The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Stephen Hammond): On 15 April 2011 a major fire below the M1 motorway caused significant disruption to the road network for several days. The safety of all who use our transport networks is paramount and the Department for Transport takes the potential risk of fire very seriously. Therefore, following the fire, the Department for Transport asked the Highways Agency and Network Rail to carry out a comprehensive audit of potential sources of fire risk from third party activities at locations beneath, or adjacent to their networks and report back.
The reports were sent to the Department in May 2011 and set out:
details of the audits and inspections carried out by the Highways Agency and Network Rail;
recommendations for further action to reduce the likelihood of similar incidents happening again.
The reports contained specific information about vulnerable locations, which is not being released because of the potentially sensitive nature of these sites. However, both the Highways Agency and Network Rail are today publishing redacted versions of the reports on their respective websites. Copies will be also placed in the Libraries of both Houses.
The reports concluded that significant incidents of fire under or adjacent to both Highways Agency and Network Rail networks are infrequent, with structural damage arising from such fire extremely rare.
As a result of the review the number of vulnerable sites identified by the Highways Agency has nearly halved. The Highways Agency has been working closely with landowners and tenants to eliminate the small number of remaining sites that are deemed to present a possible fire risk. The agency will continue to review all of the sites identified as part of the ongoing monitoring of the network. This will mitigate the future risk of major fire events and ensure road users are kept as safe as possible.
Network Rail continues to work with tenants operating potentially higher risk businesses close to the rail network. It has a robust management regime in place to reduce fire risk and we are grateful to them and the Highways Agency for carrying out this important work.