Fight! Snow Bitching Kicks Off

Rachel Holdsworth
By Rachel Holdsworth Last edited 111 months ago
Fight! Snow Bitching Kicks Off

Image courtesy of Phillie Casablanca from the Londonist Flickr pool
Get out the birch twigs and the cat-o-nine-tails - after yesterday's (and today's) snow chaos and general city-wide collapse, it seems to be time to stop making snowmen and start the recriminations and flagellations.

So why-oh-why-oh-why did London grind to such a halt? A war of words between TfL and London councils about gritting the roads has been going on since yesterday morning. The Highways Agency grits / salts motorways and dual carriageways, TfL does other main routes in the capital and the boroughs do the rest. Councils are trying to dodge the bullet by saying the snow came down too fast for the gritters to keep up. But others are digging their claws in.

Ken Livingstone, interviewed on Channel 4 last night, voiced the thought that because gritting needed to happen on a Sunday (ahh, overtime costs), councils thought "they'd chance their luck". Slap! The economising accusation is coming in again from the papers. Bang! Some councils say they had to bail out others, and TfL are blaming councils for not gritting roads outside bus depots. Wallop!

The knives are out for train operators too. Fingers are pointing at the "major event exemption" clause in their contracts - no season ticket refunds for yesterday. So, the theory runs, why would they bother running any trains? Comparisons are made between the 1987 South-East snowfall, when the trains managed to run on the same network. Ouch. Of course, it's hard to run trains without any staff, who couldn't get into work because the roads hadn't been gritted... whose fault was that again?

Cutback Britain is also being blamed for rail failures. The third rail electrification system is a "cheap" option that gets buried in a few inches of snow - not just a mammoth dump like this week. TfL and Network Rail are taking a bashing for only having heaters on the busiest junctions, leaving the rest of the points to freeze up. But are we prepared to pay more for our tickets to get better infrastructure?

Ho hum. We go through this every time there's snow of course, and nothing ever changes. We're so used to living in a temperate climate that extremes wig us out. Was yesterday an understandable reaction, a catastrophic planning failure or was it, as hinted in a number of places, 'elf and safety gorn mad?

Last Updated 03 February 2009


if it was 'elf and saftey gorn mad' then you'd have hoped that some one would have cleared the snow and ice off of the platrofm and stairs at cannonbury station on the overground.

there was still 6 inches of snow on the platform in bits and it was all covered in now icey packed snow. seems preposterous that the staff don't have grit and shovels to clear the stairs at least.

grumble grumble... what's the world coming to

Marie F

Worst snow fall for 18 years, 18 years and it lasted 1 day and we're up in arms- jeesshhh! No wonder we couldn't cope- we don't live in Russia or Canada so I really don't think it is worth our time or money making sure we don't face this problem again in the next 20 years.


It may have been the worst but whenever we get ANY snowfall it is always the same.

Plus just because it was the worst for 18 years doesn't mean it wont happen again next year or even next week.


And, for what it's worth, I don't believe this "worst for 18 years" nonsense that the media are obsessing about. Maybe as a UK-wide event there are some tenuous statistics that back this up, but in London this snow doesn't look much different to me from the snowfall we had several years back (2002?).

The only London-applicable "worst for 18 years" event here is the way that the capital ground to a halt. That's certainly quite unprecedented.