Ministers look at extra funding to keep transport moving in winter
Johnstone | 13 September 2011
The government confirmed today that
it is considering spending more to protect the transport network in severe
winter, after last December’s snow cost the UK economy £280m a day.
It is also going to examine whether
the Met Office needs extra investment to provide more detailed weather
The Department for Transport was
responding to the Commons transport select committee’s May report, Keeping the UK moving: the impact on
transport of the winter weather in December 2010.
Last year’s weather disruption is believed
to have cost the economy 0.5% of gross domestic product growth, and was blamed
by Chancellor George Osborne for the economy shrinking by that amount in the last quarter of 2010.
government’s response states: ‘The DfT is working with economic and scientific
colleagues across government to review the evidence on winter weather patterns,
and test whether current levels of investment in winter resilience are
The DfT has
also confirmed that the rail industry is examining the case for replacing the
third rail system, which provides electric current to trains south of London
via an electrified rail on the tracks, with overhead cables, which are less
likely to freeze and disrupt services. However, the department said that, ahead
of the recommendations from the industry: ‘It would be premature to commit to
the very substantial investment which such a change would involve’.
response concluded: ‘There are lessons to be learned from our performance in
every bout of bad weather and it is important that we learn those now. That is
why the government agrees with the transport select committee that more can still
be done. The focus of the department and the transport operators should be on
continuously making improvements to the resilience of transport networks whilst
learning any lessons quickly to ensure we can better meet any future winter
Louise Ellman, chair of the transport select committee,
said it was ‘essential’ that the government and transport operators learnt the
lessons of the past two winters.
‘Better planning for winter resilience combined with
better information for drivers and passengers during periods of disruption can
keep Britain moving,’ she said.
‘This winter will be a test of whether enough has
been done to keep our airports, roads and railways open during snowy weather.’