Snow and ice weather warnings have been extended across the UK, threatening chaos for travellers, as the record for the coldest night of the year so far was broken for the second night in a row.
The Met Office extended a yellow snow and ice warning covering northern Scotland and north-east England until noon on Friday.
Snow and ice warnings are in place in south-west England from 6pm on Tuesday until 10am Wednesday.
An ice warning is in place in eastern England until noon on Wednesday.
Snow is still on the ground in many parts of the region after falling throughout Sunday and Monday.
It comes amid a rail strike which has forced millions to work from home, and warnings of “treacherous” conditions on the roads.
Workers at 14 rail companies will walk out over two 48-hour periods this week, on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.
Trains are only running from 7.30am to 6.30pm on this week’s strike days, although many parts of the country will have no services, including most of Scotland and Wales.
The strike has also caused disruption across the London Underground, with the Central and Piccadilly lines experiencing severe delays, and minor delays across the Jubilee and Elizabeth lines.
“Motorists should take real care over the coming days as driving conditions in large parts of the country will be treacherous with ice,” said AA spokesman Jack Cousens.
“While main roads and motorways will be the priority, many smaller suburban and rural roads won’t be cleared. Motorists should plan ahead and assess whether their journey is essential until later in the week when the temperature rises and the snow melts.”
Meteorological Office spokesman Oli Claydon said there could be “as much as 15 to 20cm of snow accumulating over high ground” on Tuesday. Mr Claydon urged commuters across the UK to “leave a little bit more time” if driving and to travel with “a bit of extra caution”.
Braemer in Aberdeenshire was the coldest place in the UK on Tuesday night, recording a low of minus 17.3°C, breaking Monday’s record of minus 15.7°C.
The next coldest temperature on Tuesday night was also recorded in Aberdeenshire, at minus 14.9°C in Balmoral.
Scores of schools across the country have been forced to close for a second day due to the cold weather.
Heavy snowfall across London — in pictures
The RAC said on Tuesday it had experienced its biggest day for breakdowns on record on Monday, with about 12,000 drivers needing help.
RAC Breakdown’s Rod Dennis said: “Yesterday was officially our busiest day for breakdowns on record, with around 12,000 drivers needing help, the equivalent of eight every minute of the day. Even our busiest day during the infamous Beast from the East in 2018 didn’t see as many people breaking down.
“We believe two key ingredients have combined to create the worst-ever winter breakdown cocktail — a sustained period of cold weather with an absence of widespread snow that would otherwise keep people indoors, and a big rise in the number of drivers who can’t afford to maintain their vehicles as well as they’d like to due to the pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis.
“Today remains an incredibly demanding day for our patrols, with the rail strikes likely to force yet more people on to the roads.”
Travel disruption also continued on Tuesday, with icy roads making conditions difficult.
The Met Office said there will be icy stretches on untreated roads, pavements, and cycle paths due to the thawing of sow left over from Monday.
Commuters faced travel chaos on Monday as large parts of the UK were hit by ice, fog and snow.
A report from the Local Government Association (LGA) published last week found that nearly two thirds of councils in England are worried they cannot recruit enough HGV drivers to run their gritting lorries this winter.
“As this survey shows, councils along with many other organisations have had continued difficulties in recruiting new HGV drivers,” a representative for the LGA said.
“As well as this, fast inflating HGV driver salaries in the private sector exacerbates issues in the public sector, with the rises creating a retention as well as a recruitment problem for councils and their contractors.
“To ensure gritting lorries can get out to treat roads and pavements this winter, councils have been retraining and redeploying existing staff as well as making use of short-term agency workers.”
Darren Clark, severe weather resilience manager at National Highways, said they had sent out the appropriate number of gritters to deal with the roads on Monday.
“We started the autumn and winter season with around 280,000 tonnes of salt stockpiled at our depots and yesterday we used 12,000 tonnes across our network in view of the current weather conditions. We can call upon 530 gritters in our fleet and we sent out the appropriate number to treat the roads in accordance with the conditions in different areas of our network.”
Transport Secretary Mark Harper defended the response of the highways authorities to the cold snap after motorists were left stranded on the M25.
He told LBC Radio on Tuesday: “My understanding, having listened to what National Highways have said, is a very significant amount of gritting did take place.
“But of course, that doesn’t mean that you can deal with the consequences of the fact that it was a very severe cold snap and there was heavy snow across the country.”
He added that staff at National Highways had worked “incredibly hard” to try to keep the roads moving.
Heavy snow causes travel disruption across the UK — video
The cold snap comes as the UK is experiencing a wave of industrial action on a scale not seen since the 1980s, fuelled by energy and food price rises.
Nurses, postal workers and Border Force officials are among those striking in the run-up to Christmas.
Passport checks at various UK airports, including Heathrow, Gatwick, Manchester, Glasgow, Cardiff and Birmingham, will be disrupted by walkouts from December 23 to December 26 and December 28 to December 31.
The military and civil servants are likely to be brought in to cover for Border Force staff, while armed forces personnel will also be sent to hospital trusts before ambulance workers strike on December 21.
Further protest action is planned by rail unions over Christmas and in early January.