THOUSANDS of travellers were left stranded in the weekend snow across Merseyside and Cheshire as planes, trains and the roads were blighted by the weather.

More than 20 Merseyrail services and 15 flights from Liverpool John Lennon Airport were cancelled yesterday as the snow played havoc with the city's transport network.

Police officers were seen clearing snow from a Liverpool road using riot shields, while a West Lancashire pub turned itself into a rescue centre after up to 17 motorists became trapped.

The disruption sparked a major row over the state of the city's roads and one politician demanded an inquiry into whether Liverpool council gritters had been out, though the council insisted gritters had been working throughout the night on Saturday.

The Met Office warned the region could face more chaos with further icy conditions last night, exacerbating the already treacherous conditions. Residents were warned not to go out unless they had to and were asked to check on their elderly and vulnerable neighbours.

Last night, the Mersey Regional Ambulance Service reported increased demand with 440 emergency calls before 5.30pm. Four wheel drive ambulances were deployed and one ambulance got stuck in the snow outside a patient's house in Liverpool.

Control room manager Nick Blair said: "Fortunately, this only happened once and the paramedics were outside the patient's house.

"The patient was not in a serious condition and the ambulance was quickly pulled out of the snow again."

The service had received 19 calls to minor collisions on the slippery roads. Extra staff were brought in to manage the effects of the weather.

Mr Blair said: "It has been a really busy day and we have seen quite an increase in demand for the service for things such as slips and falls and collisions.

"Our response time has also been affected. We have not been able to get to calls as quickly as we usually would, as the drivers have had to be really careful.

"We have done really well though. All the staff have coped admirably."

Mr Blair warned people across the region to take care when going out in the snow.

He said: "Remember to wear the right clothes and shoes. Also be sure to check on your elderly and vulnerable neighbours, making sure they are warm and have enough food."

Last night, Liverpool Labour councillor Rose Bailey demanded an investigation into whether Liverpool's roads had been gritted.

She said she had been inundated by calls from angry residents.

Cllr Bailey added: "I have had calls from residents who cannot even leave their houses, because it is far too unsafe. On Everton Brow, police officers were clearing the snow using riot shields.

"It does not look like the streets have been gritted at all, salt turns snow to mush and it is not like that anywhere. After speaking to friends and colleagues in Sefton and Knowsley, the conditions are much better.

"There has been plenty of warning about the weather. The council have known about this in plenty of time. I will be calling for an investigation."

But a spokesman for the council insisted roads had been gritted throughout the night. He said: "Initially, we targeted the main routes. Gritters first went out at about 6.30pm last night (Saturday) and then again in the early hours and later in the morning.

"In the morning, street cleaners were out gritting the pavements in the city centre for pedestrians in the area."

At Liverpool John Lennon Airport, 15 flights were cancelled throughout the morning.

A JLA spokesman said: "We had to cancel the first wave of flights because of the amount of snow on the runway. We tried clearing it up, but no sooner had we got one section cleared, we had to go back and do it again as the snow was coming thick and fast.

"Early in the morning, the airport was very busy with people waiting to see if they could get a flight. The lunchtime wave was back as scheduled."

The treacherous road conditions meant buses could not venture out and there were very few services before lunchtime.

A spokesman for Arriva, which operates around two thirds of Merseyside's buses, said rainfall during the afternoon made it easier for vehicles to leave the depot.

He added: "It was too dangerous in the morning so the drivers couldn't go out and we would prefer that than to risk anybody's safety.

"After the rain, the road cleared up a bit, but drivers were instructed to go slowly and take it easy. Many of them were running late, but by the afternoon, the service was quite comprehensive again."

Merseyrail had to cancel around 25 trains before 1.30pm because the snow caused havoc on the tracks.

A spokesman said: "We had engineering works scheduled for the Kirkby line and buses in place to take passengers to their destination.

"Unfortunately, the weather meant we couldn't even deploy the buses.

"Network Rail were experiencing problems with the weather all morning and a number of points failed. There were problems on many of our lines in and around Liverpool and then, when they were sorted out, the points failed near to Ellesmere Port.

"Everything was back up and running after 1.30pm."

Merseyside Fire Service said they had not received any more calls than usual as a result of the weather, but firefighters were having to exercise caution when responding to emergencies.

But firefighters did have to cut a man free from his car following an accident in St Helens yesterday. The crash, involving two vehicles, happened just before 4pm in Baxters Lane. The man, who is not believed to be seriously hurt, was taken to Whiston Hospital.

Fire crews believe the poor weather conditions were a contributory factor.

In Cheshire, police said the M53 was passable but warned motorists to be careful, especially close to the borders with Merseyside. Despite the problems the snow was welcomed by some and residents in Bebington gathered to build a community igloo.

* A CONCERT to raise money for the Daily Post backed campaign, the NSPCC Safe Place Appeal was put off last night.

Hundreds of children from across Wirral were gearing up to showcase their talents on stage at Liverpool's Philharmonic Hall, but organisers were forced to postpone the event due to the snow.

Eight inches of snow turns road into trap for cars >>

Eight inches of snow turns road into trap for cars

KITCHEN staff at a West Lancashire pub launched a full-scale rescue operation when the landlord and landlady became trapped in the snow.

Jill and Peter McMahon were returning to the Plough Inn, Plough Lane, in Ormskirk, after spending the night away and they got stuck, along with a dozen other cars in 8 inches of snow.

They called their pub for help and the pub's chef, the kitchen porter and their 16-year-old son, James, came to the rescue.

Even a neighbour, a local farmer, joined in by helping tow cars out with his tractor. Mrs McMahon said: "You couldn't see what it was like from the end of the road as nobody had closed it off.

"Cars were driving along and kept getting stuck, at one point there were about 17 vehicles."

The staff helped the McMahons' neighbour, and a passing motorist in a 4x4, tow the vehicles out of the snow, while James provided the stranded with cups of tea.

Mrs McMahon said: "We were there for hours and the lads worked really hard in the freezing cold to get us out and then we all came to the pub afterwards to warm up.

"The police came to help for some of it, but it is a bit annoying because that road is very busy and nobody bothered to close it off.

"People just kept turning down it, unaware that they wouldn't be able to get through."

Clubbers stranded in city blizzard >>

Clubbers stranded in city blizzard

THOUSANDS of clubbers were forced to take shelter early yesterday after blizzard conditions left them trapped in a city centre.

Around 3,000 people were stranded in Glasgow after more than 8ins of snow fell in the city centre.

The heavy snowfall meant there were no taxis available to take revellers home when they left clubs.

Police organised for the city's Garage nightclub to remain open as a shelter along with Central Hotel and Buchanan Bus Station.

Meanwhile, Shawbury in Shropshire was one of the worst affected areas yesterday, with 8cm of snow.

And PA WeatherCentre forecaster Paul Mott said there could be more snow on the way in the East.

He said: "Across England it is already easing from the West and is turning to sleet and rain.

"But eastern areas will have another few hours of snow, which could perhaps be quite heavy in places such as Newcastle.

"However, it should turn drier overnight, though it will feel very cold."

But he added the worst of the snow should be over, saying: "The conditions for much of the UK should be improving over the next 24 hours.

"The worst of the snow across Scotland is moving away now and it should become a little less cold with occasional drizzle and rain overnight. Across the higher ground in Scotland it could turn icy, with the possibility of some drifting snow."

Watch out for ice during rush hour, warn Met men >>

Watch out for ice during rush hour, warn Met men

FORECASTERS were predicting icy conditions last night and urged motorists to be extra careful in this morning's rush hour.

Anton Muscat, a Met Office forecaster, said: "It is not unusual for there to be snowfall in March in the North West, though this is the thickest snow Merseyside has seen for some time.

"The worst of the snow seems to be over and a bit of rain should clear it up.

"The thing to look out for now is the cold temperatures which could cause problem on roads, especially the ones that haven't been gritted.

"It won't be arctic temperatures but it will go towards freezing and that is all you need for the roads to freeze over.

"People need to be careful when they are going out and they shouldn't really use their cars unless they have to."

The snow was thought to have been more than 8cms deep by mid-morning and was still falling well into the afternoon.

Up until February 16 this year, there were eight snow days with a total snowfall of 5cms.