Failing to weather the storm

This has been the worst weather related transport chaos in living memory. Admittedly, it was the heaviest snowfall for a couple of decades and fell on a Sunday night when traffic is light, allowing it to settle. 

 

However, it is still pretty inexcusable that the system fell apart so completely on Monday morning. There had been warnings for several days that blizzards were on the way and Transport for London assures us that it has well-established contingency plans. And yet every London Underground line, apart from the Waterloo & City and Victoria which run completely in tunnel, were affected and, worst, there were no buses at all on Monday morning.

 

It is right that there is no point spending tens of millions on snow ploughs and other equipment that will be used once in a generation. But that is no excuse for lack of preparation. The excuse for not running buses is particularly thin. We are told that they could not get out of depots because the local roads were iced up and were the responsibility of local boroughs.

 

But if there are contingency plans, surely they should take this fact into account? Cooperation between TfL and the councils should have ensured that link roads to depots were given priority by gritters and snowploughs. After all, the main roads along which buses run for the most part were clear. Routes could have been curtailed to ensure that at least some service was offered.

 

In fact, in the complex transport structure in London, it was the private operators who decided not to risk putting their buses on the roads. One can detect the heavy hand of the Health and Safety mafia here. Even Boris seems to have been taken in as he said on TV how dangerous it is to have a 12 tonne bus on icy roads. Yes Boris, but they do it elsewhere in the world.

 

On the trains, while again it is understandable that there were difficulties, especially as staff could not get in on the roads to drive trains or operate signal boxes .However, at times like this people need information and the National Rail website foundered in the first snow drift. It is not good enough for the Association of Train Operating Companies to say there was unprecedented demand. Accidents, bad weather, floods and sudden increases demand should be factored into the software systems as they are bound to happen at some time. Sure it will cost a few bob, but the train operators have been happily coining it over the past few years as passengers have flocked to the railways. It is the sort of investment that any responsible company would have made.

 

There has been a total absence of the ‘the show must go on’ Windmill spirit and the reason is clear. The trains and buses are run by private companies more concerned with not getting sued by a passengers who has slipped on an icy platform or fallen when a bus has skidded, rather than making sure that London keeps moving.

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