AMBULANCE bosses have warned people to take extra care with heavy snow showers expected to hit the North-East today (Friday, January 18).

Freezing temperatures will grip the region, with experts predicting the biggest snowfall of the winter and widespread disruption to travel routes and services.

Prolonged sleet and snow showers will spread across the North-East throughout the day, with forecasters expecting about five inches of snow to fall and temperatures to drop to -4C.

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The North East Ambulance Service NHS Trust has warned people to take extra care when walking on icy pavements, and rail passengers on the East Coast Mainline are advised to check services before travelling.

Motorists have been told not to drive unless their journey is necessary.

Paul Liversidge, Chief Operating Officer for North-East Ambulance Service, said it was dealing with an increase in patient numbers due to the weather, with people suffering from breathing difficulties, weather-related falls, and injuries from traffic collisions.

He urged people to only call for an ambulance in emergency cases.

He said: “Staff are working extremely hard to get to people but the hazardous conditions may mean it might take us a little longer than normal to reach patients.

“We urge people to take extra care and avoid travelling in icy and snowy conditions if they don’t have to go out.

“We ask that people only use our services in a genuine emergency when someone has a life-threatening illness or injury.”

A spokesman for train operator East Coast said it was lifting ticket restrictions on all services arriving and departing from London King’s Cross after 10am today, and encouraged customers to travel before 6pm, when heavier snowfall is predicted.

He added: “We are constantly monitoring predicted weather conditions and heavier snowfalls are expected between the North-East and Peterborough throughout the afternoon and evening.

“Engineering teams will be based at key points on our route to keep trains moving, while Network Rail will have snow ploughs to keep tracks clear.”

The worst of the weather is expected in the North-West of the UK, with parts of England and Wales facing up to seven inches of snow and blizzard conditions.