Reducing winter disruption: audit identifies critical measures to improve the transport system

As the UK heads towards the coldest December for over 100 years, an independent audit of how England’s transport systems coped with the recent severe winter weather has today presented its findings.  It recommends further measures to enable national Government, local councils, transport providers and the public in England better to manage and respond to winter weather.

The audit is based on the first episode of severe weather (Wednesday 24th November to Thursday 9th December).  It was commissioned by Government ministers and undertaken by transport expert David Quarmby; it makes eight recommendations covering the road and rail sectors.

These build on the earlier conclusions and recommendations made in the Interim and Final Reports of the main Winter Resilience Review, which David Quarmby led, and which were published in July and October.  The key findings and recommendations in his audit are:

Speaking about the Audit, David Quarmby said:

“After two exceptional winters, the country has just experienced one of the earliest spells of severe weather for many years – with a further spell right now.  All this has placed great pressure on the transport system and the people who work at the sharp end of keeping things going - from local authorities, train and air operators, to contractors and the salt suppliers.

Across the sector many have coped admirably, keeping roads open and public transport running.  But there are still lessons to be learned: all local authorities need to ensure that their winter plans follow good practice wherever possible.

Train operators coped well but there are still improvements to be made.  Crucially I have said that the railway should not rely so much on electronic systems for passenger information and must develop robust back-up methods for keeping passengers properly informed.  And the whole issue of third rail power supply south of the Thames needs to be reviewed.

Most airports did not shut, but Gatwick faced unprecedented snow falls, and all will need to review whether further investment in winter resilience is called for.”

Notes for editors

1. David Quarmby CBE, is currently chairman of the RAC Foundation, and a non-executive director of Abellio Group (the UK subsidiary of Netherland Railways).  He is a former director of consultants Colin Buchanan and former chairman of the Strategic Rail Authority.  David led the independent Winter Resilience Review earlier this year, which reported to the Secretary of State on how the resilience of England’s transport system to winter weather could be improved.

2. Following the recent spell of severe weather the Secretary of State asked David to undertake a further audit of how the transport sector had responded, in particular in light of the recommendations made in his earlier Reports.  The Audit was conducted over two weeks from Monday 29th November.  David consulted with a variety of sources, including local authorities and their representatives, national Government, the Highways Agency, the Met Office and aviation and rail organisations.

3. On the earlier Winter Resilience Review, David Quarmby CBE, Brian Smith and Chris Green were asked by the Secretary of State for Transport in March 2010 to review the winter resilience of England’s roads and transport systems, based on the experience of the winters of 2008/09 and 2009/10.

4. The Review Panel published their Interim Report on 26th July which made 17 recommendations on highway authorities’ winter maintenance, the road salt supply chain, public expectations, weather forecasting and self-help by the public, and focused particularly on the need to keep our road network moving in the event of snow and ice.  Their Final Report was published on 22nd October and made a further 11 recommendations covering the rail and aviation sectors, the supply chain for road salt, and wider issues for the whole transport sector.

5. The Winter Resilience Audit Report, and both the Final and Interim Reports from the main Review are available at: http://transportwinterresilience.independent.gov.uk/.

6. Press enquiries should be directed to 020 7944 2770 (07979 817243).