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Parliamentary debates and questions

S5W-12126: Jamie Greene (West Scotland)

Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party

Date lodged: 24 October 2017

To ask the Scottish Government what it is doing to help ensure that there is minimal disruption to transport over winter 2017-18.

Answered by: Humza Yousaf 7 November 2017

Whilst we know severe weather will cause disruption, this Government has taken a wide range of steps to improve our resilience to the challenges of winter, to mitigate its impacts and to recover our transport networks, businesses and get daily life back to normal as quickly as possible. This has been done in partnership with a broad range of public, private and third sector partners and has included new investment, development and innovation - all learning the lessons from recent winters.

Transport Resilience

The Traffic Scotland National Control Centre (TSNCC) at Queensferry co-ordinates a more joined-up response during major travel incidents and severe weather, as well as targetting reduced journey times across the transport network.

The TSNCC hosts the Transport Scotland Multi-Agency Response Team (MART) arrangements which enable a strategic overview of event and incident handling. This is a joint process with Police Scotland and includes trunk road Operating Companies, the Scotrail Alliance, the Met Office and others. We have also seconded personnel from Police Scotland, British Transport Police and the Met Office to enhance closer partnership working.

Transport Scotland has a specific Resilience Team, which ensures there are arrangements in place to prepare and provide support for major impacts to the transport network. They played a full part in all recent, major resilience events in Scotland including the closure of the Forth Road Bridge and the closure of M80 in February as a result of snow. They are currently focusing on working alongside the UK Government departments to prepare for Counter Terrorism responses.

Transport Scotland, through Traffic Scotland, has developed and utilises multiple technology platforms to inform transport network users of issues, alternative routes and methods of travel to minimise transport disruption. These platforms include desktop and mobile websites, smartphone apps, internet radio, a customer care line and social media.

Trunk Roads

The winter service, provided across Scotland from the start of October through to mid-May, is a critical front-line service. Winter weather has and will cause disruption on our roads, with the actions we are taking and with road users playing their part by planning ahead, together we can get Scotland moving throughout the winter.

New contract specifications, greater use of technology and getting information to people ‘on the move’ are just a few of the ways we have strengthened the Winter Treatments, Decision Making and Communication with Road Users. The enhanced preparedness is also beneficial outside of winter, as the procedures and practices such as the MART improve our resilience for other severe weather events and major events such as last year’s T in the Park and The Open golf.

Rail

We are working with The ScotRail Alliance to prepare for potential severe winter weather and expect to see further improvements in operational and customer services and travel advice offered. This will include;

  • Continued improvements across all ScotRail fleets to improve their robustness to the issues caused by winter weather in previous years.

  • ScotRail depots and maintenance facilities to have winter maintenance equipment installed and undertake a winter resilience check at all depots and train fleets.

  • Winter working preparation for all stations, ensuring de-icing equipment and materials will be in place.

  • Network Rail will carry out a winter resilience check both at regional and local level.

  • Network Rail will again make available the mobile snow and ice clearance machine that can thaw junctions quickly. In addition all local teams will be equipped with winter clearance equipment and provided with latest weather forecast and impact briefing.

  • A robust communications plan will be delivered ensuring passengers are prepared for adverse weather, including customer road shows at key stations throughout December, and the creation of a dedicated website and social media campaign for key messages.

Ferries

The Scottish Government is committed to maintain and improving lifeline ferry services that play a key role in supporting the economic, social and cultural development of island and remote communities.

During periods of bad weather the ferry operators providing lifeline ferry services to the Scottish Government under a Public Service Contract will, where possible, advise the travelling public in advance of any potential disruption. This information is provided via the ferry operator’s website, texting, social media, as well as the national and local media.

In addition, where periods of bad weather are anticipated, the ferry operator will seek to try and flex the scheduled ferry service timetable to provide sailings in advance of, or following on from, the disruption to the timetabled services, to try and minimise any impact on our remote and island communities.

Ferry travel has its own distinct challenges, particularly high winds, and the ship’s Master has a duty to ensure the safety of passengers above other considerations. The Merchant Shipping (Master’s Discretion) Regulations 1997 gives the ship’s Master sole responsibility for deciding whether it is safe to sail.

Aviation

Working towards winter 2017-18 our own airport group, Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd (HIAL), has undertaken airline and third party pre winter meetings. Airport snow plans are in the process of being reviewed ahead of the winter period to ensure all departments are fully aware of their responsibilities during adverse weather.

Aberdeen Airport has a fully robust winter plan in place which has been used in previous years and is ready for implementation as and when the weather arrives. This includes both airside and landside facilities, access and egress for passengers and staff and additional staff resource when required.

Glasgow Airport has a robust and detailed winter operations plan in place which sets out how airport operations will be maintained during adverse weather conditions, details staff training and clearance criteria and methods.

Glasgow Prestwick Airport has its Winter Operation Plan reviewed annually and the next plan will be ready for issue imminently. All winter operational equipment has been serviced and training with the operational staff will have taken place before the start of the season.

Edinburgh Airport winter operations have been updated for the new season. Winter Operations staff training material has been updated and training started on 25 September. A collaborative meeting has reviewed winter operations plans for all operators and snow fleet maintenance is ongoing.