Page last updated at 12:16 GMT, Thursday, 2 December 2010

Labour berates 'complacency' of snow response

Transport Secretary Philip Hammond has been accused of "breathtaking complacency" over the government's response to the recent wintry weather.

Answering an urgent question tabled by Labour's Roberta Blackman Woods on 2 December 2010, he said: "In the last few days we have seen unusually heavy and persistent snow in much greater quantities than were experienced earlier this year down much of the eastern side of the country.

"The great majority of the strategic transport network has been kept open this week but road and rail services in the areas worst affected by snow have been seriously disrupted.

"Highway authorities are working to keep roads open but delays have been caused by broken-down vehicles and minor accidents.

"It is clear that abandoned and broken-down vehicles preventing access for gritters and, in some cases, preventing access to highway depots, is a major factor in the situation seen yesterday."

In an illustration of the scale of the problem Mr Hammond said 100,000 tonnes of snow were cleared from Gatwick airport in the last 24 hours but the flights remained grounded.

On the rail network, Mr Hammond said night time "ghost trains" were being run in an attempt to keep lines open but "build up of ice on third rails across the Southeastern and Southern networks have led to loss of power and trains being stranded, causing severe delays and cancellations".

The problem was affecting countries across Europe, he insisted, with Geneva airport closed for 36 hours due to the weather.

Mr Hammond said: "The government fully recognises the frustration of the travelling public and we are doing everything we can to keep Britain moving."

But Ms Blackman-Woods claimed the government had "no coordinated response" to the situation.

And shadow transport secretary Maria Eagle said Mr Hammond was "demonstrating a breathtaking degree of complacency".

She added: "You are not filling the House with any kind of confidence that you are dealing with your responsibilities adequately."

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