December 2010 in Train Operations
Platforms not being gritted or cleared during heavy snow in the south Manchester area concerns one reporter. During adverse weather conditions the reporter has become aware that some staffed platforms, at busy stations, are not being gritted before it snows or cleared after the snow has fallen. The reporter is concerned that this creates a slip, trip or fall risk for both the passengers using the platforms and the staff that have to alight as part of the dispatch process. The risk is increased at certain stations as they have steel footbridges between platforms which are also not being gritted or cleared during the snow.
Although Northern sent a team out to grit the platforms, the reporter does not feel that this measure was adequate as many of the stations still remained untreated.
It appears that this problem occurs every time it snows and the
reporter feels that better measures could be taken during adverse
weather conditions in the
future. Could Northern:
CIRAS received report 40924 about similar issues during the last period of bad weather.
Response from Northern
Following winter 2009/10, which severely stretched our winterisation arrangements, Northern undertook a comprehensive review of our winterisation arrangements during 2010. This resulted in significant plans being implemented to augment our winterisation arrangements. Northern operates 462 stations across the north of England and has contractual arrangements in place to enable de-icing and gritting of all our stations within 48 hours. Our Operations Control receives daily weather forecasts looking 72 hours ahead. Where the temperature is forecast to be at or below freezing the station de-icing arrangements are activated. We have a tracking process in place to ensure these arrangements are effective and, during the severe weather in December 2010, we were holding daily telephone conferences to review station gritting and snow fall.
Northern primarily uses rock salt and pure salt for
winterisation, considering this to be the most effective combined
de-icer and ice prevention material available. Prior
to winter commencing, Northern had stockpiled over 900 tons of salt, which is in excess of the amount used even in 2009/10, let alone a typical winter.
However no one can have failed to recognise that since late
November the majority of our network, and indeed the country, has
been in the grip of the worst snow fall reportedly in the last 35
years, with temperatures repeatedly below freezing and reaching
record low temperatures in many places, particularly in Yorkshire.
The quantity of snow fall overwhelmed our initial gritting
arrangements, and even with repeat re-gritting we were unable to
keep all stations Despite the unprecedented weather
conditions, we were able to keep the majority of our services
running. We are immensely proud of our staff who worked hard to
operate our trains and stations during this very difficult time. We
are extremely grateful to all our staff and Contractors who made
fantastic efforts to keep our stations open and our trains running,
and who helped us to maintain an effective service for our
customers when the road networks were under immense strain. We
tracked staff and customer accidents daily during the poor weather,
and although instances of
slips and falls increased, it was not a significant increase, and only one major injury (a customer with a fractured leg) had been reported by the end of the year. Fortunately it seems that most people were quite aware of the risk of slipping, especially considering that stations were in many cases better cleared than neighbouring roads and footpaths, and were being especially careful.
There is no doubt at all that the conditions experienced during
December were exceptional, and no amount of winterisation resources
or contingency planning would ever cope well with such conditions.
We actually used over 600 tons of salt during December and are now
having to substantially replenish our stocks. In the light of this,
Northern, our staff and our Contractors did everything possible in
the circumstances to maintain our network as safely as
possible for our customers.
It is worth noting that the south Manchester area was, in
general, less affected than many other parts of our network, so it
is surprising that this concern has been raised on these routes for
the second year running. We are not aware of
any specific level of complaints on these routes compared to others, but will monitor the situation should there be further snowfall. It would be helpful if staff could raise concerns about lack of platform grittingin real time with our Operations Control, and Conductors and Station Staff are encouraged to report this so we can act on it.