Session 2010-11
Publications on the internet

Written evidence from Transport for London (AWC 32)

1 Introduction

1.1 Transport for London (TfL) welcomes the opportunity to contribute to the Committee’s inquiry into the recent adverse weather conditions.

1.2 TfL provided evidence to the independent review conducted by David Quarmby CBE, on behalf of the Government, in December 2010. The Winter Resilience Audit was published on 20 December.

1.3 In the report, David Quarmby referred to the lessons learned by TfL and other agencies from previous experiences of severe weather who had developed elements of good practice which could be replicated by other agencies. There were no specific recommendations directed at London, though the report noted that London’s resilience arrangements were a model for others to consider.

1.4 For the purposes of this submission, TfL’s evidence focuses on its response to the snowfall which fell on London and South East between Tuesday 30 November and Friday 3 December.

2 Preparing for severe weather

2.1 In London, a host of agencies including TfL, the emergency services and the Capital’s boroughs work closely together in preparing for, and responding to, severe weather conditions.

2.2 Following the previous two severe winters, these arrangements are now well rehearsed. There are, however, always lessons to be learned. In spring 2010, the London Authorities Panel set objectives for a London Winter Service Review Steering Group, comprising of representatives from the London boroughs, the London Technical Advisers Group (LoTAG), the Emergency Services and TfL. 

2.3 Their work took place throughout the spring and summer months, including organising a Winter Service workshop, attended by representatives of all 32 London boroughs, the City of London and TfL, as well as key stakeholders, including the Metropolitan Police, London Fire Brigade, the Met Office and the Department for Transport. 

3 London’s performance

3.1 Heavy snowfall in London commenced on Tuesday 30 November and fell across the Capital until Friday 3 December. South east London (especially the Boroughs of Bromley, Croydon and Sutton) was worst hit, and experienced more than 30cm of snow in places.

3.2 Significant snowfall continued predominantly in South East London until 2 December. Temperatures fell to as low as -11 degrees and significant sub-zero night time temperatures had been experienced throughout.

3.3 London’s benchmark salt stock level (based on 48 runs of 20g/m2) is 69,797 tonnes. To ensure London was prepared TfL developed a strategic salt store by doubling its stock from 9,000 to 18,000 tonnes. Across the Capital, the amount of salt being purchased by the boroughs increased the benchmark figure to 72,000 tonnes.

3.4 During this period of extreme weather, working in close collaboration with the boroughs, TfL’s contractors deployed all their 39 gritters, equipped with snow ploughs, and ten quad bikes to treat TfL’s network and to assist with treating access to bus stations and garages and key bus routes.

3.5 On the bus network, and on the worst affected day (2 December), 98.5 per cent of fleet vehicles remained in service in London during the morning peak before recovering to more than 99 per cent by the afternoon. On the other affected days (1 December and 3-4 December), over 99 per cent of the bus fleet was in operation.

3.6 On average, nearly 95 per cent of London Underground (LU) services, over half of which operate above ground, were in operation over the course of the severe weather conditions. This is broadly the same level of service LU would operate on a normal weekday and was the result of strategies such as running de-icing trains every 10-15 minutes overnight to keep conductor rails free of ice and snow.

3.7 The DLR and the London Tramlink operated a good service across all routes. On London Overground, services operated across the vast majority of the network but delays occurred on services to and from West Croydon and Crystal Palace, due to ice on tracks managed by Network Rail.

3.8 David Quarmby’s report highlighted the need for the rail industry to proactively provide other transport providers, particularly bus operators, with detailed information. The report noted the difficulty that Network Rail/TOC customer information systems had in keeping up with the developing service situation during severe weather-related disruption and that this ‘made it impossible for other transport operators, especially TfL, to give any accurate information to passengers they were feeding onto the south London network’. We endorse this recommendation and will work with Network Rail to develop resilience in this area.

4 18 and 19 December

4.1 Although the second spell of severe weather from 16 December caused significant disruption to other transport operators, particularly to UK airports’ operations, well rehearsed resilience plans between TfL and London’s boroughs were already in place to cope with a second wave of heavy snowfall.

4.2 Despite a strike on the Bakerloo line on Saturday 18 December and on one of the busiest shopping weekends of the year, over 85 per cent of Tube services ran over the weekend with broadly the same levels on each of Saturday and Sunday.

4.3 Over 99 per cent of the bus fleet was in operation with only minor curtailments taking place on taking place in outer London, predominantly in the south east.

5. Public information

5.1 TfL’s information systems proved resilient in the face of significant demand. It is worth noting the level of demand TfL experience on its communication channels when bad weather has an effect on punctuality and reliability across the network. In the period 18 – 23 December there were three million visits to the TfL website, over a million visits to our live travel news page, over six million Journey Planner page views and close to two million page views on our mobile site.

5.2 In his review, David Quarmby said: ‘A particular feature on the Underground is the strong commitment to passenger communication and briefing; on the TfL website, through the telephone enquiry services and particularly in-journey. ‘Rainbow boards’ giving line status at every station, extensive use of public address throughout the network to advise current conditions as a supplement to the electronic platform indicators, and helpful information by train drivers if services are delayed or halted, all add to the confidence passengers have about using the system. While recognising the differences in scale and resources, there are lessons to be learned and applied, particularly about information, for the national rail network.’

5.3 TfL’s travel information is updated in real-time, giving customers the confidence that any changes they make to their travel plans are arrived at using highly accurate data and have resilient and high capacity hosting infrastructure to ensure that our online services are constantly available.

5.4 We are currently looking for ways to improve our information provision and resilience and to make our raw data available free of charge to developers so that they can produce apps and other innovative products which our customers might find helpful.

6. Conclusion

6.1 TfL continues to work closely with colleagues in the boroughs and via the London Local Authority Coordination Centre (LLACC) as we monitor London’s ability to respond to future severe winter conditions, as well as reporting our state of resilience to the Government.

6.2 TfL’s response to this winter’s adverse weather conditions has been significantly improved by the action that has been taken to implement recommendations made in previous inquiries.

February 2011