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TOCs should not be surprised by bad weather – MPs

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 industry’s move to reduce or cancel services in anticipation of a severe weather event, which can offer passengers more certainty and avoid people getting stranded.

The report recommends that the 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.

The select committee also said that more work is needed to improve the winter resilience of the third rail network, with the planned conversion of the Southampton to Basingstoke route welcomed as “a good first step”.

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.”

A spokesman for the Rail Delivery Group said: “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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John   03/01/2014 at 11:32

It's not just the TOC's that need a Rocket putting up them, it's also Network Rail. the Rolloing stock builders and the Leasing Companies as well. It is just ludicrous the todays Multiple units cannot get sufficient traction on the rail after a station or signal stop because they don't have sanding equipment - or if they have, there's no dry sand for it and the power bogies slip and slide to a standstill. It is just plain stupid lack of foresight and planning!

Robin Wickenden   03/01/2014 at 22:55

I agree with John (above). The Rail Delivery Group and it's spokesman just aren't getting it: information on its own simply isn't enough. We don't just want to be told why the trains aren't running - we want a railway we can rely on. One where the trains don't keep stopping running because it's too hot, too cold, too wet, too dry, too busy, too quiet, and whatever else these incompetent managers and slovenly operating and maintenance staff can dream up as the next excuse for failing to perform. If the trains in Switzerland, Austria, Germany and Scandinavia can run in the snow and ice, why can't ours? If the trains in Africa and South America can cope in hot and humid weather, then why can't ours? Why are booking offices overwhelmed every half-term and every summer Saturday, as if these things came as a complete surprise? Because the system is run by a mixture of layabouts and idiots, over protected by unions, that's why!

John Grant   06/01/2014 at 12:51

Bear Grylls (the Chief Scout) is quoted as saying "there's no such thing as bad weather, only bad equipment". Of course, there's a trade-off between cost and availability -- good equipment is liable to cost more -- and DfT ought to be up-front about what level of availability the railways are specified for. re sanding, loco-hauled trains need all the traction at the loco, but multiple units should have enough driven wheels to give the necessary traction. Sheffield's trams seem to cope with some really quite steep hills.

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