Government boosts preparations to tackle severe weather and avoid winter travel misery

Published on Tuesday, 06 December 2011 11:55
Posted by Scott Buckler

Transport Secretary Justine Greening announced today a £16m investment in third rail heating as part of a £38m programme to make sure the rail network is better prepared for severe bad weather this winter

One of the lessons learnt after three successive severe winters was the need to increase the resilience of the railway to heavy snow, particularly on routes relying on the third rail.

The Government is funding an extensive rolling programme to install third rail heating being carried out by Network Rail across London and the South East.

The programme, part of the infrastructure improvements plan announced in the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement, will cover 116,000m of track and cover 421 sites where trains require most traction across the Kent, Sussex and Wessex routes.

To ensure that we go into this winter better prepared, equipment has already been installed at about 85 per cent of the locations and is due to be in place at the remaining sites by January 2012.

The Transport Secretary also published today a cross-Government research study examining options for strengthening winter resilience against a backdrop of recent winter travel disruption that has cost businesses and individuals around £280m a day. The review, which involved Chief Economists and Chief Scientists at DfT, DECC and DEFRA, examined the case for greater investment in a variety of different measures to enhance future winter resilience.

The report shows that we have got the balance of investment in winter preparedness broadly correct.

But it found scope to do more in a number of areas, including boosting rail network resilience and showing there was a good case to introduce third rail heating south of London, where weather disruption was greatest last year due to dependence on third rail train power.

Justine Greening also announced that she had asked the UK Roads Board to explore further measures to make better use of salt, equipment and infrastructure to keep local highways open and safe during severe winter weather. She will also look at the case for increased investment in the Met Office’s super-computing capacity that could ultimately provide improved information on the likelihood and impact of severe weather and support better long-term planning.

Justine Greening visited a rail depot in Tonbridge today to see some of the winter preparations that the rail industry is putting in place and met managers from Southeastern and Network Rail. Apart from the third rail improvements, Network Rail is expanding its fleet of snow clearance and ice treatment trains to a total of 20 and the rail sector is improving its communications with passengers.  

Justine Greening said:

"Severe cold weather will always cause some disruption but the Government has worked with our industry partners to minimise the impact on passengers and businesses in future.  Both airports and the railway are much better prepared than in the past and our current salt stock in Britain is over 2.7m tonnes. Today I am announcing £16m of investment in our rail infrastructure to help keep trains moving in snow and ice."

"But I’m also asking the industry to raise its game and communicate better with passengers in severe weather. However much resilience train operators have built in, when problems do occur it’s a lack of information that makes delays so frustrating and makes it more difficult for passengers to plan their journeys."

 

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