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Timmytour

How The Uk Copes With Cold And Snow

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I've come back from a few days in Bergen this morning. It was really nice with lots of snow before we arrived, temps well below freezing all the time, a bit of snow while we were there and heavy snow overnight and this morning.

But everything goes on much as it should. Which set me thinking. I know the roads are an issue for us in the UK, not just for the volume of traffic we have compared to other places but also of course the fact that we don't force people to put on winter tyres each year. But i do find one thing puzzling... why is it airports seem to close in the UK quite readily if it starts snowing whereas airports like Bergen just keep going? Is it just the availablity of the equipment needed, or the lack of procedures in place to use that equipment due to the infrequent need to use it?

And how many winters like this would it take to get the government to force us to use winter tyres. That would be an immense cost, and I'm not saying that this winter can be regarded as a future "normal" winter, but imagine we had a run of them... how many would it take a government to implemement such a measure?

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I think it basically boils down to the fact that it isn't that cold here that often, even more so in the last 20 years or so. As a result councils with tight budgets wont feel justified in spending large amounts on grit & snowploughs/blowers and the staff needed to use them. Likewise Airports will be trying to turn as large a profit as possible and so will buy as little as they can get away with the majority of the time. For example, if a council went out and bought a load of shiny new Snowploughs on the back of this winter and then it was mild for the next 5 years the person responsible would probably get a rollicking for wasting tax payers money. I for one can't afford winter tyres, I think driving on snow and ice is just common sense, i.e. don't go fast and don't slam your brakes on.

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Hi Timmy.

Bergen is gorgeous, as are some of the other parts of the Norwegian Fjords.

In general, I would say that (1) We are not as prepared as other countries with more frequent snow (in many ways), and (2) We do not have the experience or balls to continue our daily lives in such conditions.

However, early the week of Christmas, I was speaking to someone in Denmark who didn't go to work because of the heavy snow.

So I guess it does happen in other countries, but our '1cm brings country to a standstill' is more like '1ft brings country to a standstill' in other countries.

I think driving on snow and ice is just common sense, i.e. don't go fast and don't slam your brakes on.

Not always the best advise when trying to take off/land a plane though :D

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....... I think driving on snow and ice is just common sense, i.e. don't go fast and don't slam your brakes on.

I think what causes the gridlocks most of the time is cars trying but failing to get up hills rather than going too fast or slamming on brakes.

I think many people would say they couldn't afford winter tyres and I daresay we won't get to that stage. Would be interesting however if this winter, rather than a one on twenty or more event, was seen to be the first (or perhaps second) of a run of colder snowier winters...what would the govt reaction be?

AS a matter of interest, do drivers in Scotland put on winter tyres? I guess it's not compulsory but do some find it an economical thing to do anyway in the sense that it helps them get to work more regularly and keep the money coming in? I know in Bergen it's not only compulsory, but if you put on a certain very effective type you have to pay an additional tax as it's perceived to damage the road surface more. I wonder if some councils in Scotland would get that cute!

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Can anybody tell me what the difference is between winter tyres and normal tyres, other than the fact that only OON can afford them?

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The answer is that we aren't as prepared and our infrastructure is based around the premise that the British Isles gets relatively mild winters, and most people are not "acclimatised" to cold snowy winter weather as they are used to the mild winters we get in Britain.

I'm pretty sure that if we had a run of very cold snowy winters, as a nation we would eventually become more prepared, but there would be some very tricky times during the intervening period. The converse is also true, if we get a long run of very mild winters, it will make us less prepared for lesser degrees of cold in the long run, which may make 2009/10 hit particularly hard, albeit helped by a close to average winter last year which gave many people a taster of what prolonged cold snowy weather can be like.

All of this suggests that the popular belief that as winters get milder, inconvenience and disruption will reduce and cold-related deaths will decline, is too simplistic. It will only work as long as winters continue to get milder and milder with no hiccups along the way. Otherwise, we get used to a warmer and warmer average, and less prepared for cold, and this reduces the benefits from the warmer winters, especially when an unexpected cold one does come along and we find we can't cope with it despite having coped fine with similar winters a few decades earlier.

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Hi Timmy.

Bergen is gorgeous, as are some of the other parts of the Norwegian Fjords.

Hi Shiny...it was especially nice with all the snow around...having their coldest winter for a long time. Big bonus was that the wife regarded it as too cold for shopping :cold: . Just outside Bergen there's a lake with a beach she went swimming in last summer. We went for a walk around it...an absolute winter wonderland with various opportunities for the kids to get some sledging action in (and the adults too!)

Not always the best advise when trying to take off/land a plane though :)

:)

AS for the what winter tyres are, I can only get very technical about this and say "they've got more grip" ! I also believe studs might have something to do with them, which is probably why I don't know much about them!!! I have seen people advocating that the UK government or the EU changes legislation to make people fit them in winter, but I have slight hunch that such lobbying is carried out with the aims of generating greater revenue for tyre manufacturers rather than genuine concern for road safety

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AS a matter of interest, do drivers in Scotland put on winter tyres?

Yes, well a lot round here do anyway, however we also have a large amount of people who drive 4x4s, in fact I myself did until this year! DOH! - but they are now taxed so heavily I imagine winter tyres would be a cheaper option. As I said at the time the tax on 4x4's was always unfair to the people who need them most.

I have recently been reading a lot about Tyre Socks, was meaning to get some for the car. They are supposedly ideal for our climate, as in they are easily taken on and off when required, which with our "usual" few days of inclement weather, should be enough - and they are of course not damaging to the road surface, which winter grips would be.

A fleet of Aberdeenshire Courier Vans supposedly have these socks in all their vans this year after trialling them on a couple last year, it would be interesting to hear how they got on this year with them.

I remember earlier in this season that the Highland Council road clearance manager was interviewed and said rightly that it isn't that the UK doesn't cope, as is evident by the fact we (Highland/Aberdeenshire) don't make the news so often, it's more that the rest usually don't have to, so it's a cost exercise.

I do think though that this is all slightly ironic as it's because of the swing the other way in the last 15-20 years, taxing bigger cars/expensive tyres/lowering grit salt orders etc. has become the norm, contracting out the road clearance jobs to companies that had no idea what a bigger winter would entail. I presume it would take about 15 years for it to swing the other way again if required :pardon:

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Cheers Snooz....great post and very informatative. :yahoo:

I'm writing this reply before I go looking up tyre socks on the internet. From what you say they do sound ideal for our climate.

Love your point about the tax on 4x4.. it's bang on! I think it was something borne not just out of the normal desire of all politicians to squeeze money out of every pore of society while using global warming to justify it, but also out of the perception that 4x4's were only used by rich mothers dropping off their kids at Chelsea schools. Very short-sighted as you brilliantly point out.

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