INDUSTRY chiefs warned last night that transport failures today could cost the economy hundreds of millions of pounds.
Forecasters predicted up to six inches (15cm) of snow could fall over the Midlands, South and Mid Wales and Ireland. Slightly less will fall across southern England during the rush hour.
Paul Knightley, forecaster for MeteoGroup UK, the weather division of the Press Association, said, 'It's going to be pretty dire. It's enough to bring the transport system into chaos.'
David Frost, Director-General of the British Chambers of Commerce, said, 'The impact of this weather forecast on Britain will be huge.
'It is expected that the lateness and loss of work hours caused by transport disruptions will cost the British economy up to £400m.
'UK workers already have to deal with constantly delayed and over-crowded trains for which they pay exorbitant fares.
'This situation highlights the need for a real change in the current UK travel infrastructure.'
Network Rail warned passengers to check services are running before setting off for their morning commute.
He recommended that travellers 'get up a little bit earlier' and call National Rail Enquiries on 08457 48 49 50 or visit www.nationalrail.co.uk before setting off.
Drivers were also advised to check weather forecasts and road conditions before they travel.
Council gritters were on high alert, while the Highways Agency said 400 salt-spreading vehicles were on stand-by.
It advised drivers against travel in severe weather unless their journey was essential and urged people to listen to travel bulletins while on the road.
They were also told to make sure they are prepared, with warm clothes, food, water, boots, de-icer, a torch and spade, particularly for long journeys.
More than a quarter (26%) of motorists head out in their vehicles wearing little more than a T-shirt, regardless of the temperature outside, claimed the AA.