I saw a figure in The Scotsman last week that suggested that the current snow chaos in Scotland would end up costing the economy £2 billion. How accurate that figure is, I know not, but it does underline the importance of trying to get the country moving again.
It’s the chain reaction from the transport chaos that is so costly.
- People are unable to get to work.
- Deliveries are being missed.
- Mail is not being delivered reliably.
- People are not travelling to patronise local businesses, including shops and restaurants.
Not only is road transport (buses, road haulage and cars) affected. Rail services, too, seem to be cancelled with increasing regularity.
I think everyone has a very high regard for the dedication and commitment of the people at the sharp end, working to keep our roads open.There are always complaints about snow and we all recognise that the weather is not the fault of our authorities. But, at the end of the day, there is niggling uncertainty that these efforts are as effective as they used to be.
Maybe I am being unfair, but it just didn’t seem – during the first bout of snow in November/December – that everything that could be done was being done.
- There didn’t seem to be the same constant shuttle of gritters and ploughs on our roads and pavements that I remember from the past.
- There clearly seemed to be a policy of not salting the roads, particularly side roads, to the same extent.
- Overnight work seems to have been scaled back.
- There were apparent mixed messages. One local council announced proudly it was all set for winter, then within days of the start of the snow, there were messages (official or otherwise) that they were about to run out of salt.
Costs need to be cut, as we know, but is this an area which should have greater priority in view of its huge economic impact?
The last thing we need at the end of all this is to spend money on a costly public inquiry into the handling of the weather crisis, when that money might be better spent on more equipment, more drivers, longer hours and more salt.
But, I do think our councils and governments need to have a look at what went badly and how things could be improved if this year’s trend of harsher winters continues.
After all, if the figure of £2 billion is anywhere near the mark, the economic importance of keeping the country moving justifies spending time on improvements.