Public fears for rough sleepers as snow blankets Britain


Members of the public have referred a record number of rough sleepers to a specialist helpline as heavy snow and sub-zero conditions hit Britain.

More than 3,600 alerts were sent to StreetLink, which connects homeless people to local services, between Monday and Tuesday morning the highest total for a 24-hour period.The app enables people to alert agencies if they fear for the safety of those on the streets.

More than 2,000 of the referrals concerned people in London. The service’s director, Matt Harrison, greeted the alerts as positive news, suggesting that members of the public were seeking to support homeless people. “This record number of referrals is inspiring to see,” he said. “This is the first step people can take to ensure individuals sleeping rough receive the support they need to get into the warm and move away from homelessness for good.”

The weather system widely referred to as “the beast from the east” has caused delays and cancellations on Britain’s roads, and hundreds of schools across the country were closed for a second day.

Emergency services reported stranded vehicles and crashes as several more centimetres of snow fell overnight and temperatures fell to -11C (12.2F) in some areas.

Police across the country advised people to avoid driving if possible because of poor visibility and treacherous conditions.

Three people were killed in a crash in Lincolnshire and a man died after a collision in Cambridgeshire on Tuesday morning.

There were several road accidents on Tuesday night and in the early hours of Wednesday, Highways England said, including a crash between a car and motorcycle on the M3 in Surrey in which one person was seriously injured.

Fire crews had to pull a trapped man from a vehicle following an early-morning crash between two cars and a lorry near Williton, Somerset, on Wednesday, Devon and Somerset fire service said.

Several lorries became stuck in snow drifts and jack-knifed on roads, including on the A1 in Cambridgeshire and the A66 in Cumbria, leading to long delays and rescue efforts.

In Leicestershire, motorists were advised to avoid the A1 between the A1139 and the A6121 as police removed cars that had become stuck overnight.

Disruption was expected to continue to services run by the rail operators c2c, CrossCountry, Northern, Greater Anglia and Stansted Express, Merseyrail, ScotRail, Southeastern, Southern, Virgin, Thameslink and Gatwick Express, South Western Railway, TfL Rail and London Overground.

Arriva Trains Wales said customers should expect “heavy delays and cancellations” on long-distance routes because of “urgent safety checks”, but it was unclear if this was due to the weather.

Great Northern was “currently expecting to run a normal train service”, according to the National Rail Enquiries website.

Farnborough in Hampshire recorded a low of -11C (12.2F), but in most places the mercury hovered at between -4C (24.8F) and -7C (19.4F) overnight.

Forecasters predict the snow and freezing temperatures will continue, prompting the Met Office to extend some of its weather alerts, including a red warning for central Scotland for potentially significant drifting and 40cm of snow in some areas.

An amber warning for much of the north of England and the rest Scotland is in place until 6pm, and another covering London, the east Midlands and the east of England is in force until 10am.