Roddy Graham's blog: 13 December 2010 - Keeping the UK on the move
13 December 2010
Roddy Graham is chairman of the ICFM and commercial director of Leasedrive Velo
I don't know about electric cars - we probably now need electrically-heated road surfaces! I'm only joking but the point is that we do need to seriously review how we keep UK PLC on the move when weather conditions deteriorate.
The Met Office has now confirmed that the big freeze will continue for the rest of the year and you can guarantee that will not be the end of it before spring arrives sometime next year. The bets are on as to whether that will be late March or April or even May!
That same illustrious body took considerable flack for not forecasting the heavy snowfall to hit Scotland during the evening of December 6. Certainly, my homeland has borne the brunt of the terrible weather this time around and my mother in all her eighty odd years has said she has never experienced anything like it in her lifetime.
Many motorway routes, let alone main A and B roads, both north and south of the border have become paralysed with motorists stuck overnight in their vehicles. The freezing conditions have subsequently led to thick frozen ice on roads, some of which later in the week became impassable as their surfaces more resembled ice rinks.
Even down south, which in parts have escaped relatively unscathed, we have had perilous road conditions where the heavy frost from trees has melted in the sunshine to leave sudden patches of thick snow on the ground.
As our winters become colder, we are going to have to react to the changing climatic conditions, irrespective of what is eventually settled at the Cancun Climate Change Conference.
Our neighbours, TRL, are participating in an international conference mid-December where 11 national road administrations are coming together to discuss the findings of their research in how the effects of climate change are impacting our national road networks - heavier rainfall, higher winds, heavier storms, colder winters and hotter summers.
For the moment, our prime concern is the colder winters. What Government and local authorities need to do is become the beneficiaries of best practice from our northern European and Scandinavian partners. If Germany, Poland, Norway and Sweden to name but a few can keep their motorways and main arterial routes free-running in the depths of winter, then so should we.
As a nation we need to adapt and become better practised at tackling severe winter weather conditions. Government needs to start laying down minimum standards for the Highways Agency and local councils to follow, based on what our northern European and Scandinavian partners do best.
We need to see continuous improvement in road surface design and treatment. The Highways Agency and local councils need to be better equipped, not only in terms of equipment and materials but also in terms of communications.
The Met Office, infamous for its ability to dismiss hurricane warnings, needs to step up to the plate and prove why the millions spent on weather forecasting are worth the investment.
The Government needs to accelerate the rollout of the superfast broadband highway to enable more home working for employees affected by adverse weather conditions. Employers, themselves, need to adopt a more flexible way of operating to make sure that productivity is not lost when the white stuff hits the fan.
Make no mistake. Harsher winters appear here to stay and we need to learn how to adapt to them to keep UK PLC on the move.
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