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.