Storms: Drivers and passengers need better data - MPs

A motorway sign warning of bad weather

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Better real-time information should be provided to rail and air passengers and drivers when bad weather strikes the transport system, MPs say.

The transport committee said it was "vital" information was provided which was up-to-date and broken down to specific areas and services.

Chairman Louise Ellman also said more action was needed to clear pavements of ice and snow in future.

Rail firms said they were reviewing how they communicate during disruptions.

In its report, the cross-party committee said regulators must also seek to avoid a repeat of last week's problems at Gatwick.

Delayed passengers at Gatwick Passengers delayed on Christmas Eve at Gatwick

Thousands of passengers were stranded at the airport, which is south of London, as a result of a power cut during the stormy weather.

Mrs Ellman said: "The Civil Aviation Authority must get to the bottom of what went wrong and how airports across the country can avoid similar situations in the future."

In a wide-ranging report the committee said that transport problems had a direct impact not just on passengers and drivers but on the economy as a whole.

Since its previous report a national "salt reserve" had been created to avoid any future shortages for use on treating roads, the committee said.

But a national advertising campaign was needed to alert residents to the right to clear snow and ice from pavements outside their homes without fear of being sued by anyone slipping over.

A woman clears snow outside her north Wales home in March There is no legal risk to clearing snow from outside your home, the MPs say

The report quotes evidence given by Living Streets, a charity "that stands up for pedestrians", that councils "could do more to help organise teams of volunteer snow wardens".

During the course of their inquiry the committee heard that weather forecasts had played a key role in preparing for bad weather - most notably with the pre-emptive cancellation of train and air services during the St Jude storm at the end of October.

But Mrs Ellman said "it is vital that passengers receive up-to-date information of changes and disruption wherever possible", including airports and rail operators clearly signalling how long delays might last.

A road being cleared of snow near Burnley last March Improvements to clearing roads in recent years was praised

Drivers should also get better details before and during bad weather, with the MPs urging the Highways Agency to "identify technological and other solutions" to provide "comprehensive real time information to drivers... across the strategic road network".

'Taken by surprise'

The committee report quotes evidence given by the Institute of Advanced Motorists that information is "not yet tailored to the individual needs of drivers".

"Blanket warnings about 'essential' journeys are of little value without a full definition of 'essential'."

Mrs Ellman said: "Transport is vital to economic growth and while we recognise that some progress has been made by the government and transport to improve public information and passenger welfare during severe weather... we believe there remains considerable scope for further improvement.

"It is vital that the UK is ready and waiting for adverse weather and not taken by surprise."

The Rail Delivery Group, which speaks on behalf of train operators and Network Rail, welcomed recognition of the "significant improvements" made by the industry in how it kept travellers informed when services were cancelled or delayed.

"The rail industry is already carrying out a review of the code of practice on how we communicate with passengers during disruption," a spokesman said.

"It will listen carefully to any proposals to improve further the service we offer to travellers."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    Well, how's about re-opening the line between Exeter and Plymouth via Okehampton? That's not going to be affected by any conceivable high tide!

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    There are loads of Apps and web sites for real time weather and travel information if people can actually be bothered to look at them.

    The problem as always seems mostly to be the idiots who are too thick to think for themselves.

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    The best way to improve transport is to get people running it who have an invested interest in seeing it be run well; privatise it - properly.

    Much of the rail are semi-privatised, true. But, this is a botched privatisation, where government heavily regulates (intervenes) in the that market still; the crony franchise agreements, and crippling labour and property laws alone must not be repeated.

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    There is an industrial estate 5 miles away from me, the vast majority of factories start their shifts at 6 am. The first bus is at 6:07 am.

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    It's not winter transport that needs improving, it's ALL transport. Public transport has been cut back to the bone and what is left is far too expensive. Most of us are forced to use cars whether we want to or not, but fuel costs and poor road infrastructure don't make this easy or pleasant.

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    Our national infrastructure is poor.

    Road, rail power & certain airports are all shot & need major investment.

    Because all of these systems is running at or over capacity, if anything goes wrong, even relatively small problems, causes mayhem.

    Typically these type of improvements must be driven by gov't & gov't money but this isn't happening.

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    My local airport operators official departure & arrival information on the their website is not updated as often as it should be. A flight I was passenger on one day last year wasn't shown as having departed an hour after it had taken off.

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    Or people can check the weather in the preceding days before they need to travel. I always keep an eye on the weather be it via a tv or radio broadcast, no problems so far.

    Do some also need the government to butter their bread for them too ?!

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    "Better real-time information should be provided to rail & air passengers & drivers when bad weather strikes the transport system"

    We already know that the infrastructure in Britain is not fit for purpose so telling us it it is not is a waste of time & money.
    Instead of talking about it or cutting back on jobs in the environment flood agency the govt need to actually do something to improve it!

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    Doesn't seem to have workedout as badly as it could have done; I suggest we stop talking ourselves down so much.

    I was most amused this morning when I cycled down to photograph a local area which looks very pretty flooded, that 2 two sets of "Road Closed" signs, an a policewoman sitting in a car (ignoring vehicles) by one, the road was perfectly dry and a good vertical foot away from flooding.

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    17.Milo Minderbinder
    You would think so but with George Osborne's offer of £600 to give up your employment rights don't be so sure, no work on a zero hours contract is not good as a consequence either.
    Fine the operator of the transport system and pay it directly to those affected, it will concentrate minds on not having too many problems because it will be cheaper to do something than not.

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    @19 - the speed setting are set automatically by a system which monitors traffic flows via loops in the carriageway and sets speeds accordingly. However, the system can only operate on traffic flows measured over a period of time (as speed = dstiance/time), therefore, once traffic flows return to normal, there is inevitably a delay in the system detecting this. 'Real time' is not possible.

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    From what I've seen infrastructure needs improving to make transport more reliable all year round.

    Realistically winter weather only severely affects transport a few days a year and as the weather is uncontrollable I find that understandable. What is important in these times is adequate information and provision of alternative transport options in place for those who need them wherever possible.

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    'Chairman Louise Ellman also said more action was needed to clear pavements of ice and snow in future.'

    And what exactly does she mean by this? Action by whom? Another media friendly soundbite which means nothing in reality.

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    Am I the only one that think we coped well?. No major, major disasters compared to other countries. Just more 'problems' drummed up by the media that will inevitably lead to Tory bashing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    "We are an island surrounded by water and have numerous rivers and lakes."

    How insightful. This and your capitlisation of "CUTS" etc clearly indicates that you are a force in your own right.

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    "Better real-time information should be provided" reads this story.
    Never mind the bad weather. How often are you on the Motorway and you see a 50mph electronic board and you do 50mph and there is absolutely no hazard at all and then at the next board it says 70mph. The Highways Agency is already hopeless, even in perfect weather.

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    The blame falls to government. The lack of investment over the past 20 years in proper flood defences and snow/ice removal machinery as well as reduced funding for road and rail improvements has landed us in the mess we are in. Priorities laid elsewhere - MP pay rise, MP expenses, and the like. They may only add up to a few million each - but as they say, the pennies add up!

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    You have to attempt to turn up for work or get fired"

    I would expect that a warning by the authorities NOT to travel would be a valid defence against dismissal and valid grounds to bring an unfair dismissal case to an industrial tribunal were it to happen.

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    This country always seems to be caught out by really bad weather. Unfortunately there isn't a lot that can be done if freak floods and gales cause power cuts. A balance needs to be struck between notifying people of potentially disruptive weather and causing unnecessary panic but I believe that things are getting better in this respect.


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