JUST one week after railway bosses presented Kent MPs with their improved winter plans, a light dusting of snow ground trains across north Kent to a halt.
Unexpected snow fall overnight last Wednesday (December 5) saw Dartford and Gravesham commuters wake up to train chaos once again.
Southeastern services to London from Gravesend and Dartford were delayed for up to an hour, with many services cancelled altogether.
Among those affected was Dartford MP Gareth Johnson, who found himself stranded on Longfield station platform in rush hour.
He told News Shopper: "They gave a very robust account of how they were prepared for winter conditions but at the first light dusting of snow there were significant problems.
"If it’s like this with a light dusting of snow, what will it be like if we get some significant snow fall over the winter?"
He added: "What annoyed me and the other passengers who were standing on the platform was the lack of information.
"There was a general sense of frustration.
"If we had been told it’s going to be a particular amount of time late then we can deal with that issue."
Remarkably, Mr Johnson and Gravesham MP Adam Holloway were visited at the Houses of Parliament on November 27 by Southeastern managing director Charles Horton, as well as representatives from Network Rail.
They claimed the area's rail facilities are more prepared than ever to deal with wintry weather, outlining new measures such as special snow trains fitted with sleet brushes and capable of rescuing stranded passengers.
Mr Johnson is due to meet with transport minister Stephen Hammond on Wednesday (December 12) where he will once again raise the issue.
A Southeastern spokesman said: "We’re reliant on Network Rail clearing the rails of snow and ice so we can run a train service.
"We’re advised Network Rail’s weather forecast didn’t indicate snow, so they weren’t able to put the snow clearance trains out overnight.
"With the ice on the rails, trains were running at a reduced speed for safety so the knock-on effect meant it was difficult to keep services running to the timetable."
A Network Rail spokeswoman said: "We apologise but we were simply caught out by the fact that snow was not forecast and we weren’t able to get things cleared as quickly as we would’ve liked."
Network Rail winter plans
Two snow and ice treatment trains for Kent capable of:
- Clearing snow from running rails and conductor rails
- Scraping ice with a heavy duty sleet brush
- Applying hot de-icing fluid onto the conductor rail head
- Rescuing stranded passenger trains.
Anti-ice tanks on passenger trains:
- 20 mainline passenger trains with 450 litre tanks dispensing anti-icing fluid.
- Key approach roads gritted by KCC and London local authorities
- Three four-by-four vehicles for mobile engineers to reach stranded trains 100 extra grit and salt bins
- 220 hand-pushed ploughs for clearing snow
- 16 motorised snow clearers
- Light wands and 4,000 foil blankets onboard trains for vulnerable passengers.