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Transport sector should not be surprised by bad weather – MPs

Government and the transport industry must do more to ensure winter preparedness, MPs have urged.

A new report published by the Transport Select Committee highlighted a lack of readiness across infrastructure, resources and promoting passenger interests.

It reads: “Transport is vital to growth and a lack of preparedness has a direct impact on growth and on the economy as a whole. It is vital that the UK is ready and waiting for adverse weather and not taken by surprise.”

The committee supported the rail and aviation industries’ move to reduce or cancel services in anticipation of a severe weather event, which can offer passengers more certainty and avoid people getting stranded.

It adds that the Highways Agency should review the barriers to providing comprehensive real-time information to drivers and seek to implement a strategy to deliver this across the network.

The report recommends that the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) should ensure that TOCs develop more robust procedures to identify how long a period of disruption is likely to last and to communicate this clearly to passengers.

This recommendation is similar to one made by David Quarmby in his report into winter resilience of transport networks back in 2010.

Transport operators should continue to work closely with the Met Office to understand challenges posed by different types of severe weather, as well as embedding a culture of continuous review and improvement throughout their operations.

The report states: “Continuous improvement must remain a priority for both Government and the transport sector, even if the weather this winter, and in the next few, is not severe.

There is a risk that a few years of mild winter weather could lead to a false sense of security and reduce the sector’s preparedness over the longer term.”

The Government must continue to provide annual updates to local authorities detailing how to access strategic salt stocks, the MPs said.

Cllr Peter Box, chair of the LGA’s Economy and Transport Board, said: “While councils are confident about coping with adverse weather, there is a real concern about the damage another harsh winter or continued extreme flooding could have on our road network. This is coupled with the Government’s own traffic projections predicting an increase in local traffic of more than 40% by 2040. 

“Such an increase would mean there is an even greater need for increased and consistent funding to invest in the widespread resurfacing projects which our dilapidated network desperately needs if we're to see a long-term improvement and to avoid large-scale disruptions becoming unavoidable.”

A spokesman for the Rail Delivery Group commented: “It is good news that the select committee recognises the significant improvements and investment the rail industry has made, and continues to make, to provide passengers with better information and services when trains are affected by severe weather.

“The rail industry is already carrying out a review of the code of practice on how we communicate with passengers during disruption and will listen carefully to any proposals to improve further the service we offer to travellers.”

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