Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Snow Chaos In Basingstoke "like a disaster film"

Even worse than Reading, Basingstoke have become well known for having a disaster this winter. Around 2000 cars were abandoned, many on the ring road.
Photobucket Pic from here

Pressure on the roads began to ease in the early hours of the morning, but many of those in cars had already given up and walked home or sought refuge in specially opened churches or rest centres.

About 200 abandoned vehicles littered roadsides in the Basingstoke area and the A31 from Four Marks and Ropley north towards the Surrey border.

The Guardian described it as "like a disaster film", as the transport minister said he would be asking questions about events that led to up to 2,000 motorists being trapped in icy conditions.

An AA spokesman, Gavin Hill-Smith, said between 30 and 40 staff had to spent the night in the company's Basingstoke headquarters, and reiterated claims from its president, Edmund King, that roads had been inadequately gritted.

The transport minister, Sadiq Khan, said he would be speaking to local authorities responsible for Reading and Basingstoke today.

"What I do know is that there is no issue about not being enough grit, there is no issue about not enough snow ploughs," he told GMTV. "What the issue is, is why it wasn't applied."

Hill-Smith said a "perfect storm of events" led to chaos in the town. It was the sheer volume of snow," he said. "It started snowing heavily at around 12pm, and it fell very quickly. The snow coincided with lunchtime, when you have people going out doing Christmas shopping, and also people had been told to go home from businesses early, so everyone hit the road at the same time. "It looked like something from a disaster film, there were abandoned cars everywhere."

Hampshire Police deployed more than 40 4x4 vehicles and borrowed more from the fire and rescue service to patrol the roads and keep a lookout for people in trouble.

Superintendent Roy Bayntun, of Hampshire Constabulary, said: “We mobilised extra resources and officers with specialist vehicles and equipment to reach motorists as quickly as possible in the worst affected areas around Basingstoke and Alton. In Basingstoke we are taking a practical and reasonable approach. Our advice to people is to use common sense in deciding when to recover their vehicles. Some vehicles have been left in safe locations, others have not.”

But the chief emergency planning officer at Hampshire county council today dismissed suggestions the council could have handled the situation better as "absolute rubbish". "We gritted yesterday morning, then the next gritting run was due to take place but it started to rain, and you can't grit in the rain," Ian Holt said. "We waited for the rain to stop but as we waited the rain turned to thick snow, 10cm came down very quickly. That caused cars to skid, which caused gridlock, subsequently the gritting lorries just couldn't get through to the roads."

Hampshire County Council said its salting vehicles were out throughout the night to salt the worst affected roads.

Meanwhile, Buckinghamshire County Council urged owners to collect abandoned vehicles "as soon as possible". Thames Valley Police said they were causing an obstruction in the High Wycombe area.
However, all vehicles left on motorways overnight had been removed and owners must pay to get them back, the force said.

Power cuts are currently affecting about 14,000 people in West Berkshire and Hampshire and a further 900 people in Princes Risborough, Buckinghamshire.

Former banker Peter Baring, of Barings Bank, escaped unhurt after he fell through the ice on his private lake near Wantage. Let that be a warning to Bankers who own lakes, you really cant walk on water.

The advice to residents and drivers remains to only make strictly necessary journeys at this time, not to travel unless you have to and only embark on a journey if it is safe to do so.If you do have to drive, take extreme care, allow plenty of extra time, avoid heavy braking, and ensure you have a blanket, warm clothes, warm refreshments, and a fully charged and working mobile phone.Motorists are advised to keep tuned into their local radio stations for the latest updates in their area.

Two people died after their coach crashed on blak ice in Crornwall. The first police vehicle on the scene skidded on the same ice and crashed into the coach. 47 people were injured.

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