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New measures to avoid travel chaos

'More resistant' trains, better information and priority clearing of bus routes are part of deal drawn up by ministers

THE SNCF has been told to make its trains "more resistant to the cold and snow", and to improve the information and help it offers passengers when bad weather affects travel.

Ministers held a round-table meeting yesterday with rail, bus and road authorities to agree on a new set of measures to avoid a repeat of the travel chaos in the weeks before Christmas.

Ecology and transport minister Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet told reporters: "We have established who is responsible for what. We do not want to create any scapegoats. Instead, our job is to propose solutions."

On the roads, the ministry has agreed with préfectures that they should clear bus routes as a priority when snow starts to fall.

There are plans for more priority bus lanes to be built along roads in the Paris suburbs to ensure public transport still functions.

The transport ministry also wants to change the rules governing when heavy goods vehicles are banned from roads.

A working group will be set up, with a first meeting pencilled in for the end of this month, to look at ways of classifying priority vehicles that should still be allowed to travel in bad weather.

Paris Charles de Gaulle airport ran out of de-icing chemicals before Christmas and fresh deliveries could not be made because of the lorry ban.

The SNCF has agreed to work with train-builders to make its stock "more resistant" to poor weather, according to the minutes from the meeting.

The rail operator was also told to improve the amount of information it provides passengers in stations and trains, using "every possible channel", and do more to look after stranded passengers, offering free food and drink.

Other measures announced at yesterday's meeting include a better alert system from Météo France that will warn authorities, transport firms and the public of "major meteorological risks".

The alert system would incorporate radio, TV and the web, and aims to stop people travelling in adverse weather unless their journey is essential.

Prime minister François Fillon last month blamed Météo France for not issuing sufficient warnings about the intensity of the cold spell.

A second meeting will take place on Thursday, concentrating on the problems at airports that affected thousands of people's Christmas travel plans.

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