Snow response on the roads and railways blasted by MPs

Posted On 13 May 2011 at 8:43 pm

Commuters from Brighton and Hove need train companies to undergo a complete culture change, according to MPs.

The cross-party committee of MPs were critical of the way passengers were stranded or left without information during the ice and snow last winter.

And train companies falling short should face the threat of fines to make them raise their game, the MPs said.

They also called for the railway lines along the South Coast and between Brighton and Hove and London to be modernised in the long term.

They want the third rail system to be replaced with a more resilient form of electrification.

The criticisms and recommendations come in a report, published today (Thursday 12 May), by the House of Commons Transport Select Committee.

The report said that more could and should be done to ensure road, rail and air services continued to operate in ice and snow.

The report also said that the welfare of air and rail passenger must be taken more seriously and better real-time information must be provided to drivers.

The MPs said: “The rail industry needs to do far more to look after the interests of passengers during periods of disruption.

“Culture change is urgently required.

“The legacy of privatisation cannot be used to excuse the continuing inability of train companies to provide accurate information to passengers about delays and cancellations.

“Licence changes proposed by the ORR (Office of Rail Regulation) should be introduced as soon as possible and backed up by effective regulation. By next winter, there should be clarity within the industry about who is responsible for real-time information provision and customer-focused timetable systems should always display accurate information.

“Failures in information provision should cost the firms responsible money.”

Anthony Smith, chief executive of rail customer watchdog Passenger Focus, said: “Passengers will be pleased to see this report acknowledges many of the information failings that happened during the snow disruption in December.

“Failing to provide information at times of disruption is the number one cause of anger and upset on the part of passengers.”

The MPs’ report said: “Strategic salt arrangement introduced a year ago clearly kept many main roads open last December.

“The Highways Agency and police forces must, however, work to manage blockages on the strategic road network more pro-actively, making greater use of roadside and in-car information systems to warn motorists about poor conditions and disruption.”

It added that councils should work with police, road and rail organisations to prepare consistent and effective plans.

And councils should provide better online advice for individuals and communities about tackling problems arising from severe winter weather.

The committee said that there should be a high-profile campaign to encourage drivers to be better prepared for driving in severe winter weather.

Louise Ellman, the chairman of the cross-party committee of MPs, said that better planning, particularly by airport operators, should be aimed at ensuring people were not left stranded without even basic supplies.

The government was urged to put more money into weather forecasting too, given the huge cost of the disruption to the economy caused by the snow-related transport chaos.

Southern managing director Chris Burchell was among those who gave evidence to the committee’s inquiry. Read it here or read the Brighton and Hove News report of the evidence session by clicking on the link below.

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