The story of
my London Transport Hell:
Thursday 30th January 2003 - When 4 centimetres of snow fell on London!
(IT TOOK ME 9 HOURS TO GET HOME!) Check for the Latest Update at bottom of this page!
IMPORTANT: Click on the Next button below to step through the nightmare story.
I have sent emails to the many people, organisations and institutions requesting explanations as to why this nightmare could happen in one of the premier capital cities in the world.
e.g I have sent to Transport for London, London Mayor, London Buses, London Undergorund, my local MP, councillors, local papers and local TV and radio stations.
I will reproduce any responses that I get back (if I get any at all) right here:
FIRST Response award goes to the Mayor of London!
Email from Mayor
of London's office
you for your recent e-mail describing the severe and unacceptable
may or may not already know, the Mayor of London does not
issued a press statement on Friday 31st January on the subject
for London (of which the Mayor is Chair) was well prepared for
to the problems you found in catching a bus, it is true
the weather conditions, the Docklands Light Railway and the
I understand your frustration at not being able to get home on
I await further responses.
Email from "Transport for London" (TfL)
Recieved 5th February 2003
for your email. I note the content of the URL you have quoted and the
I am sorry
to hear of the major disruption to the public transport network
may I explain that Transport for London are not yet responsible for
to bus services, many areas of London were disrupted as the
As a general
point, although the cold weather was forecast, it's severity
of State for Transport, Alastair Darling, has already
was appalled at the failure of LU and the Highways Agency (who are
up London Boroughs - no repeats please!
More as it comes.
Email from "Customer Services" at Brent Council
Recieved 6th February 2003
Thank you for your email. I have forwarded your enquiry over to Brent's Streetcare Section, to investigate and respond to you directly via your email address.
Should you require any further information or assistance, please do not hesitate to contact Streetcare on 020 8937-5050.
Well - this email was received after I got an initial response from the email "robot" at Brent Council's "One Stop Shop". So now I am looking forward to what the "Streetcare" folks at Brent have to say about the problem .....
Email from "London Buses" (Customer Services of TfL Buses)
Recieved 18th February 2003,
Thank you for your recent communication.
I am very sorry to hear of the difficulties that you experienced as you travelled home on the 30th January.
As you may be aware, many bus services were cancelled on that day, owning to extreme weather conditions. Such drastic steps were taken in the interests of safety, an because some roads were closed. We fully appreciate the inconvenience caused to the many passengers, who were left with no information.
We realise how important it is to keep passengers informed, so we often place notices at bus stops and shelters advising of long term delays sadly, it is not always possible to so, particular when faced with short term delays. I apologise that you were not kept fully in formed on this occasion.
If you forward your address, I will send you a book of six saver tickets, which can be used to make single adult journeys, as gesture of goodwill. If you have any other queries or comments, please do not hesitate to contact me.
gesture of goodwill from London Buses!
Well - after not hearing ANYTHING from the "Streetcare" folks at Brent Council - I sent in another email to find out why. Here is the email from Brent Council I got in response:
Recieved 19th February 2003
Thank you for your email.
May I apologise
on behalf of Brent Council for the delay in responding to your initial
I have made enquiries with the Streetcare Inspectors this morning, in order to ascertain which inspector your email was passed to. However, at this stage I have been unable to establish who received it.
speak to the Streetcare Call Centre team leader on Monday morning and
advise you accordingly.
THE MEANTIME: (As I write this on Friday 21st February):
STOP PRESS: Some of you are probably wondering why I have gone to such lengths to share this story - and why I just haven't let this go as some might say: "put it down to experience" - well the reason why is this:
Many things about that night stuck in mind - and will stick with me for a long time. But I will never forget the moment when I happened across some young girls at somewhere near West Hendon Broadway (after having spent hours treading on sheet ice from Golders Green station after helping an elderly man safely home). These girls asking me desperately for directions to Wembley - and me having to tell them that they had quite a few more miles to walk: they broke down in tears - they just didn't know what to do - and whether they were able to make it or not. I stuck around with them - feeling like I shouldn't abandon them - but they just couldn't walk any more - and they asked me to carry on my own. I never knew what happened to them - they just weren't dressed in the sort of clothes for "exploring" sub-zero arctic streets - and they were hopelessly falling all over the place on the sheet ice. This brought tears to my eyes.
IS THE MOST POIGNANT REASON WHY I WILL NOT LET THIS GO UNEXPLAINED.
I STILL HAVE VIVID IMAGES OF THESE PEOPLE - WITH TEARS IN THEIR EYES.
So - more news as it arrives ...
Email from the "Government Office for London, GLA, Business and Europe Divison, Finance, Buses and Major Projects" (Have you heard of them?)
Recieved 28th February 2003
Thank you for your e-mail of 5 February addressed to Alistair Darling about your concerns regarding your journey home on public transport on the night in question. As you will appreciate, Ministers receive large volumes of correspondence from members of the public and are, unfortunately, unable to answer each one personally. Letters received from members of the public are therefore forwarded to the appropriate policy division for reply. In this case your letter has been passed to this Government Office for reply.
I was very sorry to hear of the difficulties you experienced whilst travelling home on the night in question. However, whilst Transport for London (TfL), under the Mayor, is now responsible for the provision of public transport on London - with the exception of the Tube - Alistair Darling has asked the Highways Agency, the rail industry, London Underground, and local authorities for an explanation as to why the transport system in some parts of the country, not least London, became paralysed so quickly. We shall then consider what lessons there may be.
Network Rail has informed us that there were no line closures and all routes were open and operational. Most train operators ran a normal timetabled service. However, there were some delays to both train services and Underground services in London, the most noticeable being in North and North West London, due to power failure, traction motor damage resulting from compacted snow which turned to ice in sub-zero temperatures, particularly where services were delayed by stationary trains on shared Network Rail/Underground lines. Network Rail say that in these cases personnel were sent out to chip away compacted snow on affected points. The problem with the traction motors in cold weather conditions was recognised some time ago and a programme of replacing them is in progress. It is scheduled to complete in March 2004.
Network Rail has very detailed regional plans (rule books) which cover issues such as foreseeing adverse weather and managing the network when it occurs. These are developed working closely with the Meteorological Office. The plans set out how severe weather forecasts are disseminated, the action to be taken on receipt and the responsibilities of the various industry parties. If a significant amount of snow has fallen, a Key Junction Strategy is invoked, which sets out contingencies to keep critical routes open by operating an emergency timetable. Part of the problem for rail maintenance staff on 30 and 31 January was that they experienced difficulties in getting to affected parts of the network because of problems on the roads (see below).
Cold weather causes two major problems for London Underground services. Firstly, if ice forms on running rails (those shared by Network Rail as described above), services are slowed because drivers must brake much earlier to stop trains at platforms. Secondly, ice can form on current rails, which prevents trains from drawing power to move. LU therefore prepares for bad weather by operating de-icing equipment on one in six of its trains, and equipping track crossing points with heaters to prevent freezing and signal failures.
Unfortunately, LU's de-icing equipment was not completely effective in every case, and the weather conditions on 30 January resulted in a solid layer of ice on the current rails, preventing movement by trains in affected areas. Whilst LU was aware of the probability of snow, these were unusual and rare weather conditions for London. Disruption on the network was not attributable to lack of overall preparation by LU.
the freezing conditions caused a great deal of road traffic to come
to a standstill, causing severe delays to buses, too. Services were
subsequently withdrawn from many parts of London because it was unsafe
to use the icy streets. In one case, a bus skidded broadside at Muswell
Hill Broadway, and Camden Town became gridlocked. Conditions on the
main roads improved by the following morning, allowing bus services
to be resumed.
I hope this is helpful and explains the position.
very comprehensive set of explanations don't you think?
Still waiting for Brent Council to come back to me ....
At last! Brent Council's Streetcare department respond - by written letter rather than by email:
Letter from Brent Council Streetcare Service Unit.
Dated 27th Feb - but Recieved 1st March 2003
Click on the image below to view the letter:
I don't know about you - but when the separate window pops up containing the full letter - it doesn't appear full size! Even though it's meant to be - so you might have to click on the little mulit-arrow icon that appears at the bottom right of the image when you hover over it. This should bring it up to full size so that you can actually read it.
ANYWAY - First the Mayor blamed the Councils - and now my local Council blames the Met Office! I am ASTONISHED! My quest for answers now leads me to the Met Office ...
received from the Met Office.
for your recent e-mail. The web pages make interesting reading and
Office also provide a composite winter forecast for 32 London
might argue the forecasts weren't accurate in every detail but,
the key point here is, that despite the weather forecasts, the ice
- this is where the trail seems to end - in a showdown between Brent
Council and the Met Office! Brent Council says that they were not warned.
The Met Office says they were!
update on Weds 12th March 2003
Since then - I have been checking the number of hits that this page has been getting - and I am shocked! This page has been getting hundreds of hits every day - and from all over the world too!
My access logs tell me which organisations have been hitting this page - and I have spotted numerous hits from Brent Council - so they *have* been looking here several times since I sent them my last email. Curiously, just yesterday - there was a particular flurry of hits from financial organisations in the City of London - e.g. Paribas, ABN Amro, Deutsche Bank, Barings, UBS etc. I used to work in the City for a number of years myself - so this stimulates some memories! (e.g. Broadgate Circle: I used play Chess on the outdoor chess board there! I wonder if it's still there?) SO: I big hello to all you finance types in the City - I hope you sympathise with my story - and I wonder if you suffered like me on that night in question? (You probably will have done if you live in the Harrow area). Anyway - I hope that some of you are deriving some entertainment value from this page too! After all - you've got to look at the funny side of it ....
- what a surprise!
for your email regarding the recent adverse weather that affected certain
I would like to take this opportunity to apologise on behalf of London Underground Ltd for the widespread disruption to Tube services caused by the snowfall.
- I think this is where it all ends:
from the Director of Environmental Services
Click on the image below to view the letter:
So - Brent Council did all the right things. And they regret the difficulties that myself and others experienced.
What do YOU think?
Well - I'm going to end it here. I'm simply too tired to pursue this any further. But if you have any comments - then please leave them at my "blog" page that covers the story. Thanks for all your support and hope that you gained something from it! (Even if it was just learning about how the trains work!)