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The calm after the storm? How well did the transport industry cope with ‘Doris’?

24 February 2017

Seems hard to think back 24 hours to the very strong winds of yesterday in the bright, sunny calm of today. Really hard at times like this to get a real sense of how information systems, staff and infrastructure coped. However, there’s nothing like a mini-crisis to really test systems out - anecdotes are better than nothing. Of course, these situations are hard to deal with. Weather forecasts are only that – a forecast. Things change during the day, buses, trains and staff get out of position and stranded. So giving passengers meaningful information is not always easy – but this is where our staff come to the fore.

The bus industry, as ever, seemed to calmly get on carrying passengers. I am sure there were local difficulties but I got no sense of crisis. No word from the coach sector so assume nothing to report!

High winds shut bridges on the Strategic Road Network which must have caused real problems added to the weather in parts of the country. Two lanes on the M6 were out due to fallen trees. There were plenty of delays as a result but Highways England had good information on the Variable Message Signs with estimates of time delays and what was happening on bridges ahead (the Thelwall viaduct was closed at one point). However, the media did not seem to focus on these issues in particular. Everyone seemed to see the weather for what it was – challenging!

As usual the railways seemed to command more attention. Reports from around the country featured the usual clash between information sources with websites, station information and staff saying different things as they struggled to catch up with what was happening on the ground. Reports of great staff at London’s Blackfriars, but silent staff at St Pancras on Thameslink services.

Virgin West Coast services seemed to have a really difficult day. Little warning at Manchester Piccadilly about the problems early in the day which turned out to be really serious. Birmingham New Street very crowded with little evidence of staff.

There were reports of good on board driver announcements from Great Northern, but they seemed absent at Kings Cross with very little useful information. Virgin East Coast seemed better with an obvious staff presence.

Two of our staff had set off early from Manchester to come to our London office. At that time no warning of problems. It got sticky very quickly. They finally reached London and turned around to get home. I got this message from them later:

"Have you heard the likes of this sitting on Rugby station for the last two hours, and the Virgin staff are getting off closing the shop and getting transported home. What about the passengers!!!"  Virgin West Coast did, however, allow people to refund advance tickets or travel later, earlier or delay to first thing today.

It will be very interesting to read the industry de-brief on how all this was handled.

 

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