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Call over winter transport issues

Fri, 03 Jan 2014

MORE MUST BE DONE to enable transport systems to cope with bad winter weather, a report by MPs said today.

Recent floods and gales showed that disruption was not just caused by snow, the report by the House of Commons Transport Committee said.

Transport's winter resilience had improved but there was a risk that a few years of mild winter weather "could lead to a false sense of security and reduce the sector's preparedness over the longer term", the report said.

The committee said:

:: It is vital that passengers receive up-to-date information of changes and disruption whenever possible;

:: More needs to be done to keep pavements clear of snow and ice;

:: A national advertising campaign should highlight that the public can clear snow and ice from outside their homes without fear of legal action and should consider doing so;

:: The transport sector must work closely with the Met Office and other forecasters to understand the challenges posed by different types of severe weather;

:: The Highways Agency should review the barriers to providing comprehensive real-time information to drivers, identify technological and other solutions for doing so, particularly during periods of disruption, and develop a strategy to implement these solutions across England's major road network;

Launching the report today, Mrs Ellman said: "Disruption to transport is not just caused by snow. We saw recently the impact of severe storms and flooding on transport services.

"At Gatwick, thousands of passengers were stranded over the Christmas period due to a power failure during stormy weather. The CAA must get to the bottom of what went wrong and how airports across the country can avoid similar situations in the future."

She went on: "We recognise that some progress has been made by Government and transport providers to improve public information and passenger welfare during severe weather. In particular, pro-active decision-making by rail and aviation operators to reduce or cancel services ahead of a major event has reduced disruption."

"Nevertheless, we believe there remains considerable scope for further improvement across the transport sector."

A Department for Transport spokesman said: "We welcome the committee's report and we will consider its findings.

"Transport operators have been working hard to keep the public informed during the recent severe weather, but they should not be complacent and must continue to explore how best to keep the country moving during bad weather."

Peter Box, the chairman of the Local Government Association's economy and transport board, said councils were "as prepared as ever if the cold weather arrives with 1.4 million tonnes of salt stockpiled".

He went on: "Councils will treat as many roads as possible and have also filled thousands of community grit bins and recruited volunteers to help people clear pavements, paths and side streets when needed.

"It is pleasing that this report acknowledges the need to raise awareness that there is no law against people clearing pavements or public spaces."

Mr Box added that there was "real concern about the damage another harsh winter or continued extreme flooding could have on our road network".

This was "coupled with the Government's own traffic projections predicting an increase in local traffic of more than 40% by 2040".

He went on: "Such an increase would mean there is an even greater need for increased and consistent funding to invest in the widespread resurfacing projects which our dilapidated network desperately needs if we're to see a long-term improvement and to avoid large-scale disruptions becoming unavoidable."

By Peter Woodman, Press Association