David Brownsey-Joyce waits with baited breath to see whether London will be able to cope with the coming snow and whether it will even arrive.
With winter comes the endless amount of fun for local authorities and infrastructure providers as they have to cope with cold snaps – a rare occurrence up until recently and the reason that the UK has not put money into large-scale infrastructure changes.
Traditionally, the UK has always received rather temperate conditions compared to many on the same parallel as us. We can be thankful to the prevailing winds we receive from over the Atlantic Ocean, coming up from the south and warming us up; but recently we have been receiving more winds from the north, coming down from the Artic.
In London we are doubly lucky. There are so many people all crammed together that they heat up the area an extra few degrees. However our luck may be about to run out as widespread snow and ice is predicted.
To aid residents in their fight against ice and snow, Mayor Boris Johnson, Transport for London, and London Councils, recently revealed their master plan to keep us all moving.
· London Boroughs will store 72,000 tonnes of salt
· Transport for London will store 18,000 tonnes of salt
· An operational reserve of 27,000 tonnes of salt
This compares to 57,000 tonnes of salt held in December 2009 in total. A fleet of 38 gritters and 10 gritting quad bikes will ensure that the major transport routes are cleared whilst local authorities will have staff gritting roads and major paths.
There will be no repeat of February when buses could not be deployed, as their depots were not gritted. The buses literally could not get out onto the roads. Let alone individual cars with far less traction. After all this it would be quite funny if it didn’t even snow.
All joking aside, it is a massive problem when the temperature drops in this country. The vulnerable can be isolated and stuck inside for days at a time, the health service gets stretched with more falls and broken bones, local authorities find it difficult to collect refuse, and emergency services have to work that much harder to get to locations as they navigate impossible conditions.
Last December, I helped a man hobbling on two crutches slipping on ice, literally falling head first into the snow in the outer boroughs of London. The pavements weren’t gritted and they were dangerous for anyone walking on them. This year I wonder whether I will need to help someone else or whether I will be the one needing help.
At the end of the day, we cannot grit everywhere. Local authorities only have so many resources but they should be in a better position than last time we had this weather and they had to ration salt levels. Filling the gaps will be up to the community, whether this be literally – by communities gritting their own streets, or figuratively – by checking up on their vulnerable neighbours.
The question is: to what extent can we rely on government, whether local or national, to prepare infrastructure for adverse weather conditions? This is a complicated question, with a changing answer depending on our climate.
Until a long term solution is decided we need to do the best we can and try not to repeat the previous mistakes, to help our communities where we can, and to not grit out driveways with grit that could be used for a path (we all know who you are).
In the end, whilst I like snow, I would prefer to not see it this year.