Thawing Out

on January 15, 2010 in Opinion

As the “big chill” looks to be drawing to a close ITV’s Tonight programme aired an investigation into how we can stop the winter weather reaking havok.

According to the programme, the answer is £1.2 billion pounds initial investment and an additional £400 million per year to maintain it (in contrast, the recent cold snap has been estimated to have cost the economy £800 million per day).

Being away this year, I missed the most disruptive weather, but this has got to have been the first time in years that such a major disruption has occurred, so maybe what we really need is better planning rather than a huge investment for an event that hardly ever happened (and should become less frequent as the globe naturally warms).

Our biggest priority must be keeping the public transport links open, even if you can’t get your car out of the garage, if all it takes is a short walk to get to an operating  bus or train, you can get to work. Local authorities (or possibly central government) needs to look at our infastructure and give precise priorities. We don’t need to grit every road, but every area should have a priority route, and these are usually serviced by buses, that should be kept open no matter what the weather throws at us.

Supposedly every council in the country had 6 days supply of grit, but certainly in Rochdale’s case, this six days seemed to have been worked out as a light dusting of salt on a couple of main routes that they were legally obliged to treat, no thought seems to have gone into provisioning to keep the rest of the town running, or dealing with particularly hazardous roads (which to be fair, being situated on the edge of the Pennines we have quite a few of).

In truth, six days (if calculated correctly) should be more than enough to deal with winter most of the time, but we then need a centrally controlled emergency supply that can be brought out those times that we have more serious conditions, and this could be built up with the surplus from milder winters.

Perhaps the most affordable of the programme’s proposed improvements is the airports, (£75 million + £15 million/year) with over 235 million passengers using British airports each year, a levy of a few pence per flight to avoid airport closures due to weather has got to be worthwhile.

Finally, we have a huge manpower resource sat around even in the best of weather. It doesn’t need much (if any) training to use a shovel to shift snow, it’s time that we replaced the “dole” system with a “national service” that can be utilised in general to improve our environment, but can be rolled out in times of need to deal with conditions like this.

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