Lack of resources and preparation create perfect storm for snow chaos

Instead of the Opposition asking questions, Philip Hammond, the transport secretary himself has today ironically demanded answers as to why Britain has been crippled to such an extent by snow and ice, and has consequently announced an official inquiry.

Instead of the Opposition asking questions, Philip Hammond, the transport secretary himself has today ironically demanded answers as to why Britain has been crippled to such an extent by snow and ice, and has consequently announced an official inquiry.

Just three months ago, Mr Hammond was asked by William Bain MP on the matter concerning the efficient distribution of supplies of road salt. Accordingly the Department for Transport gave assurances that it had done its utmost to assure the English local authorities were prepared for the coming winter, which has now fallen upon us so ferociously over the last few days.

Most of the ongoing chaos is being correctly blamed on the insufficient gritting of roads. Importantly, the procurement of salt supplies for road gritting falls within the responsibility of the local authorities who face a double whammy because of  having to find spending cuts amounting to 25 per cent. With highway authorities in England annually spending £160 million on winter service – an amount continuing to be inadequate – it remains to be seen if and by how much the expenditure will be cut.

Although Mr Hammond is trying to shift the blame from the Government to local authorities, it remains indisputable that it is the central government itself that is asking for too-deep spending cuts from local governments and has additionally failed in its responsibility to monitor salt stocks across the country.

The transport secretary simply stated in response to the transport chaos that:

“… there are lessons to be learnt … and it is important that we learn those now.”

But just two months ago, an independent inquiry had already submitted its findings on how to improve the transport system. So why hold another one?

The independent review panel set up by the previous government made several recommendations to prevent the re-occurrence of the travel misery experienced in the winter of 2009/10, of which one was:

“Regular national monitoring to help ensure adequate salt stocks in the right places.”

Just this morning Mr Hammond claimed there was more than 100,000 tonnes of grit ready to be made available for local authorities if needed. With the economy losing around £1.2 billion per day – some of it clearly unavoidable even if we had enough grit in enough places – the obvious question arises: when is the threshold between ‘coping’ and ‘needed’ crossed? Are trucks not continuing to be stuck on major motorways across the country and people being trapped in their cars for hours on end?

Gary Amos, head of Green Flag’s rescue network, stated that the response by the Highways Agency has been:

“… too little, too late.”

In support, Mike Carrivick, chief executive of the Board of Airline Representatives, pointed out how:

“… the UK infrastructure … has failed in its bad weather plans.”

Added to this, climate change continues to present an added uncertainty. Research conducted by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact finds that sea ice in the eastern Arctic is likely to continue shrinking, which could “triple the probability of cold winter extremes in Europe”. Although the painted scenario is unlikely to occur in the very near future, the coalition and the devolved governments need to consider how a crippled transport system can be avoided in the long term.

In the short-term, however, instead of pushing local governments towards cutting winter services, the coalition needs to offer more financial assistance if it wishes to finally put an end to the icy grip that winter holds us in on such a regular basis.

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9 Responses to “Lack of resources and preparation create perfect storm for snow chaos”

  1. Bryan

    RT @leftfootfwd: Lack of resources and preparation create perfect storm for snow chaos: http://bit.ly/eepzqL

  2. Matthew

    RT @leftfootfwd: Lack of resources and preparation create perfect storm for snow chaos http://bit.ly/fZEc3A

  3. Anon E Mouse

    Just think how bad it would be if we didn’t have global warming ;-}

  4. johnm55

    In South London the trams are running more or less as normal, the buses are having a few minor hiccups, but are running and getting people from A to B, the Tube is running as normal, which includes the overground section of the District Line. So why can’t Southern Railways manage to run a single train?

  5. Oasis Caretaker

    Why has #snow stuffed us? “@leftfootfwd: Lack of resources and preparation create perfect storm for snow chaos: http://bit.ly/eepzqL”

  6. Watching You

    Lack of resources and preparation create perfect storm for snow chaos http://bit.ly/fZEc3A – Tories play the blame game …again

  7. Robert

    The convenient fact that snow and ice have a propensity to fall off overhead wires, given a shake, might be a fairly good clue.

    The preponderance of cheap and cheerful third rail electric trains in the south speaks for itself as the main reason for the problem, I’d suggest.

  8. Danny

    What’s interesting about this is that no-one is talking about the real solution to this and the key differentiator between the UK and other european countries whose road network doesn’t melt down at the first sniff of the white stuff. That solution is to have more motorists using winter tyres – interestingly a Big Society solution, yet the Conservatives aren’t talking about it! I’m not in favour of compulsion, but at the minute there’s virtually zero awareness about the benefits – both economic and safety – of using winter tyres. (Which incidentally aren’t only effective in the snow, but throughout the winter in cold, and partcularly wet, conditions where they provide increased grip). The cost is low, the benefits are large (if only in terms of reducing wasted working hours), why aren’t people talking about this?

  9. Mr. Sensible

    Not sure what to make of this.

    I’m not sure why the government is having another review when 1 has reported, but there is, unfortunately, a limit to how much we can prepare for something like this.

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