Page last updated at 17:04 GMT, Thursday, 18 February 2010

London Assembly warns against train snow chaos repeat

Tracks at Clapham Junction under snow (Chloe Christmas)
Transport problems continued in London as snow turned to ice

The London Assembly has asked the government to urge train companies to improve their services during bad weather to reduce travel disruption.

Travel chaos caused by snow left many people stranded in early January.

Passengers were frustrated by a lack of information about delayed or cancelled trains, the assembly's transport committee said.

Transport Secretary Lord Adonis was urged to hold a national review of the train firms' responses to the weather.

The committee said "snow chaos on the rail network must not be repeated" and called for the review to cover:

• Rail operators' and Network Rail's contingency plans during bad weather

• Whether trains and tracks could be improved to cope better in icy conditions

• How information and compensation arrangements for passengers could be improved.

A Department of Transport spokesman said: "Clearly there will be lessons to be learned for all modes of transport from the recent severe weather.

"We welcome the work the London Assembly has already undertaken and this will be considered as part of the rail industry's review of their preparation and handling of the severe weather."

Passengers 'infuriated'

In some cases websites crashed, staff were ill-informed and platform displays were out of date, the committee said.

Making it easier for passengers to get compensation should be a priority in the national review, it said.

The committee suggested an industry-wide standard should be agreed to make the compensation passengers are entitled to consistent and transparent.

There was such a variation in the services provided by the different train companies
Caroline Pidgeon
Transport Committee Chairwoman

Train operator Southeastern was singled out for particular criticism by the committee for planning to run only about half of its normal service.

Neighbouring train operators like Southern and South West Trains attempted to provide either a full or slightly reduced service, the committee said.

First Capital Connect (FCC) and Southeastern trains also struggled to run services as their trains have not been modified to cope with icy tracks.

"On several days during January we were instructed by Network Rail, who manage the railway infrastructure, to provide a reduced timetable service during the snow and icy conditions," a Southeastern spokesman said.

"We appreciate there's always room for improvement and will learn lessons from this time."

A Network Rail spokesman said: "Network Rail requested that amended timetables were put in place on a number of routes in the South East during the extreme wintry weather in January 2010, but we did not specify what those timetables should be.

"This is down to the individual train operators."

An FCC spokesman said: "The main reason for winter disruption was late arrival by almost a year of our 23 new Bombardier 377 trains."

"The late delivery put huge stress on the rest of our fleet, affecting its reliability."

London Assembly's transport committee chairwoman said: "Bad weather will inevitably lead to some disruption, but the key issue is that there was such a variation in the services provided by the different train companies."

"This is what makes no sense and rightly infuriates passengers."

The committee also suggested a review of the performance target system which may provide incentives to train operating companies to run a reduced service rather than risk trains being delayed in bad weather.

Lord Adonis was asked to publish findings from a review so passengers can be confident lessons are being learned.

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