Winter resilience review – final report22 Oct 2010

Snow Code for householders

The Winer Resilience Review – led by David Quarmby, chairman of the RAC Foundation – has published its final report to coincide with the Government’s release of a new ‘Snow Code’ for householders.

The Code – which was a key recommendation of the Review’s interim report – backs members of the public who want to try and clear snow and ice from paths and driveways but have been reluctant to do so because of the threat of legal action.

The Review Panel, commissioned by transport ministers in the wake of the disruption caused by the severe weather during the winter of 2009/10, makes 11 recommendations in its Final Report covering the rail and aviation sectors, the supply chain for road salt, and wider issues for the whole transport sector.  These follow 17 recommendations made in the Interim Report in July, which focussed on roads and coping with the next winter.  Key findings and recommendations in the Final Report are:

  • The resilience of the road network can be improved through a combination of measures to secure the supply of road salt and its effective use, including:
    • Over the medium term, increasing the benchmark for all local highway authority salt stocks, with Councils stocking up where they can to the level required for 48 gritter runs (which many Councils already exceed), and collaborating with adjoining authorities where it makes sense;
    • More economical use of salt (which needs technical research to be completed), as experience last winter showed that lower rates of spread did not appear to reduce effectiveness in making roads safe;
    • Greater flexibility of output by the two British salt suppliers;
    • Regular national monitoring to help ensure adequate salt stocks in the right places.
  • July’s recommendation for the Government to import a quarter of a million tonnes of salt as a strategic reserve for next winter was accepted.  Shipments have already started to arrive, with the majority of the salt expected to arrive in November;
  • The rail industry coped well, on the whole, with the severe weather in 2009/10 – having learned valuable lessons from the previous winter.  Response to severe weather can still be improved through more consistent use of contingency timetables, selective heating of conductor rails south of the Thames, greater use of de-icing trains and ensuring that the industry works closely with local highway authorities regarding responsibilities for de-icing key areas used by travellers;
  • The aviation industry responded well, having learned from 2008/09.  De-icing products for aircraft and for runways and taxiways were in very short supply, but the industry is ensuring adequate resilience for the future.  There should also be better availability of airline performance information for customers and the public at large, and better liaison with local highway authorities in some areas is needed regarding the gritting of critical roads around airports;
  • The economic and social cost to England of disruption in an average winter is estimated at about £1 billion, while highway authorities in England spend around £160 million a year in winter service.  Whilst acknowledging the difficult financial position highway authorities now find themselves in, the Review concludes that modest re-allocation of expenditure on winter resilience in some areas, clearly targeted, is likely to be highly beneficial to local economies.

Speaking about the Final Report of the Review, David Quarmby said:

“The weather of the last two winters was exceptionally severe, yet in most respects local authorities and the transport industry rose to the massive challenge.  In 2009/10 in particular – the most severe winter for 30 years – transport networks across the country were disrupted.  But recovery – particularly on the trunk road network, the national rail routes and aviation routes – was relatively swift.  However, there are still lessons to be learned and improvements to be made.  The salt supply chain for highway authorities must be made more resilient, with local authorities increasing their precautionary salt stocks and suppliers responding more flexibly to demand, and the rail industry can further enhance its service reliability in bad weather.  Two key messages for all highway authorities and transport operators are:

 to co-operate in planning for severe weather, so that there is a cohesive transport system for the public even if it is a reduced one – for example, that the route to the rail station, or the link to the motorway and the port, is a priority for gritting, and boundary issues – “who grits the bus station?” – are sorted out well in advance;

and in severe weather events, to fully utilise the latest technologies and media to keep road and transport users well informed with timely and accurate information.”

Following the recommendation in our Interim Report in July, we are delighted that today the government is publishing the ‘Snow Code’ to guide the public on clearing footpaths and guard them against negligence claims.”

The Review’s Final Report follows the publication of the Review’s Interim Report on 26th July which made 17 recommendations on highway authorities’ winter maintenance, the road salt supply chain, public expectations, weather forecasting and self-help by the public, and focused particularly on the need to keep our road network moving in the event of snow and ice next winter.

The Panel were also pleased to note that the Highways Agency is also well underway in completing their recommendation to procure a quarter of a million tonnes of road salt to be held as a strategic reserve.

Notes for editors

  1. David Quarmby CBE, Brian Smith and Chris Green were asked by the then Secretary of State for Transport, in March 2010 to review the winter resilience of England’s roads and transport systems, based on the experience of the winters of 2008/09 and 2009/10, and to make recommendations to improve resilience for the future:

  2. The Terms of Reference for the Review can be found at:

  3. The Final and Interim Reports are available at:

  4. The three members of the Panel who conducted the Review were:
    • David Quarmby CBE, Chair, currently chairman of the RAC Foundation, a former director of consultants Colin Buchanan and former chairman of the Strategic Rail Authority;
    • Brian Smith, recently retired as Executive Director, Environment Services of Cambridgeshire County Council, and former President of what is now ADEPT (Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning and Transport);
    • Chris Green, a career railwayman whose last executive appointment was as CEO of Virgin Trains and who was co-author of the recent Better Rail Stations independent review.
  5. The Review took evidence from a wide variety of sources, face-to-face and in writing, including salt suppliers, local authority representatives, national Government, the Highways Agency, weather forecasters, and in the second part of the review from aviation and rail organisations. All the evidence submitted to the Panel has now been made available on their website.

  6. Press enquiries should be directed to 020 7944 2770 (07979 817243).