Winter Chaos – Why People Shouldn’t Over-react

Posted: December 23, 2009 in General
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Over the course of the last week, the United Kingdom has been hit by a weather system moving from Siberia, which brought heavy snowfall and icy conditions. Many parts of the country, particularly the South-East, have become mired in transport problems with people forced to abandon cars until it was safe to retrieve them. In the last day or so, we have seen several accidents caused by the conditions. In Cornwall, a coach skidded on black ice into a ditch, killing two people and injuring many more. The first police car onto the scene also lost control and skidded into the coach. At Glasgow Prestwick, a Ryanair flight overshot the runway on landing, although no injuries have been reported as a result the airport has been forced to divert aircraft and cancel flights whilst the Ryanair plane is recovered. So why does the country go into panic mode at the first hint of snowy weather?

The occurrence of snow in the UK is uncommon, especially in the south of the country. However, the further North you go, the more likelihood there will be snowy conditions on the higher grounds. Most Scottish towns and cities have plans in place for freezing and snowy conditions such as heavy-duty gritters, ploughs and even the street cleaning vehicles can be adapted to spread grit on the pavements. Why doesn’t London and the South have this kind of contingency in place?

To put it simply, London has a yearly budget from which it must fund all sorts of council and government schemes, as well as grants and loans for various purposes. London’s council will look at that budget and ask whether the expense of millions of pounds on dedicated snow-clearing equipment is worth it for the small likelihood of conditions like we have seen this week. In short, it’s not considered to be economical to allocate massive amounts of funds to equipment that may or may not get used. It’s far better to allocate that money to healthcare, transport, education and so on. With most businesses giving staff the ability to work from home, the only real disruption to city centres in bad weather is to public transport and retail sectors. The benefits do not merit the cost. In Glasgow, however, icy conditions are much more prevalent as it is more exposed to the Siberian winds that come our way in winters. The benefits of investing in winter equipment far outstrips the cost, as it is a much more likely scenario. This is true throughout all of the highlands.

I have a couple of things to say…to the people in the South worrying about the effects of the snow, don’t worry, it is only a short period of time once in a while and whilst it is not nice, it isn’t terrible either. To those people who slag off the people moaning about how the snow has stopped them doing anything, and the people who cannot understand why we have trouble coping with the effects of heavy snowfall, get a grip. Our country is temperate for 99% of the time, it is not economically viable to prepare the whole country for winter conditions that only happen infrequently.

All those people who are travelling over the Christmas period, please stay safe and don’t drive when you don’t need to. Wrap up warm, eat well, and I hope you all have a good festive season. See you in the New Year!

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