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Last Updated:  Wednesday, 5 March, 2003, 01:45 GMT
Radio failure caused snow chaos
A gritting lorry
Gritters battled with rush hour traffic
The Highways Agency has admitted a radio failure among its gritting teams contributed to road chaos during January's snow storms.

The breakdown in communications prevented gritters from responding as temperatures plummeted.

And by the time they were on the road the teams had to fight against the traffic, leaving thousands of drivers stranded on the M11 and M25.

The agency has not kept full records of the way it responds to snow despite being committed under the Road User's Charter to salt 99% of roads within three hours of the order being given.

As a result a report from government spending watchdog the National Audit Office (NAO) described the target as "meaningless".

The government indicated after the chaos there would be new legislation to force councils to grit roads.

Horror stories from the blizzards included many drivers trapped on the M11 overnight, forced to sleep in their cars.

Drivers stuck on the M11
The M11 was at standstill
Emergency centres and mobile feeding stations were set up, after stranded drivers had been forced to use truckers' toilet facilities and share food.

The chaos on the roads was exacerbated by the collapse of many parts of the public transport system in the South East. Airports were also closed.

The new report also highlights the difference in the standard of roads across England.

And it calls for better management of the money spent on repairs.

The report says the agency has problems controlling costs and overspends on projects by an average of 27%

It found that in general the state of the roads continues to improve.

The NAO added that the agency was looking at any changes in procedures that might be necessary and reminding its staff they "must err on the side of caution when marginal weather forecasts are received".

UK snow storms: Your experiences
06 Feb 03 |  Talking Point
Homes cut off by storms
31 Jan 03 |  England
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29 Jan 03 |  UK News
In pictures: Snow chaos hits UK
31 Jan 03 |  England

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