Snow, ice and freezing conditions have disrupted road traffic across Europe, with the UK, France, Germany and the Netherlands amongst the worst hit.

Dutch authorities imposed a 50km/h speed limit on a number of motorways, while snowy roads have also caused traffic problems across Sweden. In Moscow, 9,000 snow ploughs were in action, while some roads were at a virtual standstill.

The UK’s Met Office had warned of severe snow and ice over much of the country, where Southern England and South Wales were forecasted to have 5-20cm of snowfall and further heavy snow for much of Scotland and north-east England.

Highway chiefs have already used nearly half of their winter stocks of salt, and forecasters have predicted that the big freeze will continue well past Christmas, prompting a number of councils across the west of England to ration their supplies of grit.

Wiltshire has already used 7,000t of the 13,700t ordered, and has now asked for extra supplies from the national reserve.

In Plymouth, only major routes have been gritted with supplies. Somerset has used 2,000t of grit over the last two weeks and has asked for more supplies, according to motoring advocacy group RAC Foundation.

According to the UK’s TaxPayers’ Alliance, councils have ordered less road salt than last year; 1.48 million tons in 2010/11, against under 1.51 million tons last year, while 75 of the 205 UK councils surveyed have not received all of this year’s road salt order.