Nick Appleyard 15 September 2011

Baker weighs up winter spending

Talks are ongoing between several Whitehall departments regarding the case for additional investment in the resilience of the transport network during severe winter weather.

Speaking exclusively to Surveyor this week, transport minister Norman Baker said the group was looking closely at the case for and against sparing extra cash but conclusions had yet to be reached.

‘We have to ensure there’s a good return on it and that it actually makes a difference,’ the minister said. ‘Is it worth it? There is a question of how much disruption do we just put up with? Because if it’s just going to happen for two days a year, then is further investment actually worthwhile?’

Mr Baker was commenting on his department’s response responding to the transport select committee report entitled the impact on transport of the winter weather in December 2010. In which the Department for Transport said more still needs to be done to ensure winter resilience.

The DfT confirmed regular monitoring of salt stocks had been established to ensure early identification of possible risks. It added investment of £530m in the current spending review period to implement universal broadband access would be a major factor in boosting remote working during times of disruption as an alternative to travel.

In response to the committee’s call for guidance to local authorities about publishing plans for transport networks, the DfT said such instructions existed and winter service was treated as an integral part of wider general resilience planning with many councils regularly reviewing and updating their plans.

Committee chair Louise Ellman MP said: ‘With next winter only weeks away, it’s essential that the Government and transport operators should have learnt the lessons of the last two severe winters.

‘Better planning for winter resilience combined with better information for drivers and passengers during periods of disruption can keep Britain moving. This winter will be a test of whether enough has been done to keep our airports, roads and railways open during snowy weather.’

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