Transport Secretary Says Infrastructure Won't Be Resilient To Extreme Heat For "Decades"
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has admitted it will take “decades” to make road and rail infrastructure able to deal with heatwaves.
On Monday, the UK recorded the hottest night on record, with temperatures failing to drop below 25C, according to the Met office. Temperatures on Tuesday are expected to reach highs of 42C, an all-time record for Britain, compared to an average of 21C for July.
With many train services cancelled or delayed on Monday after tracks buckled in the heat, and flights at Luton airport and at RAF's Brize Norton air base unable to land due to melting runways, Shapps conceded that the UK's transport network cannot cope with extreme heat. Further disruption is expected today.
He estimated it will take “decades, actually, to replace it all”.
”Ditto with Tarmac on the roads,” he told Sky News on Tuesday.
"There's a long process of replacing it and upgrading it to withstand temperatures, either very hot or sometimes much colder than we've been used to, and these are the impacts of global warming.”
The Transport Secretary told people to "apply common sense" if they need to get around today, and "depending on the nature of your journey and reason for it you might want to consider rearranging your day around it".
Shapps said that because much of the UK's travel infrastructure was "built in Victorian times" there would inevitably be further disruption to travel as the UK braced for the likelihood its hottest day ever recorded.
"Much of it, built in Victorian times, just wasn't built to withstand this type of temperature," he told BBC Breakfast.
"And it will be many years before we can replace infrastructure with the kind of infrastructure that could, because the temperatures are so extreme."
He admitted that the country's road and rail network simply could not cope. "Where those tracks are 40 degrees in the air, on the ground that could be 50, 60, 70 and more," he explained.
"So you get a severe danger of tracks buckling, what we can't have is trains running over those and a terrible derailing.
"We've got to be very cautious and conscious of that, which is why there's reduced speeds on large parts of the network."
He said there was no emergency Cobra meeting planned for Tuesday, with the Prime Minister instead chairing Cabinet, after criticism Boris Johnson has not been taking charge of the crisis.
Having held a party at his grace and favour country estate Chequers at the weekend, footage was released of Johnson taking a ride in a Typhoon fighter jet, with the chairing of the heatwave Cobra meetings left to Cabinet Office minister Kit Malthouse.
Labour has accused the PM of having “checked out” already as he prepares to leave Number 10 over the summer, but Shapps defended his boss.
"It's literally not true, in fact exactly the opposite is the truth,” he told Sky News.
He justified Johnson's jaunt on a typhoon as necessary because "in the end he has responsibility for Britain's security".
Shapps added: "There is a war going on in Europe. Why on earth would he not go and meet with the RAF?“
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