked out power lines. Scottish and Southern Energy say they are finding it difficult to get to the areas affected because of the icy conditions on the roads.
Police tips include: unless it is absolutely essential you are strongly advised not to travel, do not abandon your vehicles on the highway as this prevents emergency services and gritting vehicles getting through, and only call the emergency services in a real emergency.
Situations like this tend to bring out the bast in people, from council and hospital staff working long hours, to ordinary people helping those in need. BBC Radio Berkshire and other news services have been praised for their work keeping people informed.
Nicola Hodder said: "There are some really lovely people out there. "I was stuck in my car on Shepherd House Hill for three hours and there was a woman giving out hot sausages and homemade cookies and drinks. "She was just walking up the middle of the road, stopping at every single car. "She made it all a lot more bearable. There were other residents on the other side of the road trying to push people's cars up the hill. "Other people were jumping out of their cars and helping. Everyone was just wonderful, it was so nice to see."
There is an argument between the AA and Local Government over Gritting.
Tory Cllr Richard Willis says the Lib Dems are using this for political purposes. Shock.Lab Martin Salter MP blames staff for leaving early!
Rob White in Park Ward highlights an area in need of care.
Tory MP John Redwood makes political capital here about gritting. "The question to the government is a simple one. Why didn’t they keep the main road arteries open, by sufficient gritting and using snowploughs? If a Council could manage it, why couldn’t the Highways Agency? The weather forecasters were accurate and gave them plenty of warning. Amidst all those billions of dubious and wasteful spending, why couldn’t they find the odd million to hire a fleet of lorries and do the job properly?" He also refers to a '7 by 24 media' which sounds like a piece of wood. I suspect he means 24/7.
LD Cllr Pru Bray also makes the point that Wokingham was better prepared than Reading.
LD Cllrs in Redands have made a video that fails to show anything much. Nice song though.
Still it could be worse, have you seen Basingstoke?
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