Page last updated at 09:55 GMT, Monday, 2 March 2009

London 'slow to tackle snowfall'

railway worker clears snow at Victoria station on 2 February
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London was ill-prepared for the heavy snowfall on 2 February, slowing the city's recovery, a report has found.

There was a lack of communication and support between emergency services, local councils and Transport for London (TfL), the London Assembly (LA) said.

The response might have been better coordinated if TfL had informed London mayor Boris Johnson about the situation sooner, the report found.

TfL said it welcomed the report and would address the issues raised in it.

Commuters woke up to the heaviest snowfall in almost two decades a month ago, followed by suspended bus services, icy roads and school closures.

The assembly's transport committee looked at how agencies worked together to restore services across the city.

It said that under such "extreme" conditions, severe disruption to the transport network was "inevitable".

LA committee chair Val Shawcross said: "Despite the weather forecasts, the response by key agencies in London was a little slow to get off the ground.

"While some disruption was inevitable, the evidence we heard suggests a lack of preparation and co-ordination delayed the capital's recovery."

It is reasonable to question whether the mayor could have been given the opportunity to be involved at an earlier stage
London Assembly transport committee report

For example, London Ambulance Service said it asked local authorities for help clearing access routes to ambulance stations but some councils refused.

A number of London boroughs said they received little or no communication from TfL and as a result attempts to grit or salt roads were uncoordinated or too late.

Bus services were also hampered by a lack of clarity around who was responsible for clearing snow from bus garage driveways.

After a number of bus-related incidents on 1 February the London Buses Network suspended all services shortly after midnight on 2 February. TfL informed the mayor of that decision six hours later.

"It is reasonable to question whether the mayor could have been given the opportunity to be involved at an earlier stage in coordinating the response to what was the most severe disruption to the capital's transport network in decades," the report said.

It called for further examination of TfL's contingency plans and emergency procedures.

'Extreme' conditions

TfL said: "We have always acknowledged that there are lessons to be learned by us and our borough partners and it is a highly valuable contribution to that process.

"We will address all of the points raised as part of our lessons learned exercise and will publish our full response to each in due course."

A spokesman for London Mayor Boris Johnson said: "The report recognises that when rare and extreme conditions occur then severe disruption is inevitable.

"We accept there is scope for better coordination between TfL, the emergency services and the London boroughs and will consider all recommendations on how to improve this."

Transport Commissioner Peter Hendy also said the impression may have been given in the media that TfL held the boroughs responsible for the suspension of bus services.

He told the committee: "If any of my people said: 'It's the boroughs' fault,' then I apologise for that because I do not think it is."

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