Thursday, 2 December 2010

Britain sucks and everyone is laughing at us!

If there's one thing guaranteed to be more boring than people complaining about the weather, it's people complaining about people complaining about the weather, and bemoaning our collective reaction to it. Every time Britain gets some bad weather, you know you'll see the following things:
- headlines screaming about CHAOS
- front pages consisting entirely of the predicted temperature in the coldest part of Scotland done in a MASSIVE font (in Celsius, even if the paper is bafflingly committed to Fahrenheit for the most part, because Celsius gives lower and hence more dramatic numbers)
- business leaders and the CBI on the radio complaining endlessly about how people getting stuck in the snow is affecting their profits
- tedious hack pieces about how Britain can't handle a bit of extreme weather because we've lost our Blitz spirit, and how embarrassing it is that foreigners can handle everything and we can't.

The latter rears its head in David Jones' Why we're a laughing stock with the rest of the world in the Daily Mail, which has moaning in spades.
Whiling away the long hours in my steamed-up Toyota on Tuesday night, I thought of the many countries I have visited on foreign reporting assignments with far harsher climates than ours, and wondered why they never have these problems.
Well, the reason is that countries with "far harsher climates" are forced to spend the money on solutions, otherwise the disruption would simply be too much. Britain has a mild climate for the vast majority of the time, and so unless we want to spent a whole metric shitload of money on vast stockpiles of rock salt and fleets of snowploughs on the off chance that we'll get a day or two's snow disruption. In January, up in Manchester, I missed one whole day of work due to the disruption which prevented me from completing a 40-mile journey to work. The problem in that case was that we'd already had ice and frost for several weeks before Christmas which had depleted the grit supplies, and so once we had several days of the heaviest snowfall I'd seen in many years, it became harder to get about.

It's not a particularly exciting topic; councils have limited funds, they have to make decisions about how to allocate those funds in the face of many competing demands, and so many of them won't put massive excesses of it aside for snow which may or may not come.

What's slightly more interesting, though, is the weird, insular assumption that we must be the only country shit enough to be facing any disruption. Did you know Germany has had no problems? You would if you'd taken David Jones' deeply scientific approach to the topic and canvassed the opinion of one friend:
According to a friend in Berlin, the trains are running, the schools are open and – in contrast with the horrendous scenes on the M25, where hundreds of lorry drivers slept in their cabs on Tuesday night – the autobahns are clear.
Well, that's that then, isn't it? The Bloody Germans, ruthlessly efficient as always, chuckling at our bumbling Hugh Grant ineptitude! Of course, if you have any Google chops at all, you'd be able to find evidence that Germany isn't made of magic and can't make everything work:
Wintry weather caused on Wednesday the cancellation of around 60 flights at Frankfurt airport, Europe's third busiest, a spokesman said.

The number of takeoffs on one of the western German airport's runways had to be reduced because of high winds, a spokesman for airport operator Fraport told AFP. On Tuesday almost 300 flights were scratched.
360 flights cancelled in two days in Frankfurt? But...Teutonic efficiency...? 250 were cancelled in Munich. But what of the roads? Let's go to a German news site:
Ongoing snowfall in the southern state of Bavaria caused major traffic snarls, with police reporting problems near Regensburg for several hours in the early morning. Many abandoned transport trucks blocked lanes near on-ramps, they said. And while winter road cleanup crews were out in full force, they were unable to keep up with the heavy snowfall in the region.

Deaths from traffic accidents were reported in Nuremberg and Aschaffenburg.

Meanwhile trains in Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, Thuringia, and northern Bavaria were also impeded by the snow storm. National rail provider Deutsche Bahn reported that drifting snow and felled trees caused numerous delays. Travel between Leipzig and Nuremberg, as well as between Gerstungen and Leipzig had to be cut off entirely during parts of the night, they said.
Oh. Still, I assume the "Hundreds of train passengers" who were "forced to spend the night at the Frankfurt train station" kept themselves warm with a good old chuckle at the Brits, eh? And we can just ignore the fact that schools were in fact closed in parts of Northern Germany.

It's not just Germany; stories like this reveal that Geneva airport had to close, as did Lyon in France. 8 people died of exposure in Poland.
In France, 12 regions in the frozen east and centre banned the use of lorries, forcing more than 7,000 of them to park overnight, while the weather has caused hundreds of accidents on German roads.
But...I think you'll find that a Mail reporter spoke to a friend in Berlin and they said it was fine? What more evidence do you need?

1 comment:

  1. A couple of minor points -

    1. The additional cost to local councils of keeping the roads clear - 160 million; the cut to the local government roads budget - 160 million.

    2. A hell of a lot of the congestion on the roads is caused by HGVs both jack knifing and getting stuck on hills (often when overtaking) what chance of restricting them when snow and ice are serious? Zippo because the government are in thrall to the roads lobby.

    The best response to this crap is to ask how much is the Mail reporter prepared to pay for a high level of kit to keep roads clear which might be needed 1 winter in 5. Incidentally the silence from the government on the fragmented privatised railways' inability to do what BR managed to in winter is telling. Add to that the bean counters' requirement to buy useless cheapo trains.....