Risks assessed

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SPRINT has been designed with a primary focus on de-icing, though it will provide information of relevance to other aspects of winter transport management, such as accidents/incidents or service delays and cancellation.
Although specific weather events are referenced below, SPRINT is not designed to inform users on a short-term (weather forecasting) timescale. Instead, it provides a forecast of the relative risk of particular conditions over a whole winter season. It is designed to be used as part of a portfolio of weather-related information and tools, whose timescales of relevance will differ. SPRINT is currently UK-focused, due to the availability of some types of data which underlie its scientific methodology.

During cold conditions, ice formation on surfaces (e.g. roads, runways, paths…) and on vehicles (e.g. aircraft) becomes a hazard, with potential impacts on safety and performance. To mitigate this, de-icing materials are applied to these surfaces and vehicles. This is usually undertaken as part of standard winter operating procedures.

Winter weather inevitably has an effect on the occurrence of accidents and incidents on the transport network. Stormy weather may result in trees being blown down across roads and railway lines and high-sided vehicles overturning. Hazardous driving conditions may also arise from very cold weather, as ice and snow may accumulate on the road. Cold conditions can also cause issues on the railway - during January 2010 a freight train was derailed in Scotland, with snow and ice ingress to the brakes being implicated in the accident.

Extreme weather in winter can result in delays to, or cancellations of, scheduled transport.

Examples include the closure of multiple airports across the UK during the extremely cold winter of 2009/2010, delays and cancellations to Eurostar services in December 2009 due to snow, and disruptions to rail services across Northern Europe (UK, Netherlands, Germany) in January 2007 as a result of a severe windstorm.


SPRINT provides information about the potential for weather impacts on UK transport ahead of (and during) the winter season.