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Highways Agency report to Secretary of State for Transport in response to Winter Resilience Review

Executive Summary

Intense snow fall on 30 November 2010 caused disruption to all roads in south east London and North Kent. Traffic incidents caused congestion, including a number of large goods vehicles losing traction and getting stuck on local roads and on motorway junctions with steep gradients. Minor collisions in poor weather conditions then caused traffic to slow or stop.

Delays continued into the night on adjoining sections of M25 at Dartford Crossing and in the Reigate area. Access to the maintenance depot at Swanley was blocked, preventing spreaders and ploughs from getting onto the M25 to treat and clear in a timely manner.

The Highways Agency's basic systems and processes, including contractual arrangements for treating the road and clearing snow are sound. But there were shortcomings in handling the particular incident, and in particular in co-ordination of clearance.

The Highways Agency took immediate action to address operational shortcomings, and the Agency and its contractors managed the network effectively throughout the very severe weather in December 2010.

There are opportunities to improve the effectiveness of communications to road users, and to make use of the rapidly developing mobile technology that gives road users access to sources for information.

There is a need for a public understanding that during periods of heavy snow fall traffic movement will be impeded, and work needs to be done with freight industry bodies and operators of large goods vehicles to reduce the number of the single incidents that have a disproportionate impact on the wider network. In addition, there is a need for messages to road users to say that HA and other road operators need time and clear access to clear snow - which simply cannot be done on heavily congested roads.