December 6 2013 Latest news:
Nick Hitchens, Reporter
Thursday, December 2, 2010
Commuters faced travel chaos as up to ten inches of snow brought roads to a standstill this week and led to widespread train delays and cancellations.
Rail users were left fuming as Southeastern Trains struggled to cope with the weather, with many forced to search for alternative options while others, left in the dark about cancellations, waited in vain for services that never arrived.
It came a week after above inflation ticket price hikes were announced for the third year running.
Yesterday (Wednesday) the hazardness conditions continued with about 60 lorries were parked on the side of the A2 between Sidcup and Gravesend.
Hundreds of motorists stuck overnight behind jack-knifed lorries on the A2 London-bound near the Tollgate Hotel, Gravesend.
Paul Nixon, 37, of Ship Lane, Sutton-at-Hone took, four hours to get to Dartford station from his home on Tuesday and hit out at the lack of information provided.
He said: “I actually went on their website to check if the Farningham road station service was running and it reported a good service. I waited an hour and a half for the 6.11am and no train arrived. I spent the rest of the time taking a bus to get here. The one thing the website is there for and it can’t do it - you can’t blame the weather for that.”
Andrew Graham, 21, of Bow Arrow Lane, Stone wanted to use his day off to visit his newly born baby brother and was equally scathing of Southeastern.
He said: “I have Polish mates at work who say they are ankle deep in snow every winter and everything runs fine. Everyone knew this was coming so why does this country fall to pieces every time it snows? I work shifts and this is my first chance to see him and this comes up.”
Frustrated at waiting hours for his train to Lewisham, he decided to cycle to his mother’s house.
Matters were further hampered due to a fatality at Slade Green Station, closing that section of the line on Tuesday morning.
A spokesman for the company explained icy rails had caused the problems.
He said: “In this part of the UK the ‘third’ conductor rail provides electricity to the trains.
“Ice and snow acts as an insulating layer making it difficult for trains to draw power to move.
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“Despite our, and Network Rail’s best efforts, to stop the ice forming - freezing temperatures and snow in the early hours of the morning made this impossible.
“A fatality in the Greenwich area during the morning rush hour also caused disruption on several metro routes.”
The problems came just a week after Southeastern announced it would raise rail fares 7.6 per cent rise on tickets from Dartford and by 7.1 per cent rise from Swanley.
Richard Dugdale commutes from Swanley to Victoria, where he works as a solicitor. His annual season ticket, which includes buses and tubes in central London, is set to rise from £2,496, to £2,645.
The 53-year-old, of Farningham High Street, said: “It’s expensive enough, without the increase and it’s not like they provide a reliable service anyway.”
Drivers around the town were left equally frustrated as the major routes quickly became gridlocked as blizzards continued through the day.
A jack-knifed lorry at the Ebbsfleet A2 slip road Londonbound at 10.30am caused huge backlogs, while delays of three hours or more were reported at the Darenth interchange, the A2 coastbound at Bean, and A20 coastbound at Swanley.
The link road at Bean from the A2 to the B255 was closed at 11am by the Highways Agency as lorries struggled to handle the steep slope in the icy conditions.
Kent Police urged drivers not to drive in Dartford or Gravesend as motorists abandoned vehicles with steep roads such as West Hill and East Hill, Dartford, most affected.
Darryl Pitman, 38, of Merryweather Close was determined to make it to work and was prepared for the severe weather buying bags of road grit and salting the cul-de-sac’s pathways.
“I work as a motorcycle courier and if I can’t drive I can’t work. At the start of the year when it was really bad the council just couldn’t cope so this time I was prepared and picked up a few bags before they all sell out.”
Speaking about recent fare rises, Southeastern’s managing director Charles Horton said: “Nobody likes to see prices rise but it is the stated policy of the government to move more of the cost of travelling by train towards passengers and away from the general taxpayer.”