Cold winters amidst global warming

 

           Mr Hammond the Transport Secretary has asked for advice on whether with all this global warming we are told about we should expect more regular colder winters. So far since global warming was declared proven we have had a run of colder winters and wetter and cooler summers. At the same time Mr Hammond is seeking to do his bit to curb global warming by proposing a substantial new railway line through the Chilterns to Birmingham and on to both Manchester and Leeds.

            Let me suggest some advice for Mr Hammond. No-one can tell for sure whether next winter and the winter after will be bad like the last two, or mild like winters a few years ago. The Met experts run a mile from suggesting they can predict the weather a year or two in advance, though they reckon they know the climate for the next hundred years. Given the importance of the road, rail and air network to a sophisticated trading economy like the UK, the new Transport Secretary should be working on the cheapest and best ways to keep our economy moving just in case it snows again on this government’s watch.  These ways could include:

1. Use of a fleet of hired in vehicles with snow ploughs attached to keep all motorways and trunk roads clear of snow as soon as it starts to come down. In winter there are lots of  suitable commercial vehicles available which the state could hire with drivers to do the job. Gritting  can follow the ploughs.

2. Encouragement of the same approach by Councils for the main roads under their control. They could mobilise some of  the underused tractors from  farms by hiring them.

3. Discussion with Network Rail on what more they can do to keep railway lines open, including running  trains with de-icers  and snow moving equipment on them. There may need to be a programme of improving heaters for points. Stations needs basic equipment to keep exposed platforms, paths and approach routes snow free.

4. Pressure on owners of main airports to beef up their anti snow equipment to maintain their licence. The airports should each be responsible for freeing runways and taxiways of snow and ice within a reasonable time period of a snowfall. Airlines should be responsbile for the snow and ice affecting their planes.

           Your ideas would be helpful, so I can send considered thoughts to Mr Hammond. I will talk about the new railway tomorrow.

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109 Comments

  1. lifelogic
    Posted December 22, 2010 at 7:12 am | Permalink

    As we know all extreme weather is blamed on “climate” change now. I even heard the earth quake caused tsunami mentioned in relation to climate change once! I am just waiting for a repeat of the 1953 east cost floods (over 2000 killed in Holland and the UK ) and the BBC will be going on about this “proof” of global warming and rising sea levels for a ever more.

    High speed trains do not reduce C02 emissions unless the electricity comes from Nuclear the only cost effective and practical low Co2 source. In fact train and buses in general when you take account of the track, the staff, the empty ones and the connecting journeys are poor on Co2. Long distance coaches are quite good though as are full efficient cars if you do believe in the CO2 religion.

    If something happens rarely then it is not always worth investing hugely for it you need people with equipment who can lend a hand when needed once in a while.

    Perhaps getting rid of the car tax on 4X4’s that can carry 7 people (effectively small buses) might be a good plan – I am sure the Liberals would like that!

    • lifelogic
      Posted December 22, 2010 at 7:23 am | Permalink

      Also why is Vince Cable so visceral in his dislike of Rupert Murdock I suspect it is due to the endlessly anti Murdock BBC where Murdock and Thatcher are always hate figures especially in their “comedy”. Even my elderly father thinks this way sometimes – too much BBC and radio 4 I suspect.

      • Ken
        Posted December 22, 2010 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

        I think the rule on Radio 4 and World Service is that you MUST use the word ‘Empire’ in the same sentence as ‘Murdoch’.

        • lifelogic
          Posted December 23, 2010 at 6:18 am | Permalink

          Yes I am far more concerned about the tax funded BBC “Empire” and its left wing, big government, green religion, pro EU agenda.

          • APL
            Posted December 26, 2010 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

            LL: “Yes I am far more concerned about the tax funded BBC ..”

            Yes and guess what?

            The left wing pseudotory Cameron has no plans to do anything about the BBC.

  2. Mick Anderson
    Posted December 22, 2010 at 7:20 am | Permalink

    Many sevices that used to be provided by Council employees have been subcontracted to the private sector. The obvious example is rubbish collection.

    When we have some snow, the first thing that we know will disappear is the rubbish/recycling collection, on the grounds of elfin sayftee. Thus there are men available which are doing nothing useful. Were they directly employed by the Councils, we could reasonably expect them to be allocated to snow clearing.

    It should be written into the contracts of such companies that any staff who are unable to perform normal duties due to any adverse weather conditions (not just snow, but also flood or hurricane) are made available to the Council (with any appropriate equipment, listed in the contract) for the use of the community.

    Not having this included in contracts (and actively enforced) should be considered negligence on the part of the Council.

  3. Forlornehope
    Posted December 22, 2010 at 7:51 am | Permalink

    We live about three miles of single track lanes from the nearest main road. After last year we invested in a pair of snow chains; cost about £50. Yesterday we went and did our Christmas shopping with no problems. Watching cars slipping, sliding and blocking the roads for others raises a simple question about individual responsibility. Perhaps it should be compulsory for road vehicles to carry a set of chains between November and March. Most years they would simply remain unused but when needed they avoid turning a bit of snow and ice into a major crisis.

    BTW, with practice it takes about two minutes to get chains on and off.

    BTW2 – anyone who thinks localised hard winters say that AGW is off, is just being silly, and you John are definitely above that kind of nonsense.

    • Stuart Fairney
      Posted December 22, 2010 at 9:24 am | Permalink

      Quite right, the snow of 2010 does not prove the issue either way, any more than the snow of 2009 did, or the snow of 2008. It does however make a few of the gloomsters who were pedicting in 2000 that children born in the new millenium would not see snow, look rather silly. Ditto the comments of one BBC ‘journalist’ in 2006/7 that global warming meant the end of Alpine Skiing. Come to that the record low temperatures in Cancun recently don’t prove anything either.

      But they are all data-sets which do not support the theory.

      • ManicBeancounter
        Posted December 27, 2010 at 1:50 am | Permalink

        I quite agree couple of cold winters does not mean that anthropogenic global warming is refuted. However, it does mean two things.
        First, that all temperature fluctuations can be explained by an anthropogenic factors. The cold weather was predicted by some skeptics a year or more ago through a combination of La Nina and the lack of sunspots. It did not make a cold winter certain, but did make it a good deal more likely than the 20 to 1 chance the Met Office gave.
        For the future, the lesser role we must give to CO2 factors also has an influence on the risk of catastrophic climate change in the future. The lack of acceleration in warming (indeed the stablisation of temperatures in the last decade), despite the accelerating CO2 levels, suggests that the predictions of future catastrophy may have been somewhat overplayed.
        If this is coupled with a policy that is lacks focus on targets, we have the near certain future that the efforts to tackle climate change will cause far more harm than good.

    • lifelogic
      Posted December 22, 2010 at 9:58 am | Permalink

      I do not say AGW is off or on just that there is a huge degree of uncertainty – we cannot say without knowing much that we cannot not know – and hotter might not actually worse anyway historically it has been better than cold in terms of food production and winter deaths.

      Any anyway removing atmospheric C02 is a very poor way to cool the earth.

      Whereas we know for sure that clean water, food, basic inoculations, medical care, and anti malaria measure will certainly saves millions of lives – and the c02 emissions will just happen elsewhere anyway.

    • yaosxx
      Posted December 22, 2010 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

      Forlornhope – John Redwood is perfectly justified in thinking AGW is a load of old nonsense! – many of us do!! And is Europe and parts of the World your idea of localised…?

    • Dual Citizen
      Posted December 22, 2010 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

      I just posted about snow chains below. Where I live (Oregon) it IS compulsory to carry chains (and in some cases have them attached) in wintry weather. I know people who have been turned back for not having them.

  4. Colin D.
    Posted December 22, 2010 at 8:16 am | Permalink

    If it is true that part of the Heathrow problem was aircraft frozen onto the tarmac, why can’t they park the aircraft on temporary plastic mats with a low power heater wire inside (such as used in electric blankets)? Or is that too obvious for BAA to even consider?

    • Scooper
      Posted December 22, 2010 at 11:13 am | Permalink

      It must be a business run by accountants. Like my own employer, decisions seem purely based upon reducing costs rather than increasing opportunity and the eventual consequence is always one of having to spend more than what was saved, due to some predictable catastrophe. In my own example, products have not received enough development in recent years to keep up with smaller, more agile competitors and we are now in a position where we are losing business to other suppliers and the solution seems to be to go out and acquire another company so that we can get our hands on their technology. To continue development of our own technology in that period would have been a fraction of the cost of being forced into a costly corporate acquisition.
      I suspect that the BAA situation at Heathrow is something similar, where contingency planning has been ignored in order to keep costs down and now that the proverbial has hit the fan, it’s going to be very expensive for them indeed. Although we can’t plan for every emergency, snow disruption has a fairly high degree of probability whether you buy into CAGW or not. Lack of preparedness for harsh winter conditions at an airport demonstrates poor business planning in my view, regardless of how difficult Saturday’s conditions were.

      • ManicBeancounter
        Posted December 27, 2010 at 2:01 am | Permalink

        Let me defend the accountants! This is turning out to be the coldest winter since at least 1963 – and December will probably be the worst for over 100 years. Last winter was the worst snow in over 20 years – and this will be worst. Furthermore, the consensus expert opinion have been saying that snowfall and sub-zero temperatures will become increasingly rare. If, for the last thirty years we have kept sufficient resource to clear the runways of six inches of snow within a couple of hours, there would have been an outcry at the waste of resources.

    • Acorn
      Posted December 22, 2010 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

      I don’t know if you are familiar with Chicago Airport, but have a look at the snow handling kit parked on the taxi way and ready to go, in this video. They don’t pile up snow, they have big snow melting trucks that stick it down big drains as water. It gets a bit scary when your plane gets de-iced twice on the way to the take-off runway! Even Chicago shuts down when they predict an ice storm coming. If the temperature stays below zero C, snow is not a problem. Temperatures that float three and four degrees around zero is the problem in the UK. Freeze melt cycles.

  5. electro-kevin
    Posted December 22, 2010 at 8:42 am | Permalink

    Being a transport worker I note that much disruption was caused through key workers being unable to get to work.

    – Encourage transport companies to lodge their staff in hotels overnight so that they are there to start morning services or undertake frost precaution duties. Whatever it costs the taxpayer it will be worth it.

    – Scrap HS2 (this will be as exposed to weather as any other line btw.) The money would be far better used upgrading what rail services we do have.

  6. Nick
    Posted December 22, 2010 at 8:44 am | Permalink

    Tell councils to stop spreading grit on 2ft of snow. Twice now I’ve been behind spreading trucks with their ploughs raised and spreading, when it seems far more sensible to plough the road first and then grit. It is the public sector though, we should assume stupidity and be pleasantly suprised when something actually goes right.

    • alan jutson
      Posted December 22, 2010 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

      Nick

      Perhaps the snow ploughs in question were afraid of ploughing up speed Humps !!!!!

      Another reason why they should be removed apart from damage to vehicles.

      Many of our traffic management systems, are no more than traffic obstructions. Talk about stepping backwards.

      See the roads are cracking up again with all of the frost damage, even more repairs needed when we have not even really started on last years problems.

      • Peter T
        Posted December 22, 2010 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

        Well said, I have always had the opinion that purposely introducing hazards (speed bumps, ballards etc.) onto the carriageway is a daft policy.

  7. Brian Tomkinson
    Posted December 22, 2010 at 8:51 am | Permalink

    As you suggest, there are many ways in which the effects of snow and ice can be alleviated. Instead of making excuses for their lack of action, councils in particular must be forced to take the situation seriously. Where I live there is little evidence of any action taken to clear main roads other than motorways and as for residential areas and pavements, including the town centre, there is no action taken. Clearly those in authority don’t care about fulfilling their responsibilities.

  8. Geoff not Hoon
    Posted December 22, 2010 at 9:00 am | Permalink

    Mr. Redwood, as was highlighted on various news in recent days channels there seems to be no mimimum service requirements stipulated by any authorised body as to how delayed passengers are to be treated. Passengers with various airlines were clearly distressed over lack of information, I have experienced it too, they were left for hours without water or offers of food. Bedding became a scrum with the old left without in some instances. I believe regulations require airlines to provide vouchers for hot drinks and then food after so long. This needs further work to cover the kind of situation people have been in over the last 6/7 days.

  9. electro-kevin
    Posted December 22, 2010 at 9:04 am | Permalink

    Local grit bins should be filled and have keyholders. Basic training in gritting and supervising volunteer work gangs should be given. As it is much of the grit was nicked for personal use before it could be used on the little roads out of our town.

    As a result, even where major routes had been defrosted, key transport workers couldn’t get on to them.

    (Such is the success of our housing market that key workers have to live so far from where they’re needed.)

  10. alan jutson
    Posted December 22, 2010 at 9:10 am | Permalink

    All interesting and worthy points from our host and contributors.

    Snow chains a good idea, as are a set of winter tyres, motoring reporters suggesting that more control and traction can be had from a two wheel drive car on winter tyres, than a 4×4 with road tyres fitted.

    Why do not people use commonsense when out in poor weather and put in the car, boots, gloves, layers of clothing, blanket, a reflective jacket or bib, and a shovel.

    In Europe in many countries it is law that you must carry warning triangles, reflective jackets (for passengers as well), fire extinguisher, and a spare set of bulbs.

    As far as Councils are concerned I am sure there must be simple stand alone equipment which can be fitted/loaded onto ordinary lorries and thus make additional Snow ploughs, salt spreaders etc, out of their standard vehicles/lorries. Such equipment would suppliment the existing specialist snow ploughs and salt/grit spreaders, and reduce the excessive and massive investment in specialist vehicles needed which may otherwise stand idle for most of the year.

    I have suggested before (both last year and this year) the use of builders and farmers who have useful equipment and vehicles, a simple list and agreed payment proceedure could be held on file for an immediate call for help.

    Do not forget the most simple form of workhorse. THE HUMAN BODY. in years past vast volumes of people properly directed with simple tools built the world, and completed many simple but large tasks in digging out tunnels, carved railway cuttings through the countryside. So why not employ the fit and able unemployed, (we are told we have a million under 25 year olds out of work and on benefit) let them feel useful by giving something back for their money, like their labour for a few days.

    In addition we have to say a spirit of self help, commonsense, and a determination to overcome needs to be encouraged, rather than just sit and wait and moan for someone else to solve the problem. In this regard localised salt/grit stores provided by the Council for use on a self help basis may encourage some of this spirit. It does however mean that the Council has to have such a stock in advance in stategic locations.

    I have to say John, Wokingham seems to have done better this year than last on the main roads, it was noticeable that in driving around this year, its roads seemed clearer than manyof the authorites roads which surround it.

    Airports, agree as you suggest.

  11. BrianSJ
    Posted December 22, 2010 at 9:21 am | Permalink

    Country areas used to get farm tractors to do snow ploughing. This stopped when the Councils insisted on the tractors being free of red diesel, so now the tractors stay on the farm unused. Should not be impossible to get some common sense there.

    • Tom
      Posted December 22, 2010 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

      I know a Kent farmer who is on standby in winter for the local council with a tractor and blade. No idea whether he has a ruling on fuel to be used, but he does go out and I have seen others.

  12. Phil Kean
    Posted December 22, 2010 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    Every time there’s snow the same problem repeats itself.

    The Councils attempt to keep the main roads clear, allowing transit for the few who live ON or close to them, but for the majority of us, who live along lanes, estates and less-busy roads, we are unable to get to-and-from the roads that have been cleared.

    Why don’t the councils supply some mini-van sized 4wd plough / tipper vehicles – (one per area and garaged locally with salt / grit stocks) – and ask for 4 or 5 competent volunteers to work those vehicles as and when they are needed.
    If they we available on or near site, just one vehicle could clear enough access to get a few thousand people to work and to school.

    Driving record, experience and general fitness would be taken into account for volunteers and they’d have to be covered by the Council’s insurance policy to undertake this work, which would include towing stuck vehicles where possible.

    I and others that I know would have been more than willing to do this service.

    This year I have seen our local Council panic and spend ridiculous money hiring lazy, incompetent contractors, who only seem to want to dump their loads of salt as quickly as possible and move on.
    My idea would, therefore, actually save money.
    .

  13. edgeplate
    Posted December 22, 2010 at 9:28 am | Permalink

    Mr. Hammond could take advice from a meteorological service with a better track record of medium to long term forecasting than the Met Office. Forewarned being forearmed and all that.

    It is not at all clear what the advantages of the new railway line are or whether the cost is appropriate right now. If the justification is curbing Global Warming I suggest he thinks again. It would be indeed ironic if the new link was unable to run because it was snowbound.

    It is surely better to spend time and money on basic things that are needed and work, such as keeping the roads open after a bit of snow, rather than glamour projects, or measures designed to do our bit (inevitably a very small bit), to solve a possible problem in fifty years time.

  14. Peter Whale
    Posted December 22, 2010 at 9:29 am | Permalink

    Forelornehope. Quite right about snow chains. You seemed quite sensible until BTW2. Do you really think manmade co2 has anything but a minuscule affect on the weather?
    That is really nonsensical.

  15. John Eustace
    Posted December 22, 2010 at 9:42 am | Permalink

    I recommend the article in the FT today by Philip Stephens entitled Britain Shamed By Heathrow’s Terminal Misery and the comments from readers.

    I arrived into Heathrow on Monday a day late having spent two weeks in China and Hong Kong, returning via Doha. No prizes for guessing where I found the shabbiest infrastructure and rudest, most unhelpful people – yep, Heathrow.

    Heathrow is a national disgrace. At the best of times it is running on the edge with run-down shabby buildings and rude, demotivated and above all unfriendly staff. I was ashamed to be arriving on a flight from a so-called third world country to the chaos that we found. No-one can take Britain seriously while we tolerate this appalling mess in such a key piece of our infrastructure.

    Assuming that nationalising it would not work because we have no civil servants capable of running anything, the choice is either to have the regulator apply some proper service and investment targets with heavy penalties for missing them, or to knock it down and start over with a new airport in the Thames Estuary. I fear the buildings at Heathrow can be renewed more easily than the culture.

  16. John Bowman
    Posted December 22, 2010 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    Mr Redwood, you ask for ideas so here is one.

    You and other MPs should start to ask loudly and persistently, pertinent questions about the lack of any evidence to support the assertions made regarding what is and will happen to the climate.

    The public have figured it out but they need some leadership from MPs, and it is about time the Government were properly challenged about this by those who are returned to Parliament, and paid, to do just that on important issues on behalf of the People.

    At present those in authority believe, in the way those recently converted to any religious sect or cult do, that the weather will become increasingly warmer.

    Expecting them to make provision for cold weather, is like expecting holidaymakers to take overcoats and leg-warmers with them to Benidorm.

    They will not accept they can be wrong despite all the evidence to the contrary and are getting away with it because of a lack of any backbone among MPs to stand up and challenge them.

    So it is pointless coming up with practical solutions as the will to implement them, or even listen to them, does not exist.

    The situation will only improve once the Met Office concerns itself with what it properly should be concerned, that is short to medium term weather not climate fortune-telling, the former which it can predict reasonably well but only if it stops discounting what observation and experience tells them in favour of what their computer models say should happen to support their “belief”.

    You will notice Mr Redwood that despite climate being an average of meteorological conditions over time, which are measurable and quantifiable factors, and indeed recorded, the Met Office and the climate change claque do not provide comparisons of such data, say the last 30 or 50 years with the preceding 30 or 50, and show how they have changed ‘because of global warming’.

    Instead we get vague assertions about the future, cooler summers, milder winters or (we now know) erroneous information about Polar bears, glaciers and ice-caps, non of which are climate factors and which can be affected by other factors aside climate.

    Could this be, I wonder, because the record does not support the assertion that climate has/is changing?

    Yet the few actual climate factors which have been quoted, such as hurricanes and severer storms, which we have been told have become/will become much more frequent and severe due to global warming, we actually find from the record that no such increase in number or frequency is evident.

    So my idea is for MPs to start giving the Government a hard time over this whole issue instead of sitting idly by whilst the idiots in charge act out of fear based in ignorance to ruin our economies and lives with “green” legislation and taxes.

    • Tom
      Posted December 22, 2010 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

      I wholeheartedly agree, but there are three big problems:

      1. Scientists and “scientists” who are unwilling to change their opinions because of loss of status and funding. They will not engage in debate.

      2. Many businesses are making big money (eg wind farm constructors and operators, carbon traders etc.) from the belief in/fear of global warming.

      3. Politicians have climbed on a bandwaggon which they do not want to be the first to get off (and many of them are totally ignorant of the arguments). Governments see green taxes/penalties as huge unchallengeable income streams.

      There is a fourth. The EU itself.

    • D K McGregor
      Posted December 22, 2010 at 8:28 pm | Permalink

      Follow the money is good advice if you wish to understand why most politicians support “climate change”.

  17. Richard
    Posted December 22, 2010 at 9:49 am | Permalink

    There needs to be a change in the law to stop anyone who tries their best to clear minor roads, pavements and paths from being liable if somebody then slips and injures themselves.
    In fact I would like to see it made law that it is an actual requirement to try to clear the area outside your own property or business.
    In Birmingham and Coventry hardly any pavements and paths have been cleared and conditions underfoot are a disgrace and dangerous.
    The problems we have seen recently on our roads and airports arise because the global warming obsessed Met Office has been advising Governments and Councils for many years that cold winters are a thing of the past and so investment in equipment has been scaled back.
    Another costly by-product of the hoax that is man made global warming.

  18. David Wickes
    Posted December 22, 2010 at 9:58 am | Permalink

    A rather cheap shot at the Met Office in your argument, John. I’m sure you would be quite confident in telling me the average result of 1000 coin tosses, but telling me the result of the very next one … ?

    • lifelogic
      Posted December 22, 2010 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

      You can give only the “likely” average for a truly random event as you say but the weather is not like a coin. It is affected by the sun’s activity, volcanoes, mankind, vegetation, animal life, new technology, cloud formations and countless other things, both random and non random, of which C02 is only one.

      Even the effect of Co2 is not clear cut as it helps retain some radiated heat but it also affects cloud formations and vegetation growth rates which might mitigate or (even over ride) the first effect.

      • EJT
        Posted December 23, 2010 at 8:05 am | Permalink

        Correct. The coin tosses are uncorrelated. Weather shows some correlation, otherwise there could be no climate cycles or climate change. ( natural climate change exists, AWG is very dubious)

    • norman
      Posted December 22, 2010 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

      The problem with that analogy is that coin tosses are independent i.e. the first toss and the thousandth toss both have a 50% chance of being heads or tails. This is simplicity itself to model, a child of two could model this.

      Climate models do not work this way. These models are dependent on previous results. Extremely simplistically stated the inputs for f(x+1) depends on the result of f(x), and any errors or discrepancies can quickly destabalise the model predictions, as we’re seeing with the three consecutive harsh winters we’ve had, after years of telling us snow would be a thing of the past.

  19. Oldrightie
    Posted December 22, 2010 at 9:59 am | Permalink

    We could spend the billions wasted on a seriously flawed philosophy on more practical and known weather patterns.

  20. Mike Wood
    Posted December 22, 2010 at 10:03 am | Permalink

    In northern parts of the US, city councils pay a small annual retainer to some local individuals to be ready to clear snow from estate roads. They in turn maintain a 4×4 or equivalent to which they can attach a small plough at short notice. When the snow arrives side roads are cleared in a jiffy. No need for large scale investment by the taxpayer. A classic Big Society solution.

  21. adam
    Posted December 22, 2010 at 10:09 am | Permalink

    Yea, theres already a railway to Birmingham, out of Paddington.
    Save the money.

  22. StrongholdBarricades
    Posted December 22, 2010 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    How about fostering a holistic approach throughout the UK, so that people clear the pavements from in front of their houses (people who slip and call upon the NHS will actually cost taxpayers more money)

    Then when there is a little more acceptance of accountability in UK society that was airbrushed out under NuLiebour, there will be a little more of the “can do” approach.

    It is fairly obvious that BAA has tried to cut its costs to the bone, presumably because of the loan repayments of its recent purchase by the Spanish Company. They have been caught red-handed, and now the government should really look in their armoury to see if BAA (if they can take any action against them-ed), especially after the Met Office gave a month’s notice.
    (words left out over suitable punishments for BAA)

    • D K McGregor
      Posted December 22, 2010 at 8:32 pm | Permalink

      I live on a corner , can you come and do the side for me, its only about 30 yards.

      • alan jutson
        Posted December 23, 2010 at 9:30 am | Permalink

        D K McGegor

        So do I, mines 40 yards.

        Correction about 36 metres.

    • bobthefish
      Posted December 23, 2010 at 12:01 am | Permalink

      When I lived in the East Coast of the US (Maryland) we had snow annually. Local construction worker types had snow plows (sic) ready to go from end of November. They were used by private companies to keep their parking lots clear. Reason for this is that there is some legal responsibility of the owner/operator of a parking lot to keep it “reasonably” clear or be responsible for snow/ice related damages/injuries. Concentrates the commercial mind.

      Also you are responsible for keeping your bit of sidewalk (pavement) clear after snow. They give you 24hrs to dig out then start issuing fines….

      Fortunately I now live on the West Coast where snow is but a dim and distant memory…

  23. James Sutherland
    Posted December 22, 2010 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    To some extent, I would say it really doesn’t matter whether this winter is repeated next year or not – Qantas have never had a plane crash, but they still equip their planes with emergency exit slides, life jackets and other equipment in case it does happen. We are constantly being assured it is worth spending hundreds of billions of pounds trying to make the planet very slightly cooler than it would be otherwise 100 years from now – surely that argument goes double for investing a few billion in coping when it ends up ten degrees colder than we normally cope with?

    Personally, I would de-fund the Met Office completely: their failures are beyond remedy, and there are other, more useful forecasting services available now.

    I agree about hiring vehicles to clear trunk roads, but would take it one step further. The US has various systems in place which give vehicle owners (aircraft and ships, mainly) get tax breaks in exchange for making those vehicles available to the government should they be needed – so, should they find a need for air transport, they can borrow passenger planes from United or cargo planes from FedEx. In this case, the government should have a stockpile of snowplough attachments and gritting trailers (fairly trivial investments) and an agreement to rent either genuine agricultural tractors from farmers, or HGV tractor units from transport companies.

    As for the private rail and air monopolies, I think a very simple legislative fix would make a big difference: ensure that bad weather cannot be invoked as a contractual escape. If my train is delayed or cancelled, should it make any difference whether the problem was a design fault making it vulnerable to icing, a track problem or a crewing issue? I don’t think so. If BAA is on the hook for hundreds of pounds in compensation to each and every passenger they have failed, they *will* figure out how to get it right in future (or go bankrupt and be replaced by something more competent); if not, there is something wrong with the current legal system.

  24. EJT
    Posted December 22, 2010 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    Our essential infrastructure should not fall apart in these circumstances.

    It’s not just capital equipment, it’s the quantities of consumables held – salt-grit, deicer etc.

    The regulator should not “put pressure on” BAA. A decision should be made as to the appropriate levels of equipment and consumables, and it should be a condition of the licence.

    Anyone know why Heathrow was operating only only one runway for days ? If you can clear one, how come you can’t clear both ?

  25. Iain Gill
    Posted December 22, 2010 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    The only thing keeping any passengers moving on the East Coast main line is the diesel train sets, the electric ones being unreliable and even worse in this weather together with the problems of keeping the overhead lines working in poor weather

    Really leads me to question the cost/benefit of major electrification projects, on the lines out of Paddington etc

    It would be interesting to ask “East Coast” the current nationalised main line operator why they have normally been running diesel sets up fully electrified lines, and then ask the transport secretary the same

    Interesting to see East Coast borrow trains from “Grand Central” who are running diesel trains up to Sunderland in competition to the (sometimes) electric ones to Newcastle, at a fraction of the price too!

    A set number of diesel trains per electric set in order to be able to keep the service going in adverse weather seems to make sense

    And dont waste money electrifying the lines out of Paddington to the West

    • Alan Wheatley
      Posted December 22, 2010 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

      The Santa Special has been running OK from Kidderminster in this bad weather. Steam hauled, of course!

  26. Neil Craig
    Posted December 22, 2010 at 11:08 am | Permalink

    I understand (H/T RU Referendum) that they are claiming it is random & there is a 20:1 chance of a cold winter every tear rather than it being a trend. Mathematically the chances of this being so & it happening 3 years, so far, on the trot, are 8,000 to 1.

    I am not a betting man but those being the odds that the leadership of all 3 parties have not been corruptly trying to convince us of a false scare story I would certainly be willing to have a flutter that they have.

  27. James Matthews
    Posted December 22, 2010 at 11:09 am | Permalink

    In New York garbage collection vehicles are readily convertable into snow ploughs and/or gritters and staff are trained in these roles. It is surely not beyond the wit of the British to do the same thing. In really cold weather rubbish collection is less of priority and if the roads are not cleared it is often delayed anyway.

    The other obvious tack is to encourage the public to do more to help themselves. Not easy I know, but years ago people and businesses did do rather more. Pre-placed grit bins for public use could help this.

  28. Acorn
    Posted December 22, 2010 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    How many regulations would need to be repealed to enact your points? Who indemnifies the farmer if he damages the road surface with his scrapheap challenge snowplough? What if he damages an abandoned car by the roadside? How will he account to HMRC for using a farm vehicle for non farming purposes on a public highway for payment? Will the “fuel” in the tractor’s tank have to be analysed by a Quango official? Fitting a snowplough to your 4×4, will be against the vehicle construction and uses Act. It will negate the warranty and the insurance on the vehicle as well. All snowploughs will have to be approved by the relevant Quango / Council before use. Can you imagine the paperwork that will be needed? 🙂 😉 😉

    BTW; have a read of Hussman this week; particularly his points 4 and 10.
    http://www.hussmanfunds.com/wmc/wmc101220.htm

    • lifelogic
      Posted December 22, 2010 at 11:01 pm | Permalink

      Spot on.

  29. lola
    Posted December 22, 2010 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

    WE are blessed with living in a land that enjoys – on average – a moderate climate. Cool wet winters and warm moist summers. Sometimes there will be hotter summers and colder winters than the average. All things fluctuate. To provide all the equipment to deal with the occassional very cold winter will require substantial amount of capital spending (not investment). To justify this we need to do a cost benefit analysis. I will make a bet that this will show that the spending is not justified. The opportunity cost will be uneconomic.

    Just Hammond to stand up an explain this clearly to the public. As in do you want more Harriers or more snow ploughs. (I could have said hospitals, but as I do not think the State should provide those either, I didn’t).

    The answer then is ‘deal with it’. Sort yourslef out. And look after your neighbours. I do. I have a LR Defender. I have been collecting supplies for neighbours and delivering mail. I am absolute faith in the empathy and sympathy of mankind to help our neighbours. I have zero faith in Government to do anything ‘social’ or ’empathetic’ at all, or rather only as far as it suits the Politcal Class and its attendant apparatchik and entirely self serving bureaucracy.

  30. sm
    Posted December 22, 2010 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

    For a relatively small country with high population density it would seem the cost/benefit of infrastructure spend would be better than for larger countries. So why should we not plan for the longer term in the UK.

    Strategic plans to keep Heathrow open – HMG should impose the military if needed and charge the operators for closure days. Similar for other strategic rail/road routes.

    Covered rail routes /roads, double decker motorways. Underground heating for runways.

    Importing energy doesn’t strike me as being sensible, whilst the BOE inflate away the currency? More joined up government and secure nuclear generating plant.

    I’m curious as to the UK energy mix stats over the recent cold period. How many gas days do we have left? How much elec are we importing from France?What would happen if we were called upon to share supplies with Europe? Other than prices rising?

    If only the debt was invested in productive assets.

  31. Yudansha
    Posted December 22, 2010 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    Why did we sell our airports to indebted Spanish builders and knockdown prices ? It seems that this was a very bad idea indeed.

  32. A.Sedgwick
    Posted December 22, 2010 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

    Basically Hammond has made a mess of it. Not being wise after the event last winter gave all the clues as to increasing snow clearing and gritting capability. Heathrow is more complicated as for some reason it is owned by a struggling Spanish company – time for nationalisation.
    How about Dr.Vince – consensus is he survives purely because he is a thin on the ground Libdem.

    • Mark
      Posted December 22, 2010 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

      Indeed: it must count for a significant portion of our exposure to Spain (which is of the order of £70bn to the non-bank private sector).

      • Mark
        Posted December 23, 2010 at 11:34 am | Permalink

        BAA carries £10bn of debt – about the same as Ferrovial’s purchase price; Ferrovial themselves have €24bn of debt, though the amount lent by British banks in either case I have not been able to determine.

  33. Robert Crozier
    Posted December 22, 2010 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

    I have just posted on the same subject last night.
    1. Pay farmers a small retainer to be on stand by to clear designated roads. Perhaps even give a discount on the equipment needed.
    2. More (fully stocked) grit bins in urban settings to give folk the oipportunity to help themselves and neighbours.
    3. Used quarrymen and their easily convertible lorries to share the gritting load.

    Let’s not make winter tyres complusory. If folk want to purchase them and make their own lives easier, then that should be their choice.
    Making winter tyres complusory would be another step to making hauliers uncompetitive. Again they can do it if they please.

  34. Malcolm Shykles
    Posted December 22, 2010 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

    I do not think it helpful to lecture that the current cold period is due to Global Warming, having previously told that it would lead to ice free Polar Regions, frost free winters that polar bears would die through lack of floating ice etc. It is no wonder that the country is once again caught out with Politicians Crying “It is all Due to Global Warming”.

    The fact is that Solar Cycle 24 was slow to start and that there are fewer sunspots than is usual.

    The Sun Defines the Climate and we are into a cooler period.

    http://www.sadarc.org.uk/pages/news/club-news/2009/news-20090607-solar-prediction.html

  35. Ian Innes
    Posted December 22, 2010 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

    Bring back steam trains.
    No third rail to fail due to snow (wrong type or whatever)
    100 tons of metal with a plough will clear a fair bit of snow.
    And when “summer” finally arrives there will be less expenditure on clearing railway sidings as the periodic fires will take care of that.

  36. Mark
    Posted December 22, 2010 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

    There certainly are weather forecasters who are much better than the Met Office at making a forecast for a season ahead or so. For many years I had access to one such (an American) who regularly produced surprisingly accurate forecasts about major weather trends in various portions of the world. Such people can be found close to commodity trading and production, where accurate forecasts are turned into money.

    Meantime I really have to wonder about our councils. A neighbour enquired of ours what it would cost to arrange to have a grit/salt bin for our side street. He was quoted £2,000 for the bin and a totally outrageous sum to have it topped up. I was aware of a story of commercial contractors offering gritting services for about £15 per household elsewhere, and checked the internet to find that we could have two bins, a heavy duty spreader and a tonne of salt/grit for around £600 – enough to provide 10-20 applications, with replacement salt/grit being under £150/tonne delivered. You would have thought that the council might be able to benefit from keener pricing for large scale deliveries.

  37. a-tracy
    Posted December 22, 2010 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

    Priority should be to the main thoroughfares and motorways including egress and entry to the main railway stations and airports.

    Perhaps local councils should work better with probation services and other voluntary groups that are trying to get the long term back into work to provide this emergency work with brushes and shovels at the lowest cost at points of greatest need where elderly people reside or hospices and schools and hospitals.

    Better reporting of closed roads on the Highways Agency websites and local council websites or BBC travel. A couple of weeks ago drivers were stuck on the M8 around the City of Glasgow, there were no police advice boards on the motorway or police officers helping people to exit the motorway with traffic control and get onto cleared roads, traffic police control earlier in the day would help to ameliorate the problem later in the day as people leave work and totally clog systems up. People were stuck at Bothwell services overnight and because of a lack of parking space were queueing up on the M74 motorway itself waiting for a snow plough for six hours to clear one lane to get everyone motoring.

    There has been some poor reporting on the tv news with reports of terribly snow bound roads that were open and cleared for travel with care. Instead of just reporting on Heathrow there should have been more advice on alternatives, Stanstead was open, Birmingham, Manchester and other airports. If Eurostar is not operational what Coach and Ferry services were operational, where could they cash in their tickets and get alternative modes of transport even if this meant getting flights from Stanstead to other European large hubs for onward flights? Couldn’t Eurostar put on a coach alternative service?

    Review the councils that did well with the same snowfall figures and discover why and pass on the best methods to deal with sudden, unexpected snow fall. The Met Office does give forward information though so why are some Councils so unprepared?

    One driver was stuck for four hours 30 Nov on A2022 between Warlingham and Addington near Croydon with no idea what was causing the problem ahead, he had to stay out overnight. I wonder what resources there were within the local emergency services and I still wonder what caused such a delay? When he was first stuck I tried to find out from several websites what the problem was but there were no reports.

    • Mark
      Posted December 22, 2010 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

      I find that motorway signage is often way out of date and insufficiently helpful. One of the best ways of monitoring the motorway network is via the traffic maps in Google that show via colour coding where the traffic is moving more slowly or is at a standstill. It only takes a second or two to appreciate whether to aim for a diversion, or even not to attempt a journey at all (the other day I noted there was no route out of London to the North via the M11, A1, M1, M40 or even M4/M5). Motorway service areas should have prominent displays of these maps: it would even be possible to have an LED poster version in advance of motorway junctions (both on and off the motorway) to forestall difficult journeys.

  38. Electro-Kevin
    Posted December 22, 2010 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

    Rail operators – in fact all transport operators – should be incentivised to lodge emergency early-turn crews in hotels overnight.

    Many of the problems were caused by staff not turning up to start the first services or undertake frost precautions/de-icing very early in the day.

    Another issue is that – even with the main routes cleared – key workers couldn’t reach them with many back streets impassable. The salt bins were empty (one suspects by people stealing it for their own use.) Perhaps they should be locked and accessible by local key holders who are trained in basic gritting and organising local volunteers to get out and do their bit.

  39. Geoff not Hoon
    Posted December 22, 2010 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

    Mr. Redwood, in the 1990’s TNT the parcel carrier were paid to keep 100 green godess’s (ex MOD Bedford 4×4 fire tender’s) ready to go in a moments notice in the event of a fireman’s strike. This is the type of thinking that needs imposing if necessary on BAA whose management continue to make UK airports the laughing stock of the world. Can I add to John Eustace’s comment above re Hong Kong etc. if you really want to be depressed about Heathrow management and facilities then spend time ‘delayed’ in Singapore Airport. You feel saddened whewn the plane is eventually called for boarding!!

  40. Ted Greenhalgh
    Posted December 22, 2010 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

    Several contributors make the usual error of confusing weather and climate.

    • Richard
      Posted December 22, 2010 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

      Yes thats right -with climate change I generally find large sums of money transfer from taxpayers to grant aided green industries and bearded university researchers but when the weather changes I generally find I have just forgotten my umbrella.

    • lifelogic
      Posted December 22, 2010 at 11:23 pm | Permalink

      Weather and climate are the same thing, just averaged over a different time scale. No person or computer projection can predict either reliably – unless of course one is God who clearly does not exist. If however I am wrong and one does then no predictions are sensible anyway as any God might choose to intervene at any point should the so mood take her.

      I rather think this snow might be God’s petulant reaction to the BBC’s endless global warming drivel.

    • EJT
      Posted December 23, 2010 at 8:14 am | Permalink

      No, you’re not getting away with this.

      Firstly, the alarmists have use every weather event that happens to support their climate claims, producing the endless drip-drip of AGW propaganda. Some are even claiming that the cold winters are due to warming – either via specific machanisms or general increases in extreme events (They can’t even sing from the same hymnsheet for their retro-active rationalisations)

      Secondly, the string of cold winters, is in direct contradiction to the 1:20 prediction from the Met Office, so their climate model in wrong. We we told that snow would be a thing of the past. That this was certain, because the science was settled.

      How many times can the alarmist be wrong before the political class stops listening to them ?

  41. oldtimer
    Posted December 22, 2010 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

    Of course global warming has not been proven – except in the minds of those whose computer simulations predict that there will be warming if their assumptions are correct. Unfortunately for these latter day soothsayers, the actuality is adrift from the assumptions thay have made. Furthermore, it is evident that the methods they use to calculate global temperature lack the quality controls taken for granted in any modern business. In the business world these forecasts would not be worth the paper they are written on.

    Nevertheless it is worth recalling that the precautionary principle was invoked, by Lord Stern and others, to justify the stupefyingly expensive measures inflicted on us all via the Climate Change Act to counteract the supposd consequences of AGW. My recommendation is that you call for the repeal of this Act, or of the expensive measures contained within it. Such a repeal would release more than enough funds to support the sensible and practical measures you and others here have proposed to deal with future harsh winters. The substantial balance left over after doing this could then be employed to reduce consumer and business costs and even, possibly, to accelerate progess in reducing the national deficit.

  42. English Pensioner
    Posted December 22, 2010 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

    As I mentioned in my own blog, I blame all the global warming experts for our current crisis. For at least a decade they have been telling us that average temperatures are rising, we will be growing tropical fruits in this country and one professor said a couple of years ago that children born from then on would never see snow again Christmas. Didn’t an official government report produced by the last government say something like “global warming is a bigger threat than terrorism”?

    A a local councillor said to me, “When we are having to make cuts to various services, we’d have been mad to suggest that we put any money in our annual budget for snow clearance equipment as it would be totally against all the expert advice which we have received” .One might put forward the same arguments about our railways and airports; what shareholder would support the directors of a company who wished to spend money in this manner against all the expert advice?

    Don’t blame those responsible for lack of snow clearance, blame the Global Warming fanatics.

  43. Martin
    Posted December 22, 2010 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

    1) Heathrow – my bag missed a connection in July due to weather! So I’m not suprised the place degnerates into a National Disgrace at the sight of a Snow Flake. Best advice is to avoid the place.

    2) Southern Region third conductor rail. In the short term more deicing. Long term consider a move to overhead wiring.

    3) Power – get cracking on new Power plants. There must be enough unemployemnt black spots where these would be welcomed.

    4) Side Roads – as others have noted – folk live on these and sometimes the first quater mile can be a real problem stopping folk getting to work.

    Global Warning – As I have mentioned before it’s not as simple as some would have you believe. See for example http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2003/nov/13/comment.research

    In this scenario melting of Arctic Ice caused more fresh water which slows or shuts off Atlantic Currents that keep us less cold.

  44. BobE
    Posted December 22, 2010 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

    HS2 is a vanity project. The twenty mins saved on the trip will be lost trying to get near to the center of Birmingham. This is because the train stops outside of the city?
    Improving the M40, M42 would be a far better investment.

  45. Barbara
    Posted December 22, 2010 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

    Perhaps the most cost-effective solution would be to sequester that £18 billion *per annum* that Huhne says we need to spend in order to appease Gaia and spend it on mitigating the conditions that people are actually experiencing now, rather than on some mythical warming non-problem which might or might not affect future people as yet unborn?

  46. Alan Wheatley
    Posted December 22, 2010 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

    When in the early seventies my parents retired to the Yorkshire Dales, to live in the middle of the Pennines, they were assured there was never any concern about being snowed in because the farmers always ploughed the roads to keep them clear. And that was the way it was. As I understand it the farmers had a standing arrangement with the Council and when the need arose they got on with it.

    This happy and workable arrangement came to an end.

    A few weeks ago there was a farmer on the telly explaining what they used to do, as in the Dales, and the reason they no long turned out to keep the roads clear. It was not that they did not want to but that the bureaucracy they now had to cope with was just too much agro.

    I expect that most farmers would be ready, willing and able to help, but there is no point is asking until the disincentives are sorted out.

  47. MikeG
    Posted December 22, 2010 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

    Some good points here by JR.

    Socialist Norway sub-contracts out most of their snow clearing to local farmers with tractors and builders with JCBs; this is done on a fixed-price per winter season basis. Farmer and builder supply their own plough attachments and are contracted to clear assigned areas to a certain standard on a fixed price. It works very well from what I have witnessed. In town they use small Quad bikes (normally used for their summer landscape gardening activities) with various attachments to plough and sweep pavements. A couple of these machines running down each side can clear a city centre walkway in minutes.

  48. Alan Wheatley
    Posted December 22, 2010 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

    As to “Mr Hammond is seeking to do his bit to curb global warming by proposing a substantial new railway line through the Chilterns to Birmingham and on to both Manchester and Leeds”.

    It seems “plonker” Hammond is following in the tracks of “plonker” Prescott. Prescott thought he he was doing the right thing by increasing the number of bus journeys. Instead he made things worse, for not only was there no reduction in the number of car journeys but the increase in bus journeys generated more even more green house gasses. This outcome was obvious and entirely predictable.

    The notion that HS2 is “green” is farcical. There is the capital carbon cost of building the damm thing, and then there is the carbon generated by running the trains. You do not curb global warming by marking more journeys, what ever the mode of transport.

    On the other hand there is a good case for investing money in rolling out High Speed Broadband to the third of the country that would not get it as a result of normal commercial activity. Make the electronic communication connections good enough and some journeys will become unnecessary.

    HS2 is a vanity project. Why on earth does the government think it is a good idea to invest £33B in a form of transport that had its hayday over 100 years ago and from which only a tiny handful of the population can benefit. This is in stark contrast to a measly £830k for the technology of the future that will benefit the whole country.

  49. Alte Fritz
    Posted December 22, 2010 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

    A friend just telephoned to report a frustrating pleasure trip to the Low Countries. These countries were pretty well at a stop just like us.

    It seems to me that we could bite the bullet and decide on a level of capital expenditure to provide the equipment to do the job to a given level. Perhaps it might be manufactured in the UK, or is that too much to hope? That equipment ought then to have a fairly long life given that its intense use will be in short bursts.

    The cost of using the kit, whether it is hiring vehicles to which it is attached or hiring men to use it would surely not be disproportionate to the benefit of keeping the country moving at something much closer to full speed thabn is now the case.

    Put that way, it does not seem too modest a proposal. My own suggestions are:

    Look at using large man hole covers to capture snow and put it into the drains. My late father saw that work in Norway 70 years ago.

    Look at making the rail system, points and overhead lines more robust.

    Stop Councils wasting money on traffic schemes which turn a regular straight line on a street into something with numerous indents. That makes it hard for the same council’s snow plows to see where they are ploughing.

    Introduce a law which excludes from legal liability anyone who clears the pavement in front of their shop or home. Fear of attracting liability now prevents poeple being good citizens.

  50. Freeborn John
    Posted December 22, 2010 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

    The biggest disapointment with HS2 is that it seems not to link up Heathrow with Birmingham Airport directly and Manchester airport in future. In harsh winter conditions such a link would be a godsend making it possible for aircraft to divert to other airports and the travelling public to be able to complete their journey by high-speed rail. There is talk of a later spur to LHR but not having the main route pass through Heathrow would greatly delay travel. Lack of integrated transport might be forgiven of a 19th century railway but is unforgivable in a completely new 21st century route.

  51. martin sewell
    Posted December 22, 2010 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

    I drove 500 miles through France last Saturday.

    There were two things which might assist.

    1 I am sure we saw private vehicles adapted as snow ploughs. As you say the farmers have a lot of suitable kit and it should be employed. They are not working the fields at such times.

    2 The National Gendarmerie was stopping all lorries on motorways and putting them in convoys to travel at low speed under supervision – in this way there was no jack knifing and greater safety.

    On arriving in England, I was appalled to be passed by a lorry which must have been travelling at 60mph; at the outset of the journey I had slithered off the road at 4 mph. Irresponsible lorry drivers are a menace to life and economy.

  52. david morris
    Posted December 22, 2010 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

    It would perhaps be interesting to compare/contrast the amount of money BAA has spent over the past (5 ?) years on their glorified shopping malls as against basic winter
    infrastructure & protection………

    kind regards

  53. steveredfern
    Posted December 22, 2010 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

    The comments on this one suggest numerous self help and economical ways to deal with the snow and cold, and some list the legal objections to putting them into practice. Here are a few items of interest.

    I recently met an ex trade union official, (words left out) character at a funeral. He was wearing a very smart dark suit and polished shoes so I remarked on his new found smartness. He told me that he was now working at the county police HQ as a elfinsayfty officer. I asked him if he had to stop the little dears from turning out at nasty things like murders until they had finished. He smugly answered that it was not only him but five others! I wonder whether the lack of police helping out snow bound motorists is because they are waiting for risk assessments to be finished.

    I attended a course on solar heating recently. It seemed that the drawback to hot water panels or tubes was that they are difficult to fit or maintain when mounted on the roof. They pick up dirt and mildew quite quickly and this reduces efficiency. Also they are most visually intrusive on the roof. I suggested that the best place for them would be against a south facing garden wall and was staggered to hear that this was not usually done as it would require planning permission, wheras roof mounting was permitted. So, they are always put in the place which is the most expensive to fit and maintain, requiring scaffolding for H ans S.

    The big energy companies had seen the market some time ago and made certain that the lobbyists ran rings around our ‘engineering and science- free’ legislators. There is really only one way to fit solar water heating and this is to use approved companies and have the most expensive kit and, in a few years, the most expensive maintainance. Good for profits but not for uptake or street appearance. I have installed my own DIY system, using reverse radiators and simple equipment for about £500- not £5000. It heats my water to 60deg in the summer, but it is illegal.

    Another good idea is to fit high function insulation to existing houses. Most of us live in old houses, so a way to insulate these, without losing a lot of floor space, is needed urgently. There is a product available which is similar to the reflective bedding recently given out to stranded airport passengers. It was invented 100 years ago and several firms make multi layer quilts which are 30mm thick and give the same insulation as about a foot of fibreglass or 8 inches of the exensive foams. The foil works out at about £10/ sm. I insulated my walls and rafters with it and my heating bills are now much lower.

    However, as usual HMG has made this very difficult. The manufacturers of conventional insulation, I was told, got together and (here we go again) lobbied to make sure that the new foil insulations were not accepted. The test used for approvals is the ‘hot box’ method, which does not work for foils, as it tests conduction and the foils use radiation. So, as usual, the Oxbridge PPE duffers fell for it and we now have most Councils doing eveything they can to refuse applications to use foil quilts.

    This means that, if the old plaster is loose on an external wall and you tell the LA Inspectors that you want to renew it, they will require a Building Regulation application and have to paid hundreds for the ‘service’-plus VAT. They will then insist that you use a conventional insulation plus finishes, and lose about 9 inches of floor space. And don’t ask a builder to put the other thin stuff up, they would be liable and anyway, if you wish to sell, the lawyers ask for certificates for everything done in the last 8 years and you will at least lose sales value.

    I am slowly tuning into an anarchist and almost eveything I do for myself is illegal these days. Fortunately so far, Big Sister is too incompetent or lazy to find out.

    Finally, re Civil Service attitude to science and engineering, we have a friend who is a terribly nice gay ex- met policeman but did not like working there in the days when they used to climb on ‘cottage’ roofs peering through the rooflights . He got a job at the Ministry as a Health Advisor on gay diseases. We heard that he now is in charge of the Research allocation side of things and said had been chosen because he knew nothing about science and the last person they wanted in charge was someone who did- in case they were biased.

    • alan jutson
      Posted December 23, 2010 at 10:03 am | Permalink

      Steveredfern

      How true most of your comments about insulation.

      The other fact about using micro quilt and not standard fibre insulation quilt, is that you can still board out a loft without having to increase the height of the rafters.
      Reflective Micro quilt was developed by NASA for use in the space programme where high performance was required, but space was at a premium. Also much lower health and aggro risk than fibre when installing.

      Visited an old Country House Walled Garden last year (built more than 100 years ago). All South facing walls built to a thickness of 18 ins to retain solar heat (like a storage heater) to help plants grow against them, all North facing walls built 9 ins thick. Seems we have not learned any lessons from History yet again.

      30 years ago I was Vice Chairman of the National Loft Insulation Association, was a Committee Member of the Cavity Wall Insulation Association, and sat in on a number of British Standard Committee meetings. We attempted to push at the time for a National Insulation programme as we could see energy costs rising then, afraid it all fell on deaf ears at the time.

      Not in that Industry any more, but still believe that Insulation is the cheapest and most effective way to reduce energy consumption.

  54. Dual Citizen
    Posted December 22, 2010 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

    Looking forward to the discussion on the railway tomorrow.

    Regarding dealing with the snow, I’m surprised nobody has mentioned Snow Chains! I live in Portland Oregon, and like the UK we don’t usually expect huge snowfalls in the city, but get them from time to time, with the added problem of freezing rain (2-3 inches of sheet ice). Yet, whenever there’s a severe storm warning, all the main utility vehicles are chained up ready for the bad weather – that’s buses, police cars, ambulances, postal service delivery cars. Yes, there are delays, but things don’t grind to a standstill.

    Snow chains cost about $50 US per set (30 pounds) and a good set lasts a good few years.

  55. steveredfern
    Posted December 22, 2010 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

    oops= para 7 -have to- please change to – to be

  56. peter_ct
    Posted December 22, 2010 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

    Local councils should take medium range forecasts from organizations that have a good track record not the Met Office which don’t. As I understand it Met Office is unusual in producing forecasts from numerical models. Others take the ‘we’ve been here before’ approach.

  57. Peejos
    Posted December 22, 2010 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

    Having just finished reading about the organisation to ensure the BEF was shipped from Dunkirk, I am struck by how inept the govenment has been in co-ordinating solutions to the transport chaos. The PM has the unions in for a chat but there has not been a hint that he appreciates the need for true management and leadership to resolve the situation developing about him.
    As ever one of the most common complaints has been the utter lack of information. In an age when virtually everybody has a mobile phone, there is no excuse for managers not getting their staff out, with up to the minute information, in amongst the travellers. Airports and railway station have PA systems, police and highway patrol cars have the same: there is absolutely no reason not to use them.
    With the ability of every modern office to print hundreds of fliers in a matter of minutes, again staff could hand out information quickly. They could even print out sequentially numbered sheets to enable people to leave the queues and return later without fear of losing their places rather than shufflig along in the cold and wet for hours.

  58. J Tierney
    Posted December 22, 2010 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

    John,
    All firms do risk analysis. If the risks of full snow related closure of LHR had been evaluated properly, the subsequent cost benefit analysis would have yielded a positive recommendation for the purchase of the relevant equipment.
    Long terms accurate weather forecasts are available here.
    http://www.weatheraction.com/

  59. Malcolm Shykles
    Posted December 22, 2010 at 6:04 pm | Permalink

    Science bulletin: ‘Sun heats Earth!’
    Russian research forecasted global cooling back in 2005

    “Habibullo Abdussamatov, the head of space research at St. Petersburg’s Pulkovo Astronomical Observatory in Russia, has published a paper in which he tracks sunspot activity going back to the 19th century to argue that total sun irradiance is the primary factor responsible for causing climate variations on Earth, not carbon dioxide. ”

    http://www.wnd.com/?pageId=114261

    QED

  60. Jamess
    Posted December 22, 2010 at 6:14 pm | Permalink

    One word from Cameron sometime in October/November reminding people of what a bad job Heathrow did with the snow this year, and recommending that they use other airports in their travel will solve the problem with no need for legislation

  61. Iain Gill
    Posted December 22, 2010 at 7:27 pm | Permalink

    Re “Stations needs basic equipment to keep exposed platforms, paths and approach routes snow free”

    The train station in Fort William has commendations on the wall to the staff for outstanding service digging the station and the line into it out of very deep snow the last time it happened. Real community spirit keeps that station open, and staff prepared to go far beyond the realms of normal duty, but then they are largely unaffected by the goings on at the top of the railway industry. And of course the line is not electrified!

    The train station I was at the other day in Essex, despite clearly having grit/salt/equipment to clear the snow was the other extreme, the female staff telling me I was the last customer they would be selling a ticket to and they would be abandoning the station immediately afterwards. Apparently they had all been phoned by their children’s schools and told the schools were shutting due to weather and the parents had to come and pick up the children. Schools shutting leading to railway staff being forced to abandon their posts.

    We are just not organised properly. Schools shouldn’t be able to act like this for one thing as it has too much of a knock on affect on other vital services.

  62. Matt
    Posted December 22, 2010 at 8:16 pm | Permalink

    Last year when it snowed people complained that they wouldn’t clear pavements outside their homes for fear of being sued. The government have issued advice saying they won’t and yet still people don’t clear their pavements.

    • Richard
      Posted December 24, 2010 at 10:12 am | Permalink

      According to a lawyer friend of mine, the law has not yet been changed and liability still exists for anyone who clears paths and driveways of snow outside their homes or business premises and then someone falls and injures themselves.
      The Government said they were going to alter the law and said they felt no one should be sued but Im afraid this is just wishful thinking.

  63. D K McGregor
    Posted December 22, 2010 at 8:45 pm | Permalink

    There will be no will to see anything done about the weather situation in approx. 1 week after the thaw. The circus will have moved on and it will be business as usual. Are people aware that landowners are paid landrent of £15,000-20,000 per annum per windmill?

  64. Kevin Lohse
    Posted December 23, 2010 at 8:52 am | Permalink

    In the @70’s, RAF stations with a rapid response task were equipped with runway snow blowers which consisted of two small jet engines mounted on a wheeled gantry which was attached to the front of a refuelling bowser. This apparatus was very effective. If major airports had such equipment, delays due to icy conditions would be curtailed.

  65. Mark
    Posted December 23, 2010 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    Several people have suggested that the Met Office be closed. I would suggest that its remit on climate change be removed, and its role limited to forecasting no more than a year ahead, with bonus payments for forecast accuracy. A few climate specialists might be offered positions at UEA, but a separate department established at a different and preferably more prestigious university with the specific remit to critique the AGW agenda – with bonuses offered for success. UEA funding should be reduced on the grounds that “the science is supposedly proven, so why spend on proving it?”

    • Mark
      Posted December 23, 2010 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

      Having just read this:

      http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/opensecrets/2010/12/met_office_seasonal_forecasts.html

      I would revise my opinion. The Met Office should be confined to 30 day ahead and shorter forecasts only.

      • Denis Cooper
        Posted December 24, 2010 at 11:28 am | Permalink

        “This report argued that one downside of the seasonal forecasts was that they remained on the website and could easily be later compared to reality. It said:

        “One of the weaknesses of the presentation of seasonal forecasts is that they were issued with much media involvement and then remain, unchanged, on our website for extended lengths of time – making us a hostage to fortune if the public perception is that the forecast is wrong for a long time before it is updated.”

        In contrast it noted that the “medium range forecast (out to 15 days ahead) is updated daily on the website which means that no single forecast is ever seen as ‘wrong’ because long before the weather happens, the forecast has been updated many times.”

        Obviously there’d be nothing wrong with the Met Office publishing an initial seasonal forecast and then subsequently issuing corrections to that forecast as new information became available, but they seem to be drawn towards the Orwellian practice of going back and quietly changing the original forecast on the website.

        So then it would become necessary for somebody outside the Met Office to take the trouble to save their original forecast before they doctored it to more closely match the outcome, and that’s what was done here:

        http://www.thegwpf.org/uk-news/2088-that-met-office-global-long-range-probability-map.html

        “Following on from yesterday’s post about the Met Office’s denial of having predicted a mild winter, the post has been updated with a screen grab of the Met Office long range probability map in October 2010 (which they claim is not a forecast).

        The map is shown below (click to enlarge). The highlights are the Met Office’s assertion of an 80% probability of warmer than average temperatures for November, December and January for Scotland and a 60-80% probability of the same for Northern Ireland, Wales and most of England. The current sub zero temperatures and the layers of snow and ice suggest the Met Office got it badly wrong, again.

        Their denial of a forecast is fatuous and their temperature map demonstrates clearly their computer models, featuring the global warming bias that undermines the Met Office’s predictions, are as much use as a chocolate fireguard.”

        It’s appalling that a publicly funded body which is supposed to serve the public is instead setting out the mislead the public, making it necessary for others to use private resources to expose their deceit – something which also applies to the BBC, of course.

  66. norman
    Posted December 23, 2010 at 11:49 am | Permalink

    Will lessons be learnt from this Mr Redwood?

    I remember a very similar thread from last year (I half suspect you are on holidays and simply reposted last years one!) and you were asking much the same questions and received much the same answers.

    No doubt ‘lessons were learnt’ from last years debacle, it’s unfortunate that all of them seem to have been forgotten over the summer. Maybe when so many MP’s lost their seats in the general election the lessons learnt were lost with them?

    I hope you have the text of this article saved somewhere on your hard drive for recycling when we next have snow during winter!

    Also, we’re not hearing much about the Big Society, surely this is a custom made situation for it. Have any guidelines been released on how this Big Society thing will work in real life? Maybe we should set up a Big Society quango to keep us right.

  67. Vanessa
    Posted December 23, 2010 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

    I disagree with you when you say that no-one can forecast our winters. If you look on Accuweather.com they are able to forecast our winters, many months in advance. I wonder why the Met Office can’t??? Is it, perhaps, because they are so wedded to “global warming” that they are unable to tell us it is getting colder! We are told by true scientists that we may be in a cycle of about 15 years or more of cold winters. Pity the Met Office cannot tell us the truth for a change. When will they ditch that “bloody” hocky stick and look to true temperatures for a change. We fund their organisation. The sooner it is sold off the better.

  68. Bazman
    Posted December 23, 2010 at 5:55 pm | Permalink

    Many of the contributors and the media are under the impression that there has been a problem with the airports and railways this year. No. This is how the job is ran. Make no mistake it is all part of the plan.

    • alan jutson
      Posted December 23, 2010 at 9:38 pm | Permalink

      Bazman

      I have to say you do wonder sometimes if there is an alternative plan. It is difficult to believe that this level of incompetence exists in any sensible management structure.

  69. John D.
    Posted December 23, 2010 at 10:59 pm | Permalink

    There was an article in the Daily Mail back in January during the last lot of winter weather, predicting we’re in for a 30 year Mini Ice Age, which also of course was the same time Climategate was at it’s height, with revelations such as 1200 temperature monitoring stations being scrapped, etc.

    Looks like it’s a case of “told you so”.

  70. David F
    Posted December 24, 2010 at 9:08 am | Permalink

    I was seething while watching the recent Statements in the HoC: one regarding the Electricity Market Reform, the other the Cancun Climate Change Summit. So many educated people, and yet all of them taken in by the AGW scam.

    The science is not settled, thousands of scientists across the globe disagree with the AGW dogma, hundreds more have put their fear aside and are now speaking out openly against the IPCC, and yet Chris Huhne and his carbon-obsessed cronies are intent on creating a carbon market in Britain that would shame the European ETS.

    Just as we already have expensive, wasteful, corrupt and ineffective schemes like the CAP and the CFP, are we now heading full-pelt towards a CCP (Common Carbon Policy)? Or perhaps is ought to be called the Coalition’s Common Carbon Policy (CCCP) to highlight its totalitarian basis.

    What ever it’s to be called, the proposed scheme is sure to be a lucrative haven for those fraudsters who have already abused the ETS. This will be especially so as the price-fixing – oh, I do apologise, “floor price” – that’s at the core of the scheme increases to an unspeakably preposterous £27 per tonne by 2020. As has been made clear to the Americans, carbon is not a commodity that can be traded. It has no meaning, nor relevance to the climate.

    This madness must be stopped before £billions more are wasted.

  71. colin
    Posted December 26, 2010 at 5:09 am | Permalink

    I wonder if you saw Boris Johnson’s comment recently on the weather.He refers to someone who runs his own weather forecasting service with a much better track record than the Met.Office.He analyses activity of the sun as the over-riding determinant of the weather.Interestingly,on the basis of this,he is forecasting a mini-ice age starting very soon!

  72. Michael Corby
    Posted December 26, 2010 at 9:21 pm | Permalink

    Season’s greetings John.

    There is a simple way to increase resources for winter snow and ice cleaning.

    Make people responsible for the pavements outside their properties.

    When I was a boy tis happened automatically in my village and in the neighbouring ones.
    It was just regarded as a matter of course.

    This would reduce requirements on local authorities and enable more resources to be made available for road clearing. It would also be a contribution tot he “big society” we hear so much about. Little efforts by us the ordinary people, but a big result.

  73. rose
    Posted December 27, 2010 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

    My husband has been able to go out for the first time today, and I have been able to get my bike out. Before that he was confined indoors and I had to do eveything perilously on foot – we have very steep hills all around us. We don’t live in the remote countryside but right in the centre of a city: yet whereas years ago pavements and footpaths were attended to as a matter of course, now they are not. Of course we can all do our own little bit outside our houses, but that still leaves a lot else – like the streets where no-one lives, and the footpaths over the very steep and hilly parks. What is the use of clearing main roads if no-one can get to them? And why is a journey by car worth so much more than one on foot or by bicycle? Please draw Mr Hammond and Mr Pickle’s attention to these points. As the population ages – and that means our generation Mr R – old people will need to become more self sufficient, not less. They will not be driving for ever, so the pavements must be kept in good order, including for use by wheelchairs, and not abandoned, unmaintained, as they are now to dustbins, sandwich boards, and parked cars.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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