Fears are mounting, as they do every time this country grinds to a halt because of snow, that our fragile economy could quite quickly reverse the signs of recovery and plummet toward recession again.
Analysts are warning that the damage done by “blizzard” conditions and the resulting lost working days will see UK plc sliding out of control toward it’s third recession in five years.
What is happening, why do so many just not go to work, or cannot get to work when we get a few centimetres of snow? 10 centimeters is about 4 inches in ‘old money and unlike a ski slope is not a compacted depth. If it was that would be a different scenario altogether.
I was a child of the Fifties, we had fogs and cold winters that lasted for weeks at a time, the Thames actually froze over at Southend, my hometown, in January 1963. We had no central heating, double-glazing, in car climate or traction control, hi -tech thermal clothing or footwear.
And guess what, we went to school, the trains ran, the buses ran and schools opened and people went to work. I cannot recall if Southend Airport was open or indeed Heathrow but the planes probably flew too.
In the fifties and sixties (when supposedly we “never had it so good”) there was an expectation that you would go to work, you would go to school- if only in order to enjoy skidding along on the yards of polished sheet ice (created first thing by the schoolboy danger squads) not remotely interested about injury hazard.
The shops were open, food supplies got through, milk was delivered to home and schools (frozen of course with the gold top foil cap atop a long neck of frozen cream) and the wherewithal to achieve all this – transportation, was running.
So despite the technical achievements and progress of society and science over the passing decades, in 2013 trains do not run, airports close, roads become impassable, schools shut and all for a few centimetres of well forecast snow and a helping hand of health and safety regulations.
In today’s oh so PC society the process goes a little like this: snow is forecast, news stations immediately start announcing that journeys should not be undertaken unless absolutely necessary. The result is that schools immediately shut up shop.
On Monday the BBC reported that over 5,000 schools were shut, many because the staff could not get themselves in to work yet the parents managed to get to schools only to find them shut on arrival.
Because the children cannot go to school, parents cannot go to work, as there is nobody to look after or collect the “kids”. This in turn leads to strain being placed on work colleagues and in other areas such as transport due to staff shortages.
Trains just do not run, in the case of South West trains last week the timetables were scrapped even before a flake of snow has fallen. Because the trains are not running those that wanted to get to work relying on public transport cannot.
Because roads and footpaths are not gritted or cleared (in the 50’s and 60’s householders would get together to clear pavements outside their houses) many that wanted to get to work cannot get their cars out of icy streets and driveways because there is no neighbourly will to clear or grit what the councils cannot or will not.
At Heathrow (not Gatwick -that was operating pretty much OK) the millions of pounds spent by BAA to make sure there was no repeat of the chaos of 2010, 2011 and 2012 resulted in total failure with thousands stranded.
This is madness, my rant is done, but here are some very simple thoughts, based on some European winter practices, on how to stop this happening in future. I am sure nobody will take note.
- Road transport: make it compulsory for all motor vehicles to fit winter tyres from November to March.
- Instead of stopping trains running when we have snow, we should ensure that there is a greater frequency that will ensure that tracks are kept clear.
- And for schools, get ALL the staff in very early, they can clear snow, salt paths and of course stop the children enjoying the “extreme danger” of snow as they may just get hurt.
Airports in Germany, Switzerland, Austria, USA, Canada and Scandinavia do not stop operating with the snow depths such as we get, why?
They invest heavily in equipment to ensure runways are clear, planes de-iced and because they all drive cars with winter tyres, the airports can be sure that there is a better than even chance of staff getting in to work to deal with clearing the dusting of snow on runways and de-icing of planes.
Now here is an odd thing, driving through Bracknell I notice that the pavements on main roads are covered in snow and ice (along with all the back roads) yet the council run leisure centre has cleared 2 lanes on it’s outdoor athletic track of snow and ice- you could not make it up?
Whilst many cannot get to work because of the weather, they can it would seem get to supermarkets, health clubs, go tobogganing, drive to Heathrow to (not) go on holiday and even to Bracknell to jog.
UK plc may hit a triple dip recession and if it does it will be because of the ‘health and safety’ and litigation fears that are ingrained in people now.
‘Man up’ GB!