The North-west seems to have escaped the worst of the weather as a blanket of heavy snow fell across many parts of the UK.

As the Met Office issued a severe weather warning for England, Wales and Northern Ireland, industry chiefs warned that transport failures could cost the economy hundreds of millions of pounds.

The snow began to fall in the early hours of this morning, with southern areas and the Midlands particularly badly affected.

Virgin trains from Liverpool and Manchester to London Euston were operating a reduced service.

Snowfall had stretched north as far as Lancashire and a severe weather warning was in force for Cheshire, the Met Office said, but the region looked set to avoid the worst of the weather.

A forecaster for MeteoGroup UK, the weather division of the Press Association, said: "There is already quite a bit of heavy snow.

"It is inching its way northwards and has reached Liverpool."

He added that the weather was "the most widespread snow event of the winter".