DfT to launch review into effects of severe weather

30 Mar 10
The government has announced it will be conducting a review into how the severe weather conditions affected transport in England this winter
By Jaimie Kaffash

30 March 2010

The government has announced it will be conducting a review into how the severe weather conditions affected transport in England this winter.

The Department for Transport said that the transport networks had ‘coped well in the circumstances’ in what has been the coldest winter for 30 years. However, it added, there were still problems over the availability of salt and there was disruption ‘across most modes of transport’.

The review will be in two phases, with the first phase – to be published this summer – concentrating on short-term measures for this coming winter. The second phase will concentrate on long-term recommendations for future winters and will be published in the autumn. 

The review panel will be chaired by David Quarmby, who is the current chair of the RAC Foundation, and former chief executive of the Strategic Rail Authority. The other two members will be Brian Smith, the assistant chief executive of Cambridgeshire County Council and Chris Green, the former chief executive of Virgin Trains, who will join the review panel in June after stepping down from his role as non-executive director of Network Rail.

Transport networks were criticised for their performance during the 2008/09 winter. This was followed by reviews from the Transport select committee, the London Assembly, the Local Government Association and the UK Roads Liason Group, with the availability of salt and grit being especially criticised. The DfT said the forthcoming review would complement the recommendations already made. 

Transport Secretary Andrew Adonis said: ‘Following a decade of relatively mild weather, the UK has now experienced two harsh winters in succession. For the most part our transport networks have coped well, but there are lessons that can be learned in order to improve our resilience for future winters.’

Transport committee chair and Labour MP Louise Ellman told Public Finance that the recommendations from the select committee report ‘were being acted upon and this takes it a stage further’ and welcomed the recognition of changing weather patterns.

She added that the review should focus on the success of the Salt Cell scheme, a partnership between local and central government that co-ordinates the supply of salt to areas in need.

She said: ‘Some lessons were learnt and the Salt Cell system enabled the Highways Agency, working with local government, to keep a greater stock of salt and grit. But it didn’t do enough in [pushing its] recommendations for an adequate amount of stocks to be held. Some local authorities kept to the recommendations, some didn’t and there was frustration from the local authorities who kept the right amount of supplies when stocks were moved elsewhere.'

Her colleague on the select committee, Mark Pritchard, a Conservative MP, told PF: ‘It is disappointing the government announced another review given the problems facing the country when bad weather hits.

‘It is self-evident that what is needed is national political leadership, working more closely with national and regional government bodies. The cost to UK industry has been significant and has been made worse by slow decision-making processes, poor planning and lack of joined-up thinking and strategic co-ordination – action is needed, not more expensive DFT reports to be conveniently buried away.’

Did you enjoy this article?