Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin has chaired an urgent resilience meeting with the bus and coach operators to ensure that all necessary extra services are in place to reduce the impacts of severe weather, and to plan for further capacity that may be needed should adverse conditions continue or spread to other parts of the country.
The Transport Secretary met today, Thursday 13 February 2014, with a delegation from the industry’s trade body and representatives from the five largest companies – National Express, First Group, Go Ahead, Stagecoach and Arriva.
Patrick McLoughlin said:
The meeting today (13 February 2014) has reassured me that the companies running the UK’s thousands of coach and bus services understand the unprecedented situation we face and are working hard to do whatever is needed to keep the country moving. I am delighted to hear that the national coach network is operating normally with no significant disruption.
Coach operators have also laid on thousands of extra seats to ease the pressure in the worst affected areas, and I was pleased to hear from the industry that there is capacity in the UK’s bus and coach fleet to provide extra services in the case of more widespread or prolonged severe weather.
We need to make sure that we make full use of the flexibility that is built into the transport network. When our railways are hit by this scale of disruption we need to make it as easy as possible for the public to reach their destinations by alternative means.
At the meeting the Transport Secretary and industry agreed that the government will establish an early warning system, building on existing channels of communication between train companies and those running buses and coaches to ensure a quick response to emerging challenges, identifying areas where disruption could be minimised and additional services may be needed.
The UK’s transport network has a high degree of built-in resilience to cope with adverse weather but current conditions are exceptional. It is vital that all modes of public transport are deployed effectively to keep disruption to travel to a minimum.
Yesterday government confirmed it would provide £61 million to help repair damaged roads and build greater resilience into the railways of the south west.
The Transport Secretary also reiterated the importance of the Highways Agency continuing to ensure that routes affected by rail disruption are kept clear by lifting roadworks, providing additional support from Traffic Officers and deploying plant and recovery operators at key locations.
This builds on the announcement that airline Flybe will boost the number of flights between Cornwall and London and their agreement to keep prices at the same level as before the weather disruptions. On Monday the Prime Minister also announced a government subsidy to allow Newquay Airport to waive a £5 airport development fee usually charged to those departing from the airport.
In addition, rail operator First Great Western (FGW) has put in place special ticketing arrangements so that rail passengers who are affected by flood disruption do not miss out on cheaper advance fares while revised timetables are put in place.