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Transport: Severe Weather

Volume 718: debated on Tuesday 30 March 2010


I am today announcing an independent review of the transport sector’s response to the severe weather experienced this winter 2009-10 and lessons for the future.

The winter of 2009-10 has seen the most prolonged period of sub-zero temperatures for 30 years, creating extremely challenging conditions for the travelling public. For the most part, our transport networks coped well in the circumstances. However, there are lessons that can be learnt in order to improve our resilience for future winters.

This winter, the Salt Cell successfully achieved its objective of prioritising salt deliveries to highway authorities across the country to minimise disruption to transport networks. The Salt Cell held its final meeting on 16 March. Since it was first convened on 6 January, the Salt Cell met 20 times and advised salt suppliers on the distribution of approximately 530,000 tonnes of salt.

Now that the severe weather has receded, we must focus our attention on learning the lessons presented by this winter. The aim of this exercise will be to identify practical measures to improve the response of transport systems to severe winter weather. The work will review and build upon the recommendations of the UK Roads Liaison Group “Lessons from the Severe Weather February 2009” and present a series of practical measures that authorities must consider for implementation to better prepare themselves for winter 2010-11 and beyond.

The review is part of a Government drive to ensure that local authorities are prepared for future severe weather. Last week the Government announced an additional £100 million for local authorities to help pay for repairs to potholes. This builds on the trebling of funding to local authorities over the last 10 years for road maintenance from £265 million in 2000-01 to £809 million in 2010-11.

The review will be led by a small panel of independent experts comprising:

David Quarmby CBE (Chair), currently Chair of the RAC Foundation and former Chief Executive of the Strategic Rail Authority;

Brian Smith, retiring as Assistant Chief Executive of Cambridgeshire County Council on 31 March; and

Chris Green, a Non-Executive Director of Network Rail, former Chief Executive of Virgin Trains and English Heritage.

During the review, the panel will be seeking evidence and views from a range of stakeholders in order to develop the detailed scope and identify examples of best practice.

A copy of the terms of reference for the review has been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.