1 Introduction |
Winter 2010-11: how bad was it?
1. Winter 2010-11 was the UK's third cold winter
in succession. The UK mean temperature for the winter as a whole
(ie December, January and February) was 2.4?C, warmer than last
year's 1.6?C but the second coldest since 1985-86
and 1.3?C below the seasonal average.
December was particularly cold. The average temperature in the
UK was over 5?C lower than normal, making it the coldest December
since at least 1910.
Temperatures below -10?C were recorded in a number of places throughout
2. Although much drier than average,
December was also snowy. There were nine "snow events",
beginning in late November,
and the snowfall was the most widespread of any winter for 30
years. There were very
large accumulations of snow in parts of Scotland and northern
England. January and
February were more benign, with February 2011 being notably mild.
3. The worst periods of snowfall, from 30 November
to 3 December and from 16 to 22 December, and the intensely cold
weather caused extensive disruption to the UK's transport networks.
Most significant was the closure of Heathrow Airport from 18 to
20 December after 7cm of snow fell in one hour on 18 December.
Several other airports also closed for a time, including Gatwick
Airport for 46 hours between 1 and 3 December.
Rail services south of the Thames, where electricity is conveyed
to trains using a third rail, were badly affected as were some
Infrastructure and operational failures in France caused disruption
to Eurostar from 19 to 24 December.
Although the major road network in England was mostly kept running,
the AA submitted evidence of "massive congestion and disruption".
Local roads in many areas were severely disrupted.
4. Perhaps most dramatically, the Office for National
Statistics estimated that the severe winter weather at the end
of 2010 reduced the UK's gross domestic product in the final quarter
of the year by 0.5%, tipping the UK back towards recession.
This put the cost of the weather disruption to the UK economy
at £1.6 billion.
The Secretary of State told us that the cost of travel disruption
to the economy was £280 million per day.
A third severe winter in succession
5. The winter of 2008-09 was the worst for 20 years.
Heavy snow in London and south east England in early February
2009 caused severe disruption to transport in London which was
the subject of inquiry by our predecessors.
6. Winter 2009-10 was the UK's coldest for 30 years
and the coldest since records began in northern Scotland.
Snow fell frequently from mid-December until the end of February
and every month of the winter was colder than average.
There was disruption to rail services and aviation but the main
issue was the availability of adequate supplies of salt for gritting
7. In March 2010 the previous Government commissioned
a review, led by David Quarmby CBE, chair of the RAC Foundation,
to "identify practical measures to improve the response of
England's transport sectorroad, rail and airto severe
The Quarmby review published an interim report in July 2010 and
its final report in October 2010. Mr Quarmby was subsequently
asked to undertake an "urgent audit" of how well the
highway authorities and transport operators in England had coped
with the period of bad weather beginning at the end of November.
His audit was published on 21 December but did not take account
of the second period of exceptionally bad weather, in the week
8. One theme of all three recent bad winters has
been the subsequent scrutiny of how transport infrastructure and
operators fared and the lessons which can be learnt for the future.
The Quarmby review and audit were thorough investigations into
what went wrong with road and rail travel
and their recommendations were accepted by the Government.
In response to the disruption at Heathrow, the airport's owners,
BAA, established an inquiry led by Professor David Begg, a non-executive
director at BAA, which published a thorough and hard-hitting report
on 24 March, after we had finished our oral evidence.
the Government, and its predecessor, and transport providers for
their willingness to learn from periods of transport disruption
due to adverse weather. We recommend that, when transport is subject
to significant weather disruption in future, the Government should
initiate reviews along the lines of the Quarmby review to examine
what happened and ensure that lessons are learnt.
9. This report builds on the work undertaken by Quarmby
and others to focus on what the Government can do to ensure that
UK transport networks are better prepared for bad winter weather
in future and passengers are kept well informed during periods
of disruption. We launched our inquiry on 18 January 2011
and heard oral evidence from Mr Quarmby and his colleague Brian
Smith, witnesses from the road, rail and aviation sectors, and
the Secretary of State for Transport. We are grateful to everyone
who submitted evidence, both in writing and orally.
1 Met Office, http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/climate/uk/2011/winter.html. Back
Ev w10, summary and Ev w10, annex B. Back
Met Office, see footnote 1. Back
Ev w10, summary and paragraph 2. Back
Ev 53, paragraph 1. Back
Ev w12-13, Annex A. Back
Met Office, see footnote 1. Back
Report of the Heathrow Winter Resilience Enquiry, 24 March
2011 (hereafter Begg Report) paragraph 52 and see Ev 92,
section 3.2. Back
Ev 78, paragraph 3.2. Back
Ev 72. Back
Ev 56, paragraphs 26-27. Back
Ev 57, paragraph 39 and see Ev w46, paragraph 5 and Ev w51, paragraph
Ev w14 and 16, paragraphs 1.2, 5.1 and 5.2. Back
For example see Ev w47, paragraph 13 and Ev w66, paragraphs 11
and 13. Back
Statistical Bulletin: UK output, income and expenditure,
4th quarter 2010, ONS. Back
The total fall in GDP at market prices was £1.927 billion
(table C2), a decrease of 0.6%. 0.5 percentage points of this
decline was attributed to the severe weather. Back
The Resilience of England's Transport Systems in Winter,
Final Report, DfT, October 2010 (hereafter Quarmby final report)
section 1.1 and Met Office, http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/climate/uk/2009/winter.html. Back
Fourth Report, 2008-09, The effects of adverse weather conditions
on transport, HC328 (hereafter TSC report on adverse weather
Met Office, http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/climate/uk/2010/winter.html,
and Quarmby final report, sections 1.1 and 1.2. Back
Quarmby final report, Appendix A for terms of reference. Back
The Resilience of England's Transport Systems in December 2010,
An Independent Audit by David Quarmby CBE (hereafter Quarmby
Audit) and see Q2. Back
For example, in 2008-09, see TSC report on adverse weather
2008-09, paragraphs 2 and 31. Back
Aviation was less badly affected than other modes in winters 2008-09
and 2009-10 but relevant winter resilience issues were covered
in part D of Quarmby final report and chapter 6 of Quarmby
HC Deb, 26 July 2010, c72WS; 22 October 2010, c79WS; and 21 December
2010, c168WS. Back
Begg Report (see footnote 9). Back
Our terms of reference were "The impact of the recent cold
weather on the road and rail networks in England and Wales and
on the UK's airports, including the extent to which lessons were
learnt from winter 2009-10, the provision of accurate weather
forecasts to transport providers in advance of the bad weather,
and the recommendations of the Quarmby reviews of the resilience
of England's transport systems in 2010". Back