Snow, The London Assembly Report

Not Coming Out To Play We’re now only a month since the TERRIFYING SNOW OF LONDON and after the inevitable Channel 4 documentary Snowstorm: Britain’s Big Freeze comes the London Assembly’s report on how (badly) London coped with the snow. There are many interesting points raised within it, one intriguing thing is that the tube was doing fine, seemingly, but not enough staff turned up. Whereas the buses got snowed in and were unable to traverse the roads safely but had a very good staff turnout:

All operators have reported high levels of staff turnout, driver attendance was between 80 – 90 per cent depending on garage locations, there are reports of drivers walking long distances to get to work, some abandoning their cars en route.

There’s an interesting point raised by TFL:

However, parts of the press consistently reported most of the lines were suspended, when, in fact, LU delivered service over approximately 80 per cent of the network, with the service delivered exceeding demand.

The tube was in fact running a reasonable service but of unusual nature that the terming of this as part closure, delays or severe delays on most lines then meant that most media reported that the tube was mostly shut.

Key also is that there was no defined hierarchy either in which transport modes, services or bus routes were considered most important to keep running with only a limited prioritisation of roads to grit. Most fundamentally the chain of command essentially snapped and the limited devolution London experiences failed to provide any strong leadership either from TFL or the mayor in large part because various agencies chose not to bother Boris or TFL and vice versa. The normal[1. and it pains me to put it this way, but I’ve seen it more often than snow in London] terrorist threat response of establishing a Gold command was not undertaken as the snowstorm was not seen as a major enough event.

Communications between the boroughs, the mayor and TFL were in many cases slim to non-existent. My particular borough (Hammersmith & Fulham), failed to submit anything to the committee but as this note shows

TfL received the first request from boroughs for assistance with grit supply on Monday morning, when Hammersmith & Fulham advised directly that they had run out

it was the first to run out of grit on the first morning of snow, which perhaps explains why they failed so comprehensively to grit the pavement in my street and the rest of the borough. As the report shows they even had to beg for grit from Ealing as well. This also led them to leaving the sort of nice Lyric Square as an ice hazard. Perhaps they didn’t have time to write down the complete account of their inability to make the streets safe.

I personally rather enjoyed the chaos of it all as I recounted in my earlier piece. Incidentally, I’ve been beaten in writing this post by The Londonist who’ve used the same photograph of mine. Hurrah for Creative Commons licensing, and nice snowy photos of London buses.