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Severe Weather (Road Conditions)

Volume 960: debated on Friday 15 December 1978

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asked the Secretary of State for Transport how many roads for which he has responsibility were closed, and for what periods, during the exceptional weather conditions from Christmas day onwards.

My Department is responsible for motorways and trunk roads.All motorways were kept opened for traffic during the period 25th December 1978 to 12th January 1979 except for the M67 which was blocked on the night of 1st January 1979. Sliproads on to the southbound side of M5 south of Bristol were closed by the police on 31st December to discourage traffic from entering Devon and Cornwall beyond Exeter, but the motorway itself was not blocked.A total of 17 trunk roads was closed to traffic during the same period because of snow and abandoned vehicles and as a result of flooding. Closures ranged from a few hours to five days on the A66 which crosses the Pennines in County Durham and Cumbria.

asked the Secretary of State for Transport if he is satisfied with the action taken to ensure that transport services were not disrupted by the severe weather experienced during the exceptional weather conditions from Christmas day onwards.

For the most part, yes, although some lessons have been learnt.

asked the Secretary of State for Transport, in view of the severe weather experienced during the exceptional weather conditions from Christmas day onwards, if he will ensure that the United Kingdom's resources to grit and clear roads are put into action quickly enough to prevent serious disruption when extreme weather conditions affect the United Kingdom.

Standing arrangements on motorways and trunk roads in England, for which I am responsible, are that the Department's agent authorities commence precautionary measures immediately on receipt of early warnings from local weather stations.

Similar arrangements exist in Scotland and Wales. On other roads responsibility for initiating such action rests with individual highway authorities.

My Department maintains an effective emergency reserve fleet of snowploughs and snowblowers which local highway authorities can call on to supplement their own snow clearing vehicles.