Impact on transport of recent adverse weather conditions

Written evidence from the rail industry’s National Task Force (AWC 13)

1. Introduction

This submission is provided by the rail industry’s National Task Force (NTF) [1] . It is based on information provided to the second Quarmby review in mid December 2010 as updated by further reviews and analysis carried out within each constituent part of the industry.

2. Context

2.1. When considering the performance of the rail industry, it is very important to recognise that, during the recent cold spells, the weather was colder and there was more snow than for many years [2] .

2.2. Between the middle of November and the first week of January the UK experienced two distinct, very cold spells with widespread snowfall. December 2010 was the coldest December on record since 1890 with average maximum temperatures 4.6 degrees below average across England and Wales and average minimum temperatures 5.7 degrees below average. Where snowfields formed there were exceptionally low temperatures of around -20 degrees.

2.3. In addition to low temperatures, there were severe disruptive snowfalls badly affecting large parts of the country. Many areas had snow depths of over 20cms, with some spots exceeding 30-40cms and parts of north east England and east Scotland experiencing local depths fo 50-80cms

2.4. While the cold spells of the winter of 2009 and 2010 were of a similar magnitude, 2010 was different in that the extreme overnight minimum temperatures were more widespread, the severe cold lasted slightly longer and snowfall was more geographically widespread.

2.5. The first spell of cold weather in 2010 came much earlier than normal – in recent years the industry would still have been dealing with the quite different effects of autumn until early December. There were also considerable variations – both across the network and day to day – with the changes sometimes being sudden and rapid.

2.6. Scotland and the north of England, particularly the North East, were affected by snow and extreme cold throughout and were therefore badly disrupted. Elsewhere many other operators continued to provide good services given the circumstances. In the South East the two cold spells were each shorter than last year but more severe. Details of variations in snow fall and temperature are at Appendix 1.

2.7. The NTF was already monitoring a number of workstreams and projects that the industry had developed to deal with more severe winter weather following the cold spell during the 2009/10 winter. The key ones were aimed at addressing the following issues and are covered in more detail in this submission:

· Improving the performance of the direct current (DC) network and rolling stock in the South East

· Developing contingency timetables when either infrastructure or rolling stock is unavailable

· Providing more accurate and timely information to passengers.

3. Managing the risks of seasonal and other unusual events

3.1. Over many years the industry has developed and refined standard processes for dealing with variations to normal planned services, whether they are network wide or local. The industry has also established seasonal planning arrangements that consider winter performance and preparation in particular. As the infrastructure controller, Network Rail plays a central, co-ordinating role for these issues within the industry with train operating companies (TOCs and FOCs) as active partners. Amendments to train plans / timetables are generally proposed by operators, coordinated by Network Rail and implemented through the industry’s joint Route Controls.

3.2. For mitigating the effect of winter weather these measures include:

· An annual seasonal weather conference held in September and attended by up to 180 key staff from within and outside the rail industry. This draws on a wide range of experience from the UK and abroad and is led by Network Rail.

· Preparing key route strategies for each Network Rail route and contingency timetables for specific train operators. These are based on a range of structured scenarios that anticipate short term reductions in infrastructure availability and/or the provision of rolling stock and staff. This is led jointly by Network Rail at a route level and each operator, for their own services.

· Providing updated detailed weather forecasts [3] as a trigger to moving to a daily network wide weather conference call. This is led by Network Rail, takes place at 10:00 and 16:00 and includes all train operators and representatives from other relevant stakeholder organisations such as the Department for Transport, Transport Scotland, the Office of Rail Regulation, the British Transport Police and Transport for London.

· Network Rail coordinating the delivery of specialist plant to mitigate the impact of snow and/or ice on the infrastructure where this may affect train operation – resources include snow ploughs, multi purpose vehicles (MPVs) to try to prevent ice sticking to the conductor rail etc – and the operation of service trains to keep the network clear e.g. "ghost trains". In many cases, train operators will provide resources to operate ghost trains on Network Rail’s behalf.

· More detailed local planning, led jointly by Network Rail and train operators, at route and operator level after the national conference call to finalise the proposed next day train service (planning Day B on Day A) in the light of prevailing and emerging conditions.

· Providing timely and accurate information to passengers, freight operators and other parties. This aspect is described in more detail below, and is led by train operators with Network Rail providing the base timetable data for systems.

3.3. In developing these plans both operators and Network Rail need to consider a wide range of issues such as:

· The availability of staff to keep the infrastructure open, to plan and operate services and to provide additional resources at stations and elsewhere. Their journey to work may also be affected by the conditions and perhaps in a location with different prevailing conditions.

· An assessment of how much of the infrastructure is likely to be available based on the forecast at the time. An earlier decision (on Day A) gives more time for detailed planning and communication but may be less accurate locally. Furthermore, the forecast may change during the course of the day. It has not been uncommon for the forecast for precise locations and the severity of snowfall to change in the 24 hours leading up to the event.

· The impact of snow and ice on rolling stock [4] . Operating a reduced or slower service significantly reduces damage in service and therefore also quickens the restoration of a normal service once the weather has improved - a trade off is made between service provision in the severe weather and shorter or longer recovery from the damage that occurs. However it has a major impact on performance and capacity.

· There is also a need to reconcile the more passenger-oriented key route strategies with the needs of freight operators to access branch lines and freight terminals. This is particularly important where rail freight is relied upon by other key parts of Britain’s infrastructure e.g. to supply coal to power stations and salt to local highway authorities [5] .

· Interaction between operators’ preferences. On the many route sections with a mix of traffic there is a requirement to reconcile differences between each operator’s contingency timetable. [6]

· Usually in these circumstances operators seek to provide the maximum capacity possible and consciously at the expense of reliability. When other modes are struggling, and it becomes vital to provide capacity to move as many passengers as possible, some operators will rightly opt for volume over performance [7] . But this must be a balance between prudence and ambition. On more intense commuter networks during difficult snow and ice conditions, it is generally better to focus on keeping the main routes open and potentially close the network slightly earlier in the evening where the weather forecast suggests that network operating conditions may deteriorate than risk passenger trains becoming stranded in remote locations [8] - hence the key route strategies and the importance of early and accurate information.

4. Provision of Passenger Information

4.1. It has been acknowledged elsewhere that the industry takes very seriously the provision of timely and accurate information. It fully recognises that providing poor information to passengers and others, through whatever channel and at whatever point in their journey, including prior to deciding whether or not to travel, adds to annoyance and distress.

4.2. While there have been some welcome overall improvements, the industry recognises that there were still significant problems encountered locally, especially in the first cold spell. The intent remains to provide customers, at any point during their journeys or while planning them, sufficient accurate consistent real time information for them to make informed choices about their options. The main issues are set out below:

4.2.1. Implementing contingency timetables. This is a complex process as it covers a rapid and short term assessment of the likely availability of infrastructure, staff and rolling stock which must then be integrated into very detailed and integrated plans. Furthermore, while it may not be appropriate for every operator to move to a contingency timetable, there needs to be a significant degree of integration between each operator’s customer-driven preferences as the network is operated on the day. In addition the prevailing weather situation itself will change, sometimes very rapidly.

4.2.2. Uploading contingency timetables. The new timetabling system introduced by Network Rail, ITPS, enables contingency timetables to be loaded for the first time directly into downstream passenger information systems. Examples of the wide range of systems that depend on this data include National Rail Enquiries (NRE), train operator station information systems, online journey planner tools, live departure board information etc [9] . Previously contingency timetables could only be loaded directly in to the back office operational systems used by the industry and took two days to reach customer-facing systems. The industry has therefore shortened this to a next day availability since the severe weather in January 2010. The cut off time for upload is now 17.00 Day A for Day B with the relevant operator and route making a decision to implement the contingency timetable no later than 13:00 in order for operational planning staff to process the timetable changes.

4.2.3. Downstream provision of information. Early in 2010 NRE [10] began a programme to enhance key systems to improve their performance after the previous winter. External consultants validated the improvements prior to the latest severe weather through a full load test based on the demand on 7 January 2010 and confirmed the enhancements had been successful.

4.2.4. NRE had additionally introduced new and updated services since January 2010 including:

· Social Media: proactive messages can now be sent to NRE’s followers on Twitter and Facebook as well as SMS subscribers [11] .

· National Service Indicator (NSI): giving an overview of the network by operator and route affected went live on 28 October 2010 and had over 1 million views during the bad weather;

· NRE Helpline: which gives passengers direct access to recorded information went live on 1/12/10.

5. Actual Service Delivery

5.1. As the cold weather developed the industry geared up towards its normal response mode with the first national conference on 1 December 2010 [12] . Generally it planned on Day A to operate 92% of a normal service on Day B (19,800 trains instead of 21,600). Six train operators chose to move to contingency timetables on most days and seven chose not to. Ten had not prepared them in detail.

5.2. Typically a further 12% trains were cancelled on the day in the light of prevailing conditions and/or operational issues with a further 18% running late giving a punctuality level (as measured by the Public Performance Measure, or PPM) for the revised plans of around 70%. The total number of passenger trains measured as on time each day was therefore around 13,800 compared with normal punctuality levels of 19,900 - 92% of 21,600 trains.

5.3. There were however wide variations by day, geography and operator (see Appendices 2 and 3). On some days the capacity provided by First Capital Connect, SouthEastern and Southern was less than 70% of normal. However London Overground ran 95% on average and maintained PPM at around 87%.

5.4. The lower levels of performance have had a major effect on the industry’s overall targets during Network Rail’s current five-year Control Period to April 2014. Before the recent autumn and winter the majority of the industry’s performance measures were at least a year ahead of the five-year trajectory for improvement. These two spells of bad weather have meant that all that progress and more has been lost – some measures have gone back two years. Network Rail is likely to miss virtually all its regulatory targets in 2010/11 and delay minutes attributable to train operators have risen to levels not seen since 2008.

5.5. Whilst performance is now beginning to recover, the rolling stock fleet suffers the effects of damage from snow and ice for some time after the snow has melted. To run trains at their full length in order to maximise capacity for passengers, a proportion of rolling stock is in service with known defects and other deferred maintenance. This has the potential to continue to affect service resilience in the event of further train system failures. As a result of the extent of the problem and the choice to prioritise capacity, this situation will take several months to completely rectify.

5.6. The intense cold and now the more recent thaw have also affected aspects of the infrastructure. Like the rolling stock, some routine maintenance had to be delayed and, in addition, a number of large renewal jobs had to be cancelled.

5.7. This was the first major test of the rail industry’s new processes for providing better passenger information (i.e. contingency timetables, uploaded via ITPS, directly fed to train operator and NRE systems) and it led to some local errors causing the base timetable data file to be inaccurate. For example on a few occasions, some train operators were displaying incorrect or duplicate timetables – on websites and at stations. These input errors were corrected manually where possible - a labour intensive task. The reasons behind the base data provision problems were quickly identified and actions were taken which meant that the process worked much more reliably in the second bout of snow.

5.8. Although there were quality problems with the data feed to NRE, their new systems worked well from a performance perspective. During the severe weather their channels experienced unprecedented demand - the website recorded volumes 50% higher than the previous (7 January 2010) high, peaking at 162,000 visits in an hour and totalling 2 million visits on the busiest day. The website response times remained within specified service levels and pages were served with no variance to a normal day. This compares favourably to 12 months ago when many customers experienced slow responses. Demand to the contact centres was also high, with call volumes reaching four to five times the normal volume. Queues were long, but a high capacity speech recognition service offering all timetable and real time information was also available to callers.

5.9. Four train operator websites did shut down for short periods under the load of additional demand although where this happened some replaced their normal service with links to the National Rail Enquiries site. All other TOC sites coped with the high levels of demand they faced, following a programme of investment during 2010 in response to the experience during the 2009/10 winter.

6. Comparisons with winter 09/10 and Europe

6.1. In general, the majority of the train operator and Network Rail plans implemented after the January 2010 event were reasonably effective across most of the network. Point heaters generally worked, except for example where cable theft removed the power supply; fewer train doors froze in service despite the longer, lower temperatures; ghost trains ran to keep the infrastructure clear of forming ice and prevent points from freezing; and de-icing supplies were robust.

6.2. Train operators adversely affected by traction motor failures last year had taken preventative measures to limit the impact of ice and snow. Generally these were successful, but this year other train operators that had not experienced problems last year suffered as a result of the more extreme weather encountered. In addition, new failure modes were witnessed by train operators this year that had not been seen previously. One of the most high profile failures of this winter reported in the media was directly as a result of the rolling stock being insulated from the traction supply due to the of amount of ice on the conductor rail. Horn socks worked on some fleets, so there is a need to identify the reasons for any differences in effectiveness. Coupler bags were a mixed benefit, for some services they were necessary at one part of the journey only and hence could introduce operational delays because the bags actually froze and took time to remove.

6.3. That said the sudden impact of the first cold spell took parts of the industry by surprise. Network Rail did not have all its equipment in proper working order and this affected performance on the DC (direct current) [13] network in the South East as the conductor rail could not be kept free of ice for reliable train operation. This situation was exacerbated by the fact that not all trains were initially operating in ‘ice mode’ and there were some units that had yet to be modified with the latest software. With hindsight, some basic operating mistakes were also made in implementing the key route strategies.

6.4. While many of the normal mitigations worked the severe nature of the weather was beyond the design limits of some equipment currently used and parts of the network became overwhelmed by snow or suffered because of the extreme cold.

6.5. The subsequent response in the South East to the second cold spell was much better even though it was more extensive than both the first one and that of the previous year. Volume and punctuality were much improved, as was information provision to passengers once the initial difficulties with the ITPS process had been resolved

6.6. Throughout much of Scotland and the north of England, the network remained under snow and the delivery of a decent service remained a considerable challenge.

6.7. Much of Europe also suffered. The summary at Appendix 3 is provided by the European Rail Infrastructure Managers group of which Network Rail is a member.

7. Opportunities for further improvement

7.1. Immediately after the onset of the cold weather, the NTF began a further review of the rail industry’s performance, building on the work started following the January 2010 snow event. For the DC network this is covering:

· Refinement of the traction control systems on some rolling stock. This will improve the resilience of the train to a degree of conductor rail icing by ensuring trains are in ‘ice mode’ when they should be and also ensure that the train’s main systems remain active even if the train becomes stranded, provided that good electrical contact can be established. This work is a continuation of work started in 2009.

· Provision of in service de-icing of the conductor rail by train operators’ trains in addition to Network Rail’s fleet of multi-purpose vehicles. This should provide a more extensive and accurate capability and is being piloted by SouthEastern with 20 units set to be modified. This pilot is part of the action plans from the lessons learned in January 2010.

· The further development of equipment to heat around 400m of conductor rail at stations and key junctions. This was piloted at 42 key locations in Kent and was found to greatly assist traction. Subject to the provision of funding, Network Rail intends to roll out this technology to further sites across Kent, Sussex and Wessex at a cost of £16m subject to identifying the necessary funding. The pilot was again part of the action plans from January 2010 (see the picture below).

· The precise mix of actions will be agreed between the train operator and the route reflecting the businesses needs and, where they exist, differences in geography, operation and location.

· Static anti-icing track applicators operated by the passage of trains have been developed and are under test at Littlehampton and Oxted to assess their suitability in both depot and mainline conditions. This pilot is part of the action plan / lessons learnt from January 2010.

· Different chemicals to treat the conductor rail. The University of Birmingham has tested a variety of fluids for their anti-icing capability and their ability to stick to the conductor rail in rain or when a train passes.

· In addition 19 MPVs are to be modified to provide them with the capability to lay hot fluids. Initial tests of the heating and distribution equipment were successful and the first prototype will be entering service shortly.

· Longer term options to replace the DC system with overhead electrification are also being considered.

7.2. For operations across the rest of the network, the NTF is reviewing a range of issues including: provision, volume and function of snow clearing equipment, management of overhead wires in extreme cold and responding to large scale icing and thawing [14] . Temporary covers to keep snow from switches and crossings are being installed, protection for clamplock points being damaged by ice on train undersides has been designed and additional points heating equipment is being installed in some locations.

7.3. The NTF is driving ongoing work (begun early in 2010) in several areas in order to provide passengers with better information:

7.3.1. Embedding implementation of the industry information code of practice in Controls; this will be informed by an audit report undertaken at NTF’s request by the ORR to assess compliance during the December 2010 snow.

7.3.2. Improvements to timetabling: while the new processes work well and are much better than what was available, they are still rather inflexible. There is currently a ten to twelve hour window between the 17.00 cut off for uploading contingency timetables and publication by NRE and train operator websites which normally occurs by 03:00 but can take up to 05:00. A review of the effectiveness and flexibility of this process in relation to timely and accurate information provision to passengers is underway.

7.3.3. Improving the effective dissemination of real time information to staff and passengers, addressing the cultural points raised by David Quarmby in his most recent report.

7.3.4. Providing one common national feed of information to station departure board screens through a radical programme of changes to over 60 systems – Phase 1 is underway with Virgin Trains with further investment of £3m planned.

7.3.5. NRE is upgrading its journey planning systems to ensure that late changes to timetables (those only available after the contingency timetable upload) are available to passengers. Work is underway to assess how the latest timetable information may be made available through other journey planning, retailing and staff systems.

7.4. The industry guidance for stations and other areas was revised and re-issued in summer 2010. Train operators reported relatively low levels of slipping, tripping and falling accidents given the conditions.

8. Summary

8.1. The cold weather experienced in the UK in late November and December 2010, in terms of its specific geographical impacts, often fast changing nature and two extreme spells within an exceptionally cold December, posed major challenges not just to the rail network but to the country’s transport system in general.

8.2. In responding to such weather, the rail industry was able to draw on processes which have been developed and refined over many years. The industry had also previously identified plans to deal better with extreme winter weather following the January 2010 cold spell. Some were in place by late November, and in most cases their implementation was reasonably effective across most of the network. Others, given their nature, were still in the process of being prepared. After the first extreme spell in the most recent bout of winter weather, the industry learned lessons which enabled it to cope better during the second extreme spell.

8.3. The combined result of the particular features of the late November/December 2010 weather, and the measures taken by the industry to manage its impacts, was that some aspects of service delivery and provision of passenger information worked well under the circumstances, but others did not. The ability of the industry to respond as it did owes much to the hard work and dedication of thousands of railway staff, many of whom worked in very testing conditions. But there are still areas of weakness that need addressing.

8.4. The effectiveness of the industry’s response to the first of the more recent cold spells was covered in the second Quarmby review, and the industry’s input was reflected in the recommendations contained in the subsequent report, which we welcome. We are continuing to take forward initiatives identified following the January 2010 cold weather, but many of the issues raised by Quarmby are complex and solutions are not immediate. These will continue to be considered in greater depth and will be tracked by the National Task Force. Where more immediate solutions are not available options will be incorporated into the Initial Industry Plan for Control Period 5 (2014-19) which will set out in September 2010 the industry’s thinking on how it can meet the needs of rail users and funders in the longer term.

Appendices

1. Trends in temperature and snow fall, 14 November 2010 to 7 January 2011

2. Service delivery for franchised passenger operators

3. Comparisons with other European Railways


Appendix 1

Trends in temperature and snow fall

14 November 2010 to 7 January 2011


Appendix 2

Service delivery for franchised passenger operators

Appendix 3

% plan and PPM by train operator

February 2011

Written evidence from the Department for Transport (AWC 12)

INTRODUCTION

1. The weather experienced in December 2010 followed two previous severe winters. The Meteorological Office has since confirmed that December 2010 was the coldest December since 1910 and the snowfall encountered was the most widespread in any December since 1981.

2. The experience of the last two winters led the previous Government to invite David Quarmby CBE to chair an Independent Review of Winter Resilience, which reported in October 2010 and made 28 recommendations (Hereafter "the Quarmby Review").

3. When severe weather and attendant disruption was first experienced this winter, the Secretary of State for Transport asked David Quarmby to follow up his Panel’s earlier Review with an urgent Audit of how well highway authorities and transport operators in England had coped with the cold weather between 24th November and 9th December 2010, and whether his earlier recommendations had been implemented (Hereafter "the Quarmby Audit"). This Audit Report was published on 21st December and made a further eight recommendations.

4. All of this evidence is now feeding into consideration by the Department for Transport and by external transport partners about how best to deliver resilience against severe winter weather in the future, and the full set of recommendations from the Review and Audit are included as an annex to this evidence.

Role of DfT and application of lessons to the transport sector

5. For those areas of transport where the Department for Transport is not itself the operator (which is, in effect, the whole of transport system apart from strategic roads) the Department’s role, ahead of a crisis, is to communicate risks to operators and promote preparedness. During periods of crisis, including severe weather, that require a level of coordination between Government Departments and between operators, it seeks to facilitate that coordination through activating its emergency arrangements. In December 2010, in addition to DfT’s own coordination arrangements, the Secretary of State also chaired meetings of a cross-Departmental Winter Resilience Network set up under the auspices of the Cabinet Office.

6. Our rapid follow-up to the Quarmby Review ensured that we were better prepared for the winter weather than in previous years. The Government accepted all the Review’s recommendations and pushed forward progress on them, so that where these apply directly to the Government all have either been completed or are currently being implemented. The Government also encouraged, and continues to encourage, local authorities and other transport operators to implement all the Review’s recommendations where they relate to them. In looking at this area, the Quarmby Audit concluded that "pretty well all the Recommendations we made in our main Review that could have been implemented by now have been, and that others with longer timescales are generally in process."

7. Overall, the transport response this winter was significantly improved by the action that had been taken to implement the Quarmby recommendations. Some disruption from such cold conditions must always be expected, as we saw in other European countries, including those more accustomed to severe winters. However it seems clear that disruption would have been worse without the rapid action taken to implement the recommendations of the Quarmby Review

8. There remains the difficult question of how much investment in transport can be justified, based on reasonable expectation of weather conditions likely to be faced in the UK. I therefore asked for scientific advice as to whether changes in winter weather patterns might merit increased investment in winter resilience from the Government’s Chief Scientific Advisor, Sir John Beddington, as well as my Chief Scientific Advisor, Brian Collins. This is a complex area where uncertain projections about the precise nature of climate change need to be weighed alongside indefinite calculations of the cost of investment and the long-term costs of severe winters. It also affects many areas of public and private spending, not transport alone. I have therefore asked my officials to consider, along with expert colleagues in other Government Departments, to what extent there is an argument and business case for potential increased investment levels in winter resilience.

9. The impacts of the different spells of severe weather varied by mode of transport as well as by region. In particular, the main impact for Aviation arose after the Quarmby Audit. This evidence has therefore been presented by transport mode so that it is clear in each case what was experienced, what preparations had been made and what actions are being taken forward as a consequence.

AVIATION

10. The first spell of snowfall and freezing conditions between 30 November and 3 December mainly affected airports on the UK’s eastern side, with several (Aberdeen, Bournemouth, Durham Tees Valley, Edinburgh, Humberside, London City, Robin Hood, Southampton) suspending operations temporarily at various times to allow snow and ice clearance. Delays and cancellations were experienced at other airports due to the knock-on effects of disruption at other weather-affected airports in UK and on mainland Europe.

11. However, the main focus was on Gatwick which was forced by heavy snowfall early on 1 December to suspend operations to allow snow clearance operations on its single runway. Subsequent further snowfall meant that Gatwick was unable to resume operations until early on Friday 3 December – almost 48 hours later. London’s other main airports – Heathrow and Stansted – were less severely affected by snow and remained operational throughout, although airlines experienced delays and cancellations caused by disruption elsewhere.

12. The second severe weather spell from 16 December caused repeated disruption to UK airports’ operations, including temporary service suspensions at Aberdeen, Belfast International, Belfast City, and Norwich. Gatwick suspended operations for five hours on 18 December. Most significantly from the public and media perspective, however, Heathrow experienced very heavy snowfall during 18 December followed by over 20 hours of freezing temperatures, forcing the suspension of flight operations. BAA immediately initiated procedures to clear snow and ice from airport runway and taxiway surfaces, but progress to recover flight operations was slowed because more than 200 aircraft had been frozen on to parking stands. The delicate operation of clearing snow and ice from occupied stands caused significant delays, and the airport was only able to restart very limited flight operations from early on Monday 20 December. Thereafter, however, Heathrow saw a progressive build-up of flights and a return to a near-normal operational schedule by the evening of Wednesday 22 December.

13. The resulting suspension of flights at Heathrow and time taken to restore normal operations caused major disruption and distress to passengers. In response airport operators and airlines put in place a number of passenger welfare arrangements, including offering stranded passengers hotel accommodation. However reports suggest that some passengers chose to remain in airport terminals. Airport operators provided those who did so with blankets and beds, distributed hot drinks, water and food, prevailed upon retail concessions to stay open to allow people to buy food, provided free wi-fi facilities to allow passenger to access information, and deployed passenger support teams (from their own staff and from external voluntary organisations) to answer questions and provide information. Airport operators also negotiated with rail and bus service providers to remain open later so passengers could travel home or back into city centres if desired. At Heathrow passenger welfare arrangements remained in place throughout Christmas.

14. Airport operators assessed the primary cause of December’s flight disruptions to be a combination of (i) difficult operational conditions at UK airports due to snow and freezing weather; (ii) severe weather conditions affecting airports across the UK and Europe, and (iii) the impact of the severe weather on flight operations, which meant that some aircraft and crews were in the wrong places. They emphasised that air services operate as a system, and disruption at individual airports was therefore often the consequence of problems elsewhere. Notwithstanding this, airport operators are keenly aware that the disruptions in December caused severe hardship and distress to passengers stranded in terminals, and are looking hard at the issue of passenger welfare as part of their reviews of their contingency response to December’s events.

Extent to which lessons were learned by the aviation sector following winter 2009-10

15. The Review noted that the aviation sector has in place appropriate processes and disciplines to enable lessons to be learned from one winter and adopted for subsequent seasons. However, this current winter has emphasised that this needs to be an ongoing process to which sufficient focus must be given and robust measures implemented in response.

16. Prior to last December BAA had already put in place improvements to Heathrow’s winter resilience, including agreeing a revised snow plan with airlines and contractors and investing £500k on upgrades to the existing snow and ice clearance vehicle fleet. However, following December 2010’s severe weather BAA has commissioned an internal inquiry covering all aspects of its operations including the resilience of its revised snow plan. BAA has also commissioned a separate external review by a team of aviation experts to examine Heathrow’s planning, execution and recovery from the difficult weather conditions, and review lessons to be learnt. It will report in the spring.

17. Similarly, Gatwick’s operator Gatwick Airport Ltd (GAL) had reviewed its winter resilience plans following the 2009 winter’s severe snowfall and low temperatures, including investing over £300,000 in new snow clearance equipment and vehicles. Notwithstanding this, following December 2010’s severe weather GAL has now placed orders for over 30 additional snow clearance vehicles.

Assessment from aviation operators of the quality of the weather forecasts received

18. Airports and airlines commission weather forecast information from various different commercial meteorological information providers (including, but not only, the Meteorological Office and MeteoGroup). The Department for Transport is not aware of the aviation industry having expressed any fundamental concerns about the quality of the weather forecast information that they received , although the Department is aware that BAA indicated that the snowfall of 16 centimetres in just over an hour at Heathrow on 18 December was roughly twice the amount that had been indicated in earlier forecasts. The issue of forecasting accuracy will fall within BAA’s own internal review of Heathrow’s response to December’s severe weather, and the expert review being led by Professor Begg.

Quarmby recommendations on aviation

19. The Winter Resilience Review recommended that "…the Civil Aviation Authority considers how it might develop its currently published performance data to improve the presentation, commentary and interpretation of airline performance information, to inform passengers and the market and encourage improvements across the industry". In response, the CAA has enabled easier access to its website-based statistics for members of the public, and published a simple guide for consumers explaining how they can find out punctuality information on their flights. The CAA is also currently undertaking market research to identify which information passengers find valuable, including aspects of service quality. Additionally, the Government's South East Airports Task Force (with which the CAA is closely involved), has set up a subgroup which will make recommendations on punctuality, delay and resilience. The outputs of these workstreams will inform any further improvements to the presentation of the CAA’s punctuality data. The Government is also considering proposals, under a Bill to reform framework for economic regulation of airports, for a new licensing regime to give the aviation regulator more flexibility, where appropriate, to bolster airports’ resilience to severe weather, thereby reducing the inconvenience and distress to air passengers. The Government plans to bring forward a Bill as soon as Parliamentary time allows.

RAIL

20. In the recent spells of severe weather, many passenger train operators experienced significant damage to and failures of trains due to the operating conditions. Problems arose from a combination of the excessive quantity of snowfall, extreme cold temperatures, ice forming on structures and electrical equipment and damage to rolling stock, including frozen doors, traction motor failures, diesel fuel freezing, frozen air systems and frozen couplers. Passenger information was also inadequate in some areas.

21. These problems were not limited to the UK, as train services across much of Northern Europe were also affected by the same weather. Eurostar, for example, suffered significantly from speed restrictions imposed on the operation of trains during snow, because of the risk of snow ingress into electrical equipment.

Extent to which lessons were learned by the rail sector following winter 2009-10

22. The Quarmby Audit recognised that good progress had been made on implementing a number of lessons from 2009/10, for example around the systems integration to improve the distribution of emergency timetables and experiments in heating the third rail. However, the audit also found "glitches" with the application of new systems, and identified that the severity and spread of this year’s severe weather highlighted new lessons in terms of operational response, so there is clearly more to do.

Quarmby recommendations on rail

23. The Quarmby Review and Audit made a number of recommendations for rail which are being implemented.

· The rail industry should continue the development and improvement of the systems for managing contingency timetables and for supporting, feeding and making more resilient the information given to passengers at stations and on websites, having particular regard to the effectiveness of short-notice changes sometimes needed during service disruption. The winter weather has involved the first major test of the new 'Integrated Train Planning System' (ITPS) in handling widespread short-notice changes. This experience has enabled a number of system improvements and measures to reduce the risk of human error. These are being evaluated to help ensure more effective and up-to-date information can be given at times of disruption.

· The rail industry should continue its development of technical solutions to improve winter resilience, particularly those relating to the maintenance of traction contact on the third rail network south of the Thames. This recommendation has been incorporated into a special National Task Force (NTF) project looking at the viability of various technological solutions. Key activities in this project have been funded and work is progressing on the physical outputs. The Rail Safety and Standards Board is carrying out a research project into the viability of replacing the third rail system with overhead electrification in the longer term.

· The rail industry should conduct a strategic review of technical alternatives to the third rail/top contact system, for the network south of the Thames , and prepare an evaluation and business case for consideration by the Government. The Rail Safety and Standards Board is carrying out research into the economics and technical aspects of alternatives to the present third rail system.

· Individual rail companies and Network Rail should make regular contact with local highway authorities during the winter planning process and season to ensure that the boundaries between public and railway-owned areas regarding the road and footway access to stations, depots and signalling centres are clearly understood between their organisations, and that both are treated in a coordinated way. The industry's National Task Force (NTF) has noted the recommendation, and Individual companies are being encouraged to consider this as part of their early planning process.

· Network Rail and the relevant train companies operating south of the Thames should conduct a thorough review of the actual operational experience of this period of severe winter weather; in particular Network Rail should review the nature and amount of equipment needed to fulfil anti-icing duties (in addition to autumn duties) taking account of risks and operational needs, as well as the availability of winter resilience resources generally (such as snow clearance) across the network. The rail industry will be reviewing all aspects of winter operations, in the light of any further issues arising during the remainder of the winter, but with particular attention to the problems which have most affected running the service during snow and ice, and to the need to keep passengers informed.

Other recommendations are still under consideration as follows:

· Encouraging Network Rail and the train operators to ensure that consistent criteria are developed for decision-making about the use of contingency timetables. The Rail Industry's National Task Force is considering the value of having a set of common criteria to assist in determining what service should be operated, although there is no single national answer because so many variables are involved and conditions are likely to vary widely around the country.

· Provide a new mechanism under which Network Rail can subsequently be held accountable for decisions it makes (in consultation with the train operators) about the implementation of contingency timetables and the levels of service reduction involved.

The practical application of this recommendation is under consideration between DfT and ORR.

· The rail industry should develop and implement resilient and flexible methods of providing pre-journey and real-time information to passengers alongside and largely independent of the main customer information systems, deploying appropriate technologies and resources; Network Rail and the train companies should also embrace the cultural need to ensure such arrangements attract appropriate priority, resourcing and recognition. Work is continuing to strengthen the operation of the timetabling processes to support better information to passengers, particularly with reference to short-notice changes. Work is also in progress to examine improvements to how short-notice information is best given to intending passengers

24. In addition the rail industry is reviewing all aspects of winter operations, but with particular attention to the problems which have most affected running the service during snow and ice, and to the need to keep passengers informed.

25. On a longer time scale, the Rail Safety and Standards Board is carrying out research into the economics and technical aspects of converting existing third rail systems to Alternating Current (AC) overhead systems.

Assessment from the rail sector of the quality of the weather forecasts received

26. MeteoGroup provides Network Rail with a highly-tailored forecast for the specific conditions encountered on the rail infrastructure, as well as longer-period more generalised forecasts. A website accessible to all rail operators gives continually refreshed data, and has proven accurate throughout the recent conditions.

EUROSTAR

27. Infrastructure and operational failures in Northern France from19th December disrupted Eurostar services and led to closed sales and the operation of a modified timetable until 24th December 2010. Significant queues were formed at times outside St. Pancras International during this period and there were a number of customer complaints about poor information.

28. Although the delays and cancellations were considerable over these two days the disruption to Eurostar's services was different in precise cause from that experienced last year, as the fleet modifications implemented since last year had worked to avoid a repeat of the previous year’s widespread loss of rolling stock units. There was a short-term problem with queues, but these had dispersed by 18.00hrs on Tuesday 21 and the following day Eurostar had reverted to a near normal service.

Extent to which lessons were learned by Eurostar following winter 2009-10

29. An independent review conducted by Christopher Garnett and Claude Gressier looked at how effectively the recommendations made following Eurostar break downs in November 2009 had been implemented. The review was positive about the work carried out to date but acknowledged that work remained to be done in order to: modify the remaining trains in the fleet; make further communications improvements; and look at whether new approaches could be taken to minimise the length of queues.

Assessment from Eurostar of the quality of the weather forecasts received

30. Eurostar use two sources for weather forecasts: the Meteogroup service provided to Network Rail and a weather forecast from French Meteo that fed into the Operations Centre in Lille. Both were considered very reliable.

Quarmby recommendations on Eurostar

31. As there had already been an independent review, there were no Quarmby recommendations directed specifically to Eurostar.

LONDON

32. Although there was significant snowfall in the London area, the impact of snow on the Transport for London (TfL) network was kept to a minimum thanks to use of well established adverse weather plans. For example, on the wors t day (Saturday 18 Dec 2010), LU was able to run 95% of its normal service and out of a total of over 700 bus routes and only 6 routes were suspended for a period (plus weather-related diversions/curtailments affecting local sections of 39 routes which were not on the pan-London gritting network). TfL deployed its fleet of 38 gritters and was able to keep the London Strategic Road network accessible most of the time. Good services were also maintained on the Croydon Tram network.

Extent to which lessons were learned by the London transport network

following winter 2009-10

33. The main learning point from 09/10 concerned the need to revise gritting plans for the resilience road network, to ensure that bus routes, stations and routes to hospitals etc were gritted. However, due to TfL’s procurement of a strategic stock pile of salt and the limited extent of snow falls, these did not need to be implemented, other than for short periods in a handful of Boroughs. Mutual aid between boroughs was applied on a number of occasions but did not require access to the TfL strategic stock pile in East London .

Assessment from Transport for London of the quality of the weather forecasts received

34. Weather forecasts from both the Meteorological Office and Meteo Group were used by TfL and found to be reasonably accurate, although TfL have indicated that they felt that the Met Office appeared to be more risk adverse. There is an appetite for London - only forecasts, rather than the combined London and Southeast, and also for a more numeric basis for forecasting, e.g. there is a Y% chance of Xcm of snow.

Quarmby recommendations on the London transport network

35. There were no Quarmby recommendations directed specifically to London , though the Final Report noted that its resilience arrangements were a model example for others to consider. In addition the Review highlighted the need for the Rail Industry proactively to provide other transport providers with detailed information where there is disruption to networks, including technical descriptions of problems and assessment of service recovery. This can be used by agencies like TfL to provide passenger information and plan their service.

STRATEGIC ROAD NETWORK

36. The Highways Agency (HA) maintains and operates the strategic motorway and trunk road network in England on behalf of the Secretary of State for Transport, providing a robust winter service to treat the network to keep it open and safe for use as far as is reasonably practicable to meet its duties under the Highways Act 1980.

37. It is important to recognise that every winter, instances of severe weather will have some impact on the strategic road network, however careful the planning and delivery of the winter service. In heavy snowfall, traffic will slow and in many cases poor conditions on other roads will cause traffic to queue onto the strategic road network and the congestion can make it difficult for salt spreaders and ploughs to reach parts of the network affected. In addition, on one or two isolated parts of the network, such as the A66 over the Pennines, temporary closure due to snowfall can be a regular feature in the winter months.

38. The HA’s National Traffic Control Centre (NTCC) and 7 Regional Control Centres (RCCs) support the on-road traffic officers by setting strategic and tactical signs and signals to ensure the safety of responders from all agencies at the scene of an incident and to inform road users within the vicinity and on the approach of the impact to their journey.

39. Messages to road users routinely take account of local conditions, and where severe weather covers a wide area it is normal to advise motorists to think carefully before travelling and to ensure that their vehicle is appropriately prepared. This is the context within which to consider the particular challenges posed this year.

40. Despite the severity and early onset of winter weather this season, the HA was well prepared and has managed to keep the whole of its network safe and available for use almost continuously throughout the winter. Parts of the network during both cold spells experienced exceptionally severe conditions with heavy snowfall and very low road surface temperatures being recorded: as low as -15ºC in some instances.

41. A small number of closures or restrictions, generally arising from either HGV (particularly jack-knifed vehicles) or other traffic related incidents, did have a significant impact on limited lengths of trunk roads and motorway this winter. The resulting traffic congestion did result in a number of motorists experiencing difficult journeys which were substantially longer than usual. Due to the increased journey time a number of HGV drivers also encountered issues with driver hour restrictions and as a result many took the decision to park overnight on the hard shoulder (eg sections of the M25), rather than continuing their journey. Incidents that caused a particular impact on the strategic network (such as the M25 Junction 3 on 30th November 2010 and the M5 Junction 4, and the M40 in the vicinity of Junction 9, on 18th December 2010) have been assessed through the HA’s standard debrief process. The process is designed to ensure that causes and potential mitigation measures are identified and action taken where appropriate. The Highways Agency continues to investigate the detail of these incidents of severe delay.

Extent to which lessons were learnt by the Highways Agency following winter 2009-10

42. After every winter season, the HA carries out a detailed review to identify key lessons learned and enable it to implement improvements. The main issue highlighted in the review of the 2009/10 season was the lack of resilience in the domestic salt market and the difficulties experienced by local authorities in getting supplies, which in turn impacted on the ability of HA contractors to maintain salt stocks at a sufficient level for the Strategic Road Network. The key improvements made by the HA for this winter focused on improving its salt stock resilience and included -

· Implementation of guidance for more efficient salt spreading for precautionary and snow treatments. This was issued to its contractors to use salt more efficiently whilst also maintaining a suitable standard of treatment. Use of the more efficient rates is now possible across the network following the completion of the HA’s new winter fleet roll-out, providing 437 new, "state of the art" winter service vehicles.

· Increased operational salt stocks - prior to the start of the severe weather this year, the HA held 260k tonnes of salt compared with 227k tonnes last season.

· Implementation of a HA reserve salt stock. Prior to the start of this winter season, the HA ordered 60k tonnes of imported salt to act as a reserve stock later in the season.

43. In addition, lessons learned had highlighted the importance of ensuring that there are adequate numbers of traffic officers in affected areas to work with service providers and other agencies to keep the network open. Their role includes dealing with large numbers of incidents, supporting winter service crews in getting to where they were needed and keeping customers informed about conditions across the network. Contingency staffing plans were quickly activated when severe weather was experienced to ensure that appropriate resource levels could be maintained.

44. Also, following the experience of the 2009-10 winter, the HA now endeavours at times of heavy snowfall to deploy recovery vehicles at key locations where maintaining and restoring traffic flow is likely to be a challenge in severe weather, for example to assist large goods vehicles near gradients.

45. Although it is premature to predict the outcome of the Highways Agency’s annual winter continuous improvement / lessons learned exercise, it is already investigating what further steps could be taken to help further mitigate the impact of localised intense snowfall on people’s journeys. Such measures may include wider resource deployment prior to and during severe weather, as well as more focused road user communications during localised intense snowfalls where disruption to traffic is likely.

Assessment from the HA of the quality of the weather forecasts received

46. The HA contracts the Met Office to provide regular forecasts throughout the year, and in the winter months Met Office representatives are located in the HA’s National Traffic Control Centre (NTCC): to provide detailed forecasts. The HA also has approximately 200 weather stations at strategic spots which supplement the forecast information.

47. In addition, the HA’s contractors procure their own specialist weather forecasts, which along with detailed weather and road surface information from the HA’s weather stations, are used to identify the optimum time and scope of winter treatments.

48. While the various weather forecasts have been generally accurate, conditions can be unpredictable and locally very severe in specific locations and an element of operational judgement is always required.

LOCAL ROADS

49. There are over 150 local highway authorities who are responsible for 98 per cent of the road network which carries around 70 per cent of traffic. These authorities have a duty under section 41 of the Highways Act 1980

to ‘ensure, so far as is reasonably practical, that safe passage along a highway is not endangered by snow and ice’. They meet this duty through their own winter service plans, which include details of which roads will receive precautionary salt treatment and be cleared of snow.

50. The severe weather in November & December 2010 had a significant impact on local highway authorities and their networks, putting their winter resources under acute pressure. Dealing with snow conditions can quickly use large quantities of road salt with little effect unless best practice is followed, since salt alone does not disperse snow and the snow itself will dilute any salt applied. The corner stones of efficient good practice in winter service include the pre-treatment of roads with salt, and following any snow fall it is necessary to plough the road before any further salt applications.

51. In the December snow events, most major routes would have been treated with salt beforehand, and authorities were able to recover their key networks relatively quickly. But minor routes often remained closed for a number of days after the initial snow fall, and became icy in the pro-longed cold spells that the country experienced. Compacted ice on such roads can be very difficult to remove, since traditional methods (predominantly using plain rock salt) needs the action of traffic to assist in dispersing the ice, and moreover the salt ceases to be effective at around -7oC or below.

Footways

52. Footways were a problem during the recent severe weather. It is mainly the high use footways in the busier urban areas that will receive any preventative treatment, but this is not practical for most footways prior to snowfall or the formation of frost and ice. Compacted ice can be very treacherous to walk on, and treatment by salt either before or after snow fall can have limited impact.

53. Following concerns in 2009-10 that people were discouraged from clearing public areas because they might be liable for any injuries if someone fell, the Government published on 22nd October a "Snow Code" which provides common sense advice on how to clear snow and ice from public areas. This is available at:

http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/Nl1/Newsroom/DG_191868

Extent to which lessons were learned by the highway authorities following winter 2009-10

54. The Department for Transport has been informed that almost all local authorities undertook reviews of their winter service plans following the winter of 2009-10, and were better placed to deal with the winter weather experienced in December. The Quarmby Audit concluded that most local authorities were in a good state of readiness and that their operational response was well managed during the first spell of severe weather in December.

Assessment from highways authorities of the quality of the weather forecasts received

55. Local Authorities receive their weather forecasts from different sources, including the Meteorological Office and private suppliers. These vary in scope, format and detail, based on the authority’s own requirements. Generally these forecasts, particularly in the short term range of 1 – 5 days, are accurate, but this accuracy reduces with the longer range predictions. Forecasts on temperature, and the likelihood of snow fall, are also usually accurate over the short term, but the level of snow fall can be extremely difficult to predict as this can have large variations over relatively small distances. This caused problems for a number of authorities who experienced unexpectedly heavy snow fall in their area, or parts of it, during December.

Quarmby Recommendations Relating to Strategic and Local Roads

56. The onset of early severe winter weather did place pressure on the salt supply chain, and the stocks held by local highway authorities. However, the country entered this winter season much better placed than last year in terms of salt stocks, and together held over 1¼ million tonnes of salt at the start of winter, independent of the new national strategic reserve.

57. The Winter Resilience Review and Audit made eleven recommendations regarding the supply and utilisation of salt. Where these fell to the Department for Transport or to HA they have now been completed, or are currently being implemented. The actions taken by the Department on the basis of these recommendations include:

· HA carried out assessments to investigate and confirm arrangements for sourcing and storing the salt. It also worked with its contractors, utilising existing contracts, to place orders with salt suppliers to import salt – where imported salt was required for the strategic reserve to supplement the normal domestically mined salt restocking process.

· A national strategic salt reserve of 600,000 tonnes has been set up. 289,551 tonnes of salt has already been delivered, and so far this winter nearly 89,000 tonnes has been allocated to English highway authorities in the first 5 releases of strategic salt;

· A year-round monitoring salt system has been established and is being used by the Department to allocate stock from the strategic salt reserve;

· The Review recommended that wherever possible a benchmark of holding salt stock that allows 12 days / 48 runs of usage is adopted. This has been highlighted to all local authorities by the Department.

· On the 3rd November an update to existing guidance on winter service was published. The Government wrote to Chief Executives of all local highway authorities in England to alert them of this revision.

· On 12th November the Government wrote to all English authorities to emphasise the importance of working together to keep our transport network moving this winter, including taking forward the actions from the independent Winter Review.

· On the 24th December new guidance on salt spreading rates was published on the UK Roads Liaison Group website. The Government again alerted all English authorities to this new advice.

PORTS

58. Extreme weather disrupted activity at several significant ports during both cold spells. Following the first heavy snowfall, operations in ports (and their associated supply chains) were generally slowed but not stopped in the worst affected areas (Tees, Humber, Felixstowe, Thames). This led to short term dislocation and additional costs to ports, particularly through de-icing of equipment, snow clearance and employment of hauliers. These factors resulted in extended journey times for the delivery of goods.

59. Some ports were inaccessible for part of a day due to blocked or untreated access roads. Several ran low on supplies of salt; some critically so until the Department intervened and facilitated resupply through HA or the local authorities.

Extent to which lessons were learned by the ports sector following winter 2009-10

60. A significant number of ports experienced problems very similar to last year. There are a number of possible causes including:

· Undue reliance on contracts with suppliers that only "endeavour" to ensure salt resupply.

· Undue reliance on the intervention of local authorities

· A lack of investment in adequate on-site stockpiles (this may be through financial or space constraints rather than an indication of a lack of forward planning).

61. Discussions with the sector are continuing to confirm the source of problems and identify possible solutions by the end of February 2011.

Assessment from the ports sector of the quality of the weather forecasts received

62. Weather forecasting in the maritime sector is mainly focused on conditions at sea. Ports generally use the public forecasts in terms of conditions on land

Quarmby recommendations relating to ports and the Maritime Sector

63. The Quarmby Review and Audit make no specific remarks on the maritime sector. The Quarmby Review noted that;

· virtually all rock salt users outside the highway authorities – ports, industrial estates, hospitals – had difficulty obtaining salt from UK producers, and many had to import.

· Local authorities were inconsistent and the access to key sites such as ports, rail terminals etc was a problem;

· ports experienced serious problems obtaining salt for their own premises, particularly when Salt Cell was in operation;

· many contractual commitments by salt producers were in abeyance for the duration of the emergency.

64. On this basis the Quarmby Final Report did briefly consider the issue of access to ports and other key installations. It concluded that these facilities can require levels of salt that are relatively small and inexpensive so they should increase their pre-season stock holdings rather than rely on in-season re-stocking. They should also engage with the relevant highway authority(s) to ensure that there is clear understanding on responsibilities and that the relevant access roads feature on the highway authorities’ priority gritting network.

65. The situation experienced by many ports in December 2010 matched that in the previous severe winters. Although there was a greater general availability of salt compared with winter 2009/10, a number of ports lacked sufficient salt for their facilities or for their access roads. The Department for Transport sometimes had to intercede on their behalf to ensure mutual aid from local authorities or HA stock to enable them to continue operations.

RELAXATION OF DRIVERS' HOURS RULES

66. Relaxation of the EU driver’s hour rules [1] can be made by a Government for up to 30 days in times of emergency or in exceptional circumstances (e.g. severe winter conditions), provided the European Commission (EC) is immediately informed. The Department for Transport has in place clear procedures for assessing the case for relaxing the EU rules and issues guidance to external stakeholders on a quarterly basis which includes the criteria that we use.

67. In all cases the Department needs to be satisfied that a relaxation is necessary to deal with the serious disruption to the supply chain and the relaxation period is strictly limited, as the working hours rules are there to maintain road safety. It would not be appropriate to allow drivers to drive for very long periods - particularly in difficult driving conditions - without clear evidence that relaxing the rules will make a real difference to the delivery of critical supplies.

68. During the recent severe weather the Department granted a number of temporary and limited relaxations to assist with deliveries of a number of essential supplies; including heating oil, solid fuel, airport de-icer and animal feed. More general relaxations for hauliers suffering supply chain problems caused by the heavy snowfalls and icy weather were also granted, applying initially to the whole of Great Britain but for a longer period in Scotland.

69. Immediate notification of the relaxations were sent to stakeholders, including VOSA, the Police, the companies involved, their trade associations and contacts in Industry.

WINTER TYRES

70. During the recent severe winter weather a number of enquiries were made about the need for legislation to require the use of winter tyres. The Department does not believe there is a strong case for legislation requiring winter tyres to be fitted but it is for consumers to fit them should they choose to do so. Their decisions should depend upon driving conditions and types of journeys undertaken (e.g. motorists who expect to drive in areas where conditions are persistently cold or where snow and ice is present for long periods may find it helpful to change their tyres in the winter).

71. However under the provisions of the Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986, tyres should not be used unless they are fit for the use to which the vehicle is being put and not where there is a danger that they might damage the road surface.

72. Typically motorists in the UK will find that that the standard tyres fitted to their vehicle have a tread pattern and tyre compound that ensures good performance in a wide range of conditions and they can be used throughout the year.

February 2011

Joint written evidence from United Kingdom Roads Liaison Group (UKRLG) and Association of Directors of Environment/Economy, Planning and Transport (ADEPT) (AWC 05)

1. INTRODUCTION

1.1 UKRLG is a body made up of representatives from UK Governments, Strategic Road Authorities and Local Government Technical Associations including ADEPT. Its prime role is to advise UK Governments on highway maintenance policy, including winter maintenance, promote best practice through national codes and guidance documents, and promote and support research and innovation in the highway sector.

1.2 ADEPT is an association of Directors from upper tier and unitary authorities who have responsibility for, inter alia, local transport and highways. It was formerly known as County Surveyors Society (CSS)

1.3 The UKRLG has played a significant role in helping advise UK Governments on highway related transport issues, not only during this current winter but also during the two preceding severe winters.

2. BACKGROUND

2.1 Lessons from Severe Weather February 2009

2.1.1 After the 2009 winter the Secretary of State for Transport asked the UKRLG to identify lessons that could be learnt from the events of winter 2008/09 and to recommend steps that could be adopted by highway authorities, producers and suppliers of salt and other stakeholders to ensure England is even better prepared should similar events occur in the future.

2.1.2 The review made recommendations in four themes: -

i) Winter service resilience

ii) Preparation for and operation of winter service

iii) Communications

iv) Procurement

2.1.3 The review presented a package of recommendations to develop and improve highway service in winter. It was important that all parties involved considered the recommendations as a whole. The key recommendation, that highway authorities adopt a winter resilience standard, was introduced to help ensure that preparation for winter service was more rigorous and that more resources, especially salt, were available to respond to severe conditions. The document, which is available through the UKRLG website* (link attached at foot of this submission), was published in July 2009 but was not endorsed by Government until December.

2.1.4 One of the early deliverables recommended by the UKRLG was an introduction leaflet for councillors and senior local authority officers about the preparation for winter conditions on their highway network, which was forwarded to all local highway authority chief executives in December 2009 (see leaflet on UKRLG website*).

2.2 Winter 2009/10

2.2.1 During the severe winter weather of 2009/10 ADEPT was one of the organisations representing local highway authorities on Government’s Salt Cell and, through liaison with its members, helped disseminate advice on prioritisation of salt distribution and measures to reduce usage.

2.3 The Resilience of England’s Transport System in Winter – An Independent Review (The Quarmby Report) (See website** - link at foot of report)

2.3.1 Both the UKRLG and ADEPT provided significant input to the review.

2.3.2 The Quarmby report (in paragraph 10) stated that the UKRLG recommendations and the updated Code of Practice were thought by witnesses to be fit for purpose but that the Government’s endorsement of the recommendations and their incorporation into the updated Code of Practice came too late to have much impact on the planning and response to the 2009/10 winter.

2.3.3 UKRLG and ADEPT supported all the recommendations of both the interim and final Quarmby reports and continue to play a leading role in the delivery of many of the review panel’s recommendations.

2.3.4 New comprehensive winter service guidance for local authority prioritisation was produced by UKRLG and published in October 2010 (see UKRLG website*).

2.3.5 UKRLG and ADEPT worked with DfT to help produce additional advice on revised salt spread rates, which was published just before Christmas 2010 (see UKRLG website*).

2.4 The independent audit by David Quarmby December 2010

2.4.1 UKRLG and ADEPT gave advice and supported David Quarmby in undertaking the urgent audit of how well the highway authorities and transport operators in England had been coping with the unexpectedly early and severe spell of winter weather.

2.4.2 In the key findings of the audit Quarmby recognised that local highway authorities overall performed well in this period, including those who experienced intensive snowfalls, but while many delivered a high level of winter service, others can still improve further and adopt more good practice.

3. SUMMARY OF THE KEY ISSUES

3.1 This winter and the previous two have severely tested the resilience of local authorities’ winter maintenance services.

3.2 Local authorities in general have performed well and disruption to the main roads has been minimal. Public response, at a local level, has been generally positive, particularly where efforts have been made to address problems with pavements and local non-highway facilities, such as car parks, school accesses etc.

3.3 There has been good engagement and cooperation between all the bodies involved in responding to the implications of the last 3 winters, particularly DfT, LGA, HA as well as ADEPT and UKRLG.

3.4 There has been a considerable amount of new advice and guidance produced, supported by UKRLG and ADEPT, much of which has already been acted on and some that will require longer term investment.

3.5 UKRLG and ADEPT support the recently initiated national resilience stockpile of salt and recommend its continuation. However there is concern about the high cost (twice as much per tonne as normal supplies) for Local Highway Authorities (LHAs) who need to access this provision. Two years of the Salt Cell process have resulted in a much improved understanding of the needs of the highway sector and the capabilities of the supply chain to meet those needs. Further improvements can be made to optimise the supply and use of what, for this period of time each year, is a strategic national commodity

3.6 LHAs who currently are unable to meet the new resilience standard of 48 gritting runs equivalent of pre-season salt stock level, as recommended by Quarmby, will need to invest in more storage capacity themselves or place greater reliance on collaborative procurement and storage arrangements to avoid a position where supplies could be exhausted at a critical time. Similarly those Authorities that do not have up to date spreading equipment will not be able to immediately achieve the salt usage efficiencies recommended in the recently published guidance. More and larger salt barns will be required, as well as more up to date salt spreading equipment. Although there may be scope for LHAs to collaborate and share resources to reduce costs, it will still be very difficult to secure funding at a time when local authorities’ budgets are being significantly reduced.

3.7 LHA’s have generally updated their Winter Maintenance Plans and improved their engagement and mutual support arrangements with other organisations, helping to supplement LHA resources during widespread snowfalls. Initiatives such as the DfT’s well publicised ‘Snow Code’, allied to clarity from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs in respect of fuel taxation on agricultural activities carried out in support of LHA operations have also contributed beneficially to the overall effort. Local communities have also been directly engaged, via a range of locally derived initiatives, such as the recruitment of ‘snow wardens’ and the provision of ‘snow bags’, all of which fit well within the Government’s localism agenda and demonstrate an encouraging level of commitment to community self-help. This is one area where considerable further advances can be made, through imaginative use of community volunteers and local resources.

3.8 Another recommendation from the Quarmby report to have been taken up and acted upon by LHA’s is improved communications. Early publication of winter service plan details, including gritting routes and contact information, has been supplemented by regular bulletins confirming weather forecasts, conditions and service actions. This has increasingly been extended from the conventional media, i.e. local newspapers and radio stations, to channels such as the internet, Facebook, Twitter etc., thus facilitating and extending real time provision of information to the public.

3.9 Despite all of these advances, there is a clear need to continue to support research and development in Winter Maintenance. The integration of the National Winter Service Research Group into the UK Roads Board will ensure better dissemination of best practice, but there is a real risk that Local Authority funding support for this work will no longer be available.

3.10 Finally, the widely quoted reason for the lack of growth in the economy in the last quarter of 2010 was the extensive disruption to travel and economic activity caused by the severe winter weather. This, in turn, suggests recognition of the significant economic benefits of investing in Winter Maintenance Services and improving overall resilience during severe winter weather.

* http://www.ukroadsliaisongroup.org/liaison/winter.htm

**http://transportwinterresilience.independent.gov.uk/docs/audit/winter_resilience_audit.pdf

February 2011

Written evidence from the Local Government Association (AWC 24)

The LGA is a voluntary membership body and our 422 member authorities cover every part of England and Wales. Together they represent over 50 million people and spend around £113 billion a year on local services. They include county councils, metropolitan district councils, English unitary authorities, London boroughs and shire district councils, along with fire authorities, police authorities, national park authorities and passenger transport authorities.

Summary

· Councils kept the majority of planned networks open and services running.

· Councils made unprecedented preparations for this winter and entered the winter with significantly more salt in stock than in previous years

· Despite these preparations, councils were concerned that suppliers were not able to meet all orders for pre-season supplies and were aware that suppliers would be unable to meet restocking orders in the event of severe weather. Had December’s weather been sustained into January, serious resupply issues would have arisen.

· It is clear that the fundamental problems with the salt supply chain still exist and continue to threaten resilience to winter weather.

· When the cold weather began and salt usage began to outstrip supply, arrangements put in place to manage risk worked well because of the cooperation and involvement between all relevant partners (DfT, Highways Agency, Devolved Administrations, the Local Government Association and technical experts from local government).

· The arrangements for acquisition and distribution strategic stockpile were successful this year in so far as they insured that no area ran out of salt.

· However, if we were to experience another prolonged severe winter, it is questionable whether the systems in place would have been sufficient. We would also experience problems in ensuring the strategic stockpile reaches those areas that needed it. It became apparent this winter that haulage industry only has the capacity to deliver 40,000 tonnes of salt a week. In widespread severe wintry conditions, England alone uses approximately 325,000 tonnes of salt a week.

· The long term solution needs to address the fundamental flaws within the salt supply chain, as we and the interim Quarmby Report argued last summer.

· Councils have improved practice and taken on board recommendations from the series of reviews, new guidance and advice that has been issued in the last two years. Some of the good practice will take time to implement and will require investment which will be particularly challenging for local authorities given reductions in their budgets.

· The extreme winter weather has caused damage to local road networks, as can be seen from the increased number of potholes already being reported. Councils will have significantly less money to deal with the damage to the roads this year. Government should make additional funding available to allow councils to undertake repairs to ensure roads are safe and minimise congestion.

Councils’ preparedness

1. Following the severe winters of 2008/09 and 2009/10, councils reviewed their winter service plans to take account of the experience and a series of reviews including the LGA’s Weathering the Storm reports in 2009 and 2010; the UKRLG Lessons from Severe Weather February 2009; revised advice and technical guidance from UKRLG and ADEPT and the interim report from the Quarmby review published in July 2010.

2. Evidence provided by a survey of councils undertaken by the LGA in September 2010 found that councils had taken on board many of these recommendations in preparations for winter 2010. David Quarmby’s audit of how the country performed in December 2010 confirmed that in general, councils were in a good state of readiness for winter. Both the LGA survey and Quarmby’s audit found that:

a) Councils had ordered more stocks of salt for the start of the winter gritting season than previous years.

b) Some councils had not received in full the pre-season salt supplies they had ordered.

c) The majority of councils reviewed and updated their severe winter weather policies due to the severe weather over the preceding two years, including revising treatment networks to take into account transport links, business parks and other major installations and investing in new gritting and clearing machinery.

d) Councils had also improved communications providing information on their websites on gritting networks, weather forecasts, notice of road closures or other network difficulties, tweets about road conditions, real-time information about the deployment of gritters, and practical advice to residents on snow clearance.

e) Councils further developed their level of engagement with citizens, putting in place measures to help individuals and communities to take responsibility for gritting their own roads and pavements. This included increasing the number of grit bins, working with town and parish councils to appoint and train local snow wardens, providing snow ploughs for use on tractors to clear snow in rural areas, re-deploying councils staff unable to get to work to assist with snow clearance and visiting vulnerable people (further examples are given in annex A).


Local Highway Authority Performance

13. David Quarmby’s audit report in December 2010 found that in general local highway authorities overall performed well in this period. In areas without significant snow, the normal gritting treatments were generally effective, and traffic and movement on the treated networks was largely unaffected. In areas with major snowfalls, most authorities responded quickly and well to the unusual amount and persistence of snow. [2]

14. In most areas, councils were able to treat their road networks as planned. County highway authorities generally treat 20 – 45% of their total network as their priority network; many have secondary networks which are treated less intensively, which lift the total to nearer 50% of their total mileage. Most authorities ensure that treated networks include at least one access road to all rural communities. However, it is neither logistically possible, nor affordable, to treat all minor roads, so, as the cold weather persisted, many of the roads off the treated networks saw significant accumulation of compacted snow and ice.

15. One issue which was the focus of considerable attention from the media, was disruption to waste collection. Due to residential roads becoming dangerous for large vehicles, including waste collection vehicles, a number of authorities were unable to carry out usual collection service during December and over the Christmas period. Contrary to suggestions in the media that this was a universal problem, most councils resumed services as soon as the freeze subsided and were able to recover missed collections quickly. In those areas where snow and freezing conditions persisted, a number of councils made arrangements for people to take rubbish to local disposal points until it was safe to resume normal services.

16. Councils’ contingency plans for other services, including care for the elderly and vulnerable, ensured that these services continued during difficult circumstances.

Supply issues

17. The LGA survey conducted in September 2010 revealed that at least one fifth of councils had not received orders for pre-season supplies of salt. This picture was later confirmed by the DfT’s salt audit process and the Quarmby audit. The experience of the two previous winters had demonstrated that once stocks begin to reduce, the suppliers are unable to increase production to meet their customers’ orders for re-supply. To make matters worse, as a result of high usage of salt in winter 2009/10; producers entered this winter without stockpiles usually held at the mines. Councils were therefore concerned about producers’ capacity to meet re-stocking orders when the extreme weather and significant snowfall arrived unusually early in the season.

18. The LGA wrote to Phillip Hammond MP on 3rd and 24th November to raise councils concerns about supply and to recommend that the strategic stockpile be increased as a contingency to mitigate potential supply problems. Copies of these letters are supplied at annex B.

19. Within two weeks of exceptionally cold weather, the supply chain was once again failing to meet orders for re-supply from councils. As is discussed below, the national strategic stockpile was released to bolster supplies and this year was successful in ensuring that no council ran out of salt. However, the strategic stockpile does not resolve the issues caused by lack of resilience in the supply chain.

20. This season saw one, relatively short, spell of widespread weather. If the severe cold weather had continued for several weeks, as was the case last year, it is questionable whether the systems in place would have been sufficient. It is highly likely that there would have been problems in distributing the strategic stockpile to where it is needed since the haulage industry only has the capacity to deliver 40,000 tonnes of salt a week. In a "heavy usage week", England alone uses approximately 325,000 tonnes of salt [3] . For this reason, we need to return to the question of improving resilience in the supply chain.

21. There is also a need to ensure transparency and fairness about the way producers use the information made available to them about councils stocks and their requests for supplies from the strategic stockpile. There were examples this year of councils who appeared every week at the top of the list of those in need of supplies complied by DfT but who did not receive any deliveries from suppliers throughout the period. This begs the question of how producers were prioritising their customers if not according to need.

22. It may be that in the short term a national strategic stockpile is an appropriate contingency measure. However, the long term solution needs to address the fundamental flaws within the salt supply chain. This will require investment by the salt industry to increase their production capacity at times of high demand. It will also require diversification of the supply base and more use of overseas suppliers.

23. We therefore reiterate the findings and recommendations from the LGA’s report Weathering the Storm II Improving UK resilience to severe winter weather , published following winter 2009/10 as follows:

"The UK salt supply chain is not sufficiently resilient to respond to a sudden increase in demand. The supplier base is very small and there is a perception that the main firms concerned do not have the managerial or mechanical capacity to expand production at times of high demand. Furthermore, salt suppliers find it logistically difficult to follow delivery advice from Salt Cell and to get "just in time" deliveries to those that need them."

Recommendations

24. The government should recognise that salt supply is a strategic resilience issue, make it clear to the firms involved that that is the government’s view, and liaise with suppliers during the spring and summer to ensure that the suppliers have business continuity plans in place for the prospect of a winter of high demand.

25. Salt suppliers should improve communications with their customer base to ensure that even in times of high demand or when Salt Cell is in operation, they can provide accurate information about the size and timing of deliveries to councils. This is essential in assisting councils in making mutual aid arrangements and improving the possibility of joining up orders and deliveries to groups of councils in an area.

26. The government should secure an agreed way of working with the salt suppliers in emergency situations, which clearly defines how they will use the information provided by Salt Cell and how they will communicate with the customer. Government should reserve the right to intervene and provide logistical and communications support to the suppliers if they fail to keep to these commitments, and should hold a contingency plan for how it will do so. [4]

Contingency working

27. During the winters of 2008/09 and 2010/11, unusually high salt usage caused by the bad weather and problems within the supply chain, led DfT to convene the "Salt Cell" to advise salt producers on how to prioritise deliveries. In line with recommendations of the reviews following those winters, in 2010 DfT put arrangements in place to allow for monitoring of salt stocks across the UK and developed protocols on the triggering and operation of central processes for the provision of advice to producers. They also ordered a national strategic stockpile, initially 250,000 tonnes, though this was not fully in place until mid-January.

28. Though Salt Cell was not formally convened this year, key players, including the LGA, local authority practitioner representatives, Transport for London, the Highways Agency and representatives from Scotland and Wales were all involved in the Winter Resilience network convened by DfT in early December to coordinate advise and decision making on salt distribution. This facilitated a genuine partnership approach to dealing with issues and problems as they arose, and ensured that decisions were informed by local expertise and knowledge. On the whole, the arrangements worked well, however, there was a certain amount of "learning as we go" given that the group was managing the strategic stockpile and handling information provided by the salt audit for the first time. For example, the process for councils to access the strategic stockpile were changed to reflect the fact that the initial invitation to councils to bid for supplies resulted in the number of bids far out-stripping the amount of salt that could logistically be distributed. It is important that the lessons from this experience are built into plans for contingency arrangements in future years.

29. A large factor in the success of the contingency arrangements was Councils’ universal cooperation with the weekly stock audit process which was crucial to providing accurate information about salt stocks to assist salt producers in prioritising deliveries to customers and inform decisions about the release of the strategic stockpile. However, this transparency and clarity was not reciprocated by producers’ communications with their customers. Information provided by suppliers on deliveries and decision making remained patchy and sporadic. As noted above, DfT should secure an agreed way of working with suppliers in future years.

Improving winter resilience

28. The Quarmby Report included a recommendation for a resilience standard of 48 runs as a pre-season stock level for all highways authorities. The report recognised that this would take some time to put in place given limited production capacity and because it would require some local authorities to invest in more storage capacity.

29. David Quarmby also identified that as a result of last winters’ experience, many highway authorities had reduced their spread rates in response to pressures on salt supplies. Quarmby saw the use of reduced spread rates as a strategic response to the potential national shortfall of supply against demand under severe winter conditions and recommended that research be made freely available to local authorities to provide assurance that reduced spread rates would not compromise safety. This evidence was finally made available to councils on the 15th December, too late to impact on practice this year.

30. Dissemination of the latest research and revised technical advice will be important in informing preparation and practice for next winter and we would support a sector-led approach to sharing good practice and new innovative approaches to winter service.

31. However, adoption of the new practice will also require investment in modern spreading equipment and it will be very difficult for local authorities to provide this investment given that their budgets have been drastically reduced.

32. David Quarmby’s reports suggested that increased investment in winter service would generate economic and social benefits well in excess of the additional costs, however he also recognised that the "current pressures on local authorities would make it seem untenable". [5]

Damage to local roads

33. Current forecasts suggest that a further period of extreme winter weather is unlikely this winter, however councils will now have to deal with the impact of the harsh weather on local roads, and consequently on local authority highways maintenance budgets. December was the coldest winter for 30 years and the unprecedented low temperatures have had a seriously adverse impact on road surfaces. It is too early to accurately estimate the costs of repairing this season’s damage. However, initial reports from councils are that the number of potholes is at similar levels to last year and the extra financial burden placed on councils is likely to be very significant. To give an idea of the extent of the problem, last year, the estimated additional cost was at least £5 million for the typical shire county. In recognition of the additional burden on local authorities the previous government provided an additional £100 million to councils last year.

34. The additional damage this year will come at a time when councils have to scale back budgets for highways maintenance as a result of spending review decisions. Without additional funding for increased road maintenance activity required to deal with the increased numbers of potholes resulting from the exceptionally cold weather, the damage to the roads will cause significant damage to roads, present a safety risk to road users and disruption to traffic.

35. The LGA has therefore asked the Secretary of State for Transport to direct immediate emergency financial assistance to councils to allow them to deal with the damage.

Annex A

SALT: HELPING RESIDENTS TAKE RESPONSIBILITY

Councils have developed new approaches to helping individuals and communities to take responsibility for gritting their own roads and pavements.

This is driven by very lively local democratic engagement between residents, community groups, parish councils, and their local elected councillors. Councils have, at the same time, a crucial statutory responsibility to ensure transport networks are open and they try to balance that role with residents’ wishes to see pavements and smaller roads gritted, within what we know to be a stock of salt that is limited – even if we currently have more than in recent years – and must be sensible managed.

Examples of the approaches taken by councils include:

Increasing the amount of grit available to local people to clear roads

- The London Borough of Sutton offered free supplies of grit to residents.

- Dorset County Council supplied their parish councils with one-tonne bags of salt to treat local road and replenish salt bins.

- Croydon Council increased the number of salt bins around the borough to 535.

- Gloucestershire County Council installed additional council grit bins and supply salt to fill parish and town councils grit bins.

- Wirral Council installed 110 additional grit bins in across the borough.

- Cumbria County Council maintains 10,000 salt heaps or bins across 178 Parish areas.

Redeploying staff and working with their communities to ensure that grit bi

- Stroud District Council’s neighbourhood wardens visit vulnerable people to help with clearing paths around sheltered housing schemes, collecting prescriptions, proving supplies to people who can’t leave their homes.

- The London Borough of Sutton equipped street cleaners with special ‘hand gritters’ to make pavements safe.

- Dorset County Council recruited and trained local snow wardens at parish to help clear snow and manage supply of salt to grit bins.

- Gloucestershire County Council and local Parish Councils used 200 volunteer Snow Wardens to keep the councils informed of conditions in outlying villages and 150 Snow Plough Operators to help clear snow.

- In Leeds, 50 members of staff from the council’s highways and parks and countryside divisions were armed with shovels, brushes, vans and wheelbarrows full of grit, to clear footpaths and car parks.

- In Brent 200 staff were diverted to winter maintenance duties clearing pavements and refilling 320 grit bins.

- Derbyshire County Council asked residents to report empty or damaged grit bins to the council so that they can be re-filled and repaired as necessary.

Planning locations of local grit supplies for self help purposes to deal with local problem spots and to help manage re-stocking.

- Wirral Council’s grit bins are located in pedestrianised streets, around sheltered accommodation, near to steep hills and problem locations identified by local residents.

- Bury Council maintains around 300 salt bins across the borough at known trouble spots, such as sharp bends or steep inclines and where historically snow and ice have caused serious problems..

Councils also reminded residents of the legal position on clearing their own pavements, providing advice on how to do it safely and reminding them too that builders’ merchants sell rock salt that is suitable for snow clearance.


Annex B – LGA correspondence with Philip Hammond MP

Rt Hon Philip Hammond MP

Secretary of State

Department for Transport

Great Minster House

76 Marsham Street

London

SW1P 4DR

3rd November 2010

Dear Philip,

Resilience to winter weather

Following feedback from councils and conversations that have taken place between our officers, I am writing to ensure we have a shared understanding of the situation regarding supply and stocks of de-icing salt and the potential risks of shortages should we experience a sustained period of snow fall or cold weather this winter.

I am sure your officials have informed you of the situation regarding current stock levels and the expected ability of salt suppliers to meet existing orders and for in season re-stocking. Our understanding is that suppliers have not been able to fully meet their customers’ orders in advance of the winter and will not be able to replenish stocks significantly once they begin to run down. This is confirmed by feedback from councils that a number of areas have not yet received orders for salt.

This means that a few days of sustained bad weather across the country, especially if it coincides with the Christmas period, when in previous years salt suppliers have ceased production, could result in significant shortfalls in salt for some areas of the country.

Given that the suppliers’ resilience level is low and they have limited reserves, it is essential that the reserve stock ordered by government is in place as soon as possible and that it is communicated to councils how they can access these reserves if required. It is also essential that we have processes in place to provide clarity about the levels of resilience of supply and transparency about any national coordination of stocks should that become necessary this winter.

LGA officers are happy to continue working with your officials to address these issues and ensure councils are fully informed of the situation as the winter progresses.


Yours,

Cllr Peter Box, Chair,
LG Group Economy and Transport Programme Board


The Rt Hon Philip Hammond MP

Secretary of State for Transport

Great Minster House

Horseferry Road

London SW1P

24 November 2010

Dear Philip

SEVERE WEATHER

I know I ought to be cheered to read in this morning’s newspapers that you take the view that councils and the Highways Agency have enough road salt to get through any episodes of severe weather this winter. But I am concerned that you may in fact be taking far too sanguine a view. In this context, I am disappointed that you have not replied to my letter of 3 November in which I set out some of the challenges we will need to face together.

It is true that local authorities have made an unprecedented effort to prepare for this winter. The level of stocks they now hold is the highest it has been for years, at about a third up on the stock with which we began last year and higher still compared to the year before that. Nearly half of the stock of gritting vehicles has been renewed. New measures have been taken, in parallel with your helpful willingness to clarify that there is no legal risk to people who clear their own pavements, to enlist the goodwill of local residents and companies in preparing to keep roads and pavements clear of snow.

Nevertheless, your department, like councils, has known all year that the domestic suppliers of salt would be incapable of meeting the needs of the country. As I understand it, some two-thirds of councils have still not received all the salt they wish to order, despite looking increasingly to overseas supply. David Quarmby’s report into The Resilience of England’s Transport Systems in Winter made it clear that "the salt supply chain as currently configured is fundamentally vulnerable and lacks resilience".

This is where your department has a national role to play that goes above and beyond anything that councils can do. As your officials are aware, the LGA view is that action needs to be taken with the current near-monopoly to increase capacity; it is a disappointment that this long-running issue has not yet been addressed. We have, however, very much welcomed your willingness to implement the Quarmby recommendation – which echoed the recommendation of the LGA’s earlier report on the events of last year – to establish a national strategic reserve of 250,000 tonnes this year. While we understand, however, the considerations that have led you to price that reserve in a way that deters local authorities from trying to access it when they do not need to, it will nevertheless be regrettable should this lead to charges that the Department is setting out to make a surplus from the problems of local motorists.

I am, finally, very pleased that your department has this year prepared early and well for the administrative machinery that may be needed to coordinate action over the winter. We welcome the planning for a possible Salt Cell that has taken place, and the plans for new arrangements to collect information quickly and effectively without the need for the old regional office machinery. But the mechanics are not all: I cannot stress too strongly the importance of encouraging cooperation, trust and solidarity between places and organisations in order to make this arrangement work. I do hope we can look forward to a continuing excellent collaboration between ourselves as the winter closes in.

Yours sincerely

Councillor Peter Box

Chair LG Group Economy and Transport Programme Board

February 2011


[1] The National T ask Force (NTF) is a cross industry body with senior representatives from passenger and freight train operators ( TOC s and FOCs) , Network Rail (NR), the Association of Train Operators ( ATOC ) , the D epartment of Transport (DfT) and the Office of Rail R egulation (OR R ) . It was formed more than 10 years ago and meets four weekly with the primary focus on train service delivery. National PPM for franchised passenger trains which has risen from less than 75% to more than 90%

[2] These are considered to be 28 /11 /10 to 8 /12 /10 and 17 /12 /10 to 24/ 12 /10 .

[3] The rail industry is one of the larger commercial users of detailed weather forecasting and recently switched to the Meteo Group.

[4] One long distance train operator had to replace a normal year’s worth of bodyside windows in two weeks.

[5] In the North East, the lines to Ferrybridge Power Station were prioritised, as were the lines to Boulby Salt Mine which were kept open throughout the cold periods to enable Freightliner to deliver vital supplies of salt to local highway authorities for road gritting.

[6] On the Brighton Main Line for example Southern may wish to operate a contingency timetable that best suits their operations across Network Rail’s Sussex Route whereas First Capital Connect may wish to operate a normal service to suit the needs of customers both on the Sussex route and across London towards Bedford.

[7] This was the case with long distance operators such as Virgin who had extra demand from transferring domestic air passengers in addition to a very large number of reservations. Running the full service enabled them to handle many more passengers. Operating at a reduced line speed of 100mph minimised rolling stock damage but punctuality dropped by around 15 percentage points.

[8] In retrospect the wrong decision was made in Wessex for 2 December where the full South West Trains service was proposed but late changes in the weather patterns meant delivery on the day was very poor. It is a fine balance to avoid both under-reaction and over-reaction when judging the impact of uncertain weather forecasts 24hrs in advance.

[9] In total ITPS interfaces with around 170 other industry systems.

[10] A part of ATOC.

[11] Around 1 million messages were sent on 1 December 2010.

[12] There were 22 such conference calls during the cold weather.

[13] The DC network uses an exposed conductor rail next to the rails to provide tractive power which can become covered in ice. This system is used by South West Trains, Southern, SouthEastern, First Capital Connect and London Overground.

[14] More than 1000 platforms are currently suffering from some form of damage as a result of the cold.

[1] EU Driving hours are normally capped to 9 hours a day (extendable to 10 hours twice a week) and 90 hours every fortnight (but no more than 56 hours in any single week). Breaks need to be taken for 45 minutes for every 4.5 hours driving and at least 11 hours of daily rest need to be taken each day. Regular weekly rest of 45 hours is also required.

[1]

[2] The Resilience of England’s Transport Systems in December 2010 - An Independent Audit by David Quarmby CBE, December 2010, page 20

[3] As estimated by DfT for salt stock projection purposes.

[4] LGA, Weathering the Storm II – Improving UK resilience to severe winter weather, July 2010

[5] The Resilience of England’s Transport Systems in December 2010 - An Independent Audit by David Quarmby CBE, December 2010, page 24