Disruption caused by Snow

Select Committee enquiry must act on lessons learned

27 February

heavy snow caused widespread disruption in early February

The AA highlights lessons that need to be learned and issues that need to be addressed by the House of Commons' transport committee hearing into disruption caused by the snow in early February when they meet on 11 March.

"The severity of the 'big snow event' put such a strain on resources that authorities couldn't shift up a gear to deal it. Motorways ran but large numbers of drivers couldn't get to them and information websites were overloaded," says Paul Watters, the AA's head of roads and transport policy.

The local authority response became a crisis when salt began to run out. Local authorities maintain their own salt stocks and decide priorities, and this arrangement fell down with dwindling supplies of salt. Co-operation helped as did the improving weather.

"Random winters will create major snow disruption and the UK should plan now for the next by learning the lessons of last month. The country needs some central overview and control which sets aside highway authority boundaries. We also need to look at highway authority service standards to road users, which can be a lottery as to how much road networks are treated by different councils.

Planned extra investment in snow ploughs by the Highways Agency is welcome and the AA hopes that other highway authorities invest more in equipment, salt and emergency contingency plans so that we don't see a repeat of the death trap conditions many motorists faced on icy local roads.

The AA calls for the enquiry to be extended to cover the aggravated road damage caused by the severe weather, including the action local authorities need to take to mend the 40 per cent increase in potholes and the extra capital investment needed from government.

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4 March 2009