Britain Needs More Grit

The snow has once again brought chaos to Britain.[1] Gatwick and Edinburgh airports are closed. Hundreds of Lorries are stuck on the M25 and many rail passengers have endured severe delays, disruption and cancelations to their journeys. The Met Office has forecast yet more heavy snow for parts of eastern, central and southern England.[2]

These are extraordinary circumstances. Much of northern Europe is also suffering the effects that the early snow and ice have brought to transport systems.[3] Extraordinary circumstances can sometimes give credence to nonsensical claims, such as: the unseasonably cold conditions are yet more proof that climate change is a global conspiracy. This is a bit like denying the link between tobacco use and lung cancer because some smokers live beyond the age of 80.

The disruption in London and the southeast today bring home just how ill-prepared the country is for cold weather conditions. After all, Scotland and the north of England have been under a blanket of snow for almost a week now. Yet, the arrival of snow yesterday has still brought havoc for those using the roads, trains and airports in and around the capital.

It’s the same old story. There are simply not enough gritters to salt the roads. This obviously has a knock-on affect for everyone. If train and bus drivers struggle to get to their depot, commuters do not get to work. And if commuters do not get to work, the economy is in trouble. It is estimated that the weather disruption could cost the U.K. economy in excess of £1 billion a day.[4] If conditions do not improve over the next fortnight, as the Met Office predicts, this figure could exceed £12 billion.[5]

Sure, the little platoons can do their bit and help clear the snow and ice from the pavements and paths for those unable to do so. The elderly, frail and disabled would welcome a helping hand from their more physically able neighbours. But there is a limit to what civic society can do at times like these.

Is it not time there was a serious review of the way Government and local authorities deal with winter conditions in this country? This cannot continue to happen, year in, year out. We are an island in the northern hemisphere and can and should expect snow, ice and frost every winter. Investment in road grit infrastructure and a capable workforce now, will in the long term save the U.K. economy billions of pounds. It will also prevent many people from having to drive in treacherous conditions and therefore will potentially save lives.

As yet, there’s been no word from the Prime Minister.

 

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