The nightmare before Christmas....

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FREEZING conditions have plunged the city into its very own ‘winter of discontent’.

Several inches of snow and temperatures as low as minus 11 have left the grid system clogged and many elderly and infirm residents unable to leave their homes.

Council gritters have been battling desperately to keep the roads clear, while problems have been posed for the police and ambulance services.

The Citizen has also been receiving reports of taxi firms charging fares double normal levels as people face up to a very white ‘Nightmare before Christmas.’

The chaos began on Saturday when seven inches of snow fell in just a few hours leaving the city paralysed throughout the rest of the week. A second deluge on Wednesday morning saw three to four inches fall in around an hour.

Angry motorists flooded our Twitter and Facebook pages with complaints about the roads, with Milton Keynes Council taking the brunt of the criticism.

Peter Todd on Facebook said: ‘People will wonder what the council is for if it fails to deliver effective snow clearing.”

And John MacDonald said: ‘What I want to know is where were the snow ploughs? The roads should have been cleared by now.’

Questions were also raised over the amount of available salt and the gritting of estate roads and redways. But council bosses insisted they had done everything in their power to keep the roads clear.

A council spokesman said: “The gritting team are working around the clock to keep major roads as clear as possible. As grit can freeze below -8 degrees, which reduces its effectiveness, then snow ploughs are also being used to manually clear roads. The overnight road temperature reached -13 degrees this week.”

And one reader, calling us yesterday afternoon, said: “The roads had been cleared within a few hours and I found it really easy to get home.’

A reduced refuse collection service has been in operation, with the council pledging to clear as much waste as possible. People can log on to www.milton-keynes.gov.uk/recycling for the latest information.

Many residents were unable to leave their homes to pick up vital medicine.

One, Milton Keynes Citizen child of courage runner-up Sinead Petworth-Kenny, 18, who suffers from asthma, anaemia, neuritis and other allergies, said: “I am finding it hard to get supplies and am getting bored as I can’t go walking in it. I’m just hoping I am able to get to the shop and doctors.”

And Anita Rose, 70, from Church Lees, Great Linford, said: “Even medication cannot be picked up because the roads have not been gritted.”

A spokesman for NHS Milton Keynes said: “Milton Keynes Community Health Services is coping well in the snow, due to the commitment of staff who have travelled through difficult driving conditions to make sure services are run and appointments kept.”

A Milton Keynes Hospital spokesman added: “Our nurses have done really well to get in and battle through the snow. We have seen an increase in people coming into A&E because they are having accidents in the snow but not all of them are major.”

And police are urging motorists to avoid roads unless their journey is necessary.

Chief inspector Gill Wootton, of Thames Valley Police Roads Policing Department, said: “Although the snow may stop the roads are still unsafe due to the freezing conditions. Up-to-date information on road conditions are available by calling 0300 123 5000.”

The city’s taxi firms were criticised for charging increased fares.

Stephen Parker from Westcroft told the Citizen: “Skyline Taxi’s charged my father, a pensioner, double the price to get from Westcroft to the railway station.

“It’s disgusting. The journey time was no different. They are taking advantage of the most vulnerable people in society.”

Bus services are attempting to run as regularly as possible but are mainly sticking to the grid roads. For more information visit www.arrivabus.co.uk/home.

And rail services have also been affected with a number of services cancelled. Further information can be found at www.londonmidland.com

Saturday’s downfall saw the majority of the city’s sport called off, while those seeking to find sunnier climes didn’t fare much better.

Thousands of passengers were left stranded at Heathrow Airport after flights were delayed. Citizen employee Sue Thomas eventually managed to jet off on a dream holiday to Australia, but not before a day of confusion at the airport and a night at a hotel.

A text message to friends written on Sunday night said: ‘It is so hard to get any info. I have been very cold but now in a warm hotel room.’

But some hardy souls took advantage of the snow to enjoy sledging in Campbell Park.