UK

Philip Hammond told to 'get a grip' on snow

  • 2 December 2010
  • From the section UK
Passengers at Gatwick
Passengers waiting at Gatwick airport which was closed by the weather conditions

Transport Secretary Philip Hammond has been told to "get a grip" on the snow which is affecting roads, rail and planes across the UK.

Speaking in the Commons, Shadow transport secretary Maria Eagle claimed he was "demonstrating a breathtaking degree of complacency".

Mr Hammond has asked the chairman of the RAC Foundation, David Quarmby, to review how transport has coped.

But Ms Eagle asked why the findings of the previous review had been ignored.

Travellers using roads and railways are struggling to get into work and two airports - Edinburgh and London Gatwick - are still closed.

The AA has criticised the "lack of resilience" of the UK's infrastructure.

AA president Edmund King said: "We might have more salt than last year but we need better planning to allow gritters through heavy traffic and blocked roads.

"Some highway authorities have invested in new gritters but again we hear that farmers offering to use tractors as snow ploughs were prevented from doing so as the insurance had not come through. This is not good enough."

Mr Hammond said in Parliament: "The government fully recognise the frustration of the travelling public and we are doing our utmost to keep Britain moving.

"The question I'm asking Mr Quarmby to address is not whether we could have expected this disruption but could anything more have been done."

Mr Hammond said Ms Eagle was "failing to recognise the scale of the weather event".

He said flights at Gatwick remain grounded despite 100,000 tonnes of snow being cleared in the last 24 hours.

Ms Eagle told Mr Hammond: "The winter resilience review commissioned by the previous government has produced its final report and recommendations, yet the country is in chaos with passengers forced to sleep at stations, stuck freezing all night in broken down trains and trapped in their cars - all at a cost to the economy of up to £1.2bn a day.

"So why aren't the findings being implemented? The public don't want you to announce another review by the person who has already set out the blueprint for improvements, they want to you to get on and implement the recommendations and improvements.

"When are you going to get a grip?"

Another 8in (20cm) of snow is expected across the east of England on Thursday, with London and the South East badly affected.

But weather forecasters are predicting the bad weather will ease off on Friday.

Derek Turner, director of operations at the Highways Agency, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "I don't think the country has a salt shortage at all. Certainly the Highways Agency has more salt than it had last year, and we have supplies coming from overseas to create a national stockpile should the weather continue."

He advised people not to take journeys unless "really necessary".

"If you can possibly avoid a journey, you should do so. We are expecting some quite severe low temperatures, and that of course with the melting snow could create additional hazards which will not be apparent, like ice which is not as visible as the snow," said Mr Turner.

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