Snow good moaning, you know

After stuggling in yesterday – having originally meant to start early and be met by a cab to work, and then finding belatedly that he’d parked up at the end of my road, half-a-mile away, as it was impassable – in a journey which took two and a half hours and included a temporary suspension of the Jubilee Line, a scenic pause at West Ham and people acting like idiots at Liverpool Street, I decided at 7am not to go through with it all today. Walking home via a snowy Greenwich Peninsula was a treat yesterday, though, and my hamstrings will testify that walking through snow is damn good exercise.

While, yes, there are people who act like idiots at times like this – like the arsehole sliding down my hill in his crappy car at 40mph at 6am yesterday, and the people who queued for ages for a Tube at Liverpool Street only to get off again at Bank, 700 yards away – generally this kind of weather brings out the best in people. Hey, parents have had a surprise day with their children, and others get to jog childhood memories – or create new ones. (Note to a friend of mine: creating a snow penis in Greenwich Park is not big or clever. Oh, actually…)

I thought on Sunday – after being held on a train at Blackheath so the points could be de-iced – that this would be the worst snow since I was at school. It turned out I was right – I’ve clear memories of building a snowman outside Kidbrooke School in February 1991, and of catching a bus sliding dangerously down Westcombe Hill later that day. Funnily enough, many buses were pulled that day.

So I really don’t get the mass bleating that we’re unprepared for events like this. The Evening Stunted may be under new ownership, but it couldn’t help but pile in with a self-destructive, knee-jerk whine, probably prepared years in advance like the Queen’s obituary. It’s a well-worn routine which also means stations like Radio 5 Live (the same station which wasn’t running proper travel bulletins early yesterday morning, much to my frustration) can’t be taken seriously in this weather – at 6.59am, a text message from some idiot in Aberdeen saying how they get snow like this all the time… at 7.00am, the radio was switched off, with a vow to get a new radio so I can wake up to a different station instead. (And at 7.01am, we demolished Aberdeen to create the yard big enough for all the snowploughs London would need.)

At worst, snow like this is once a decade, and brings one, maybe two days of disruption. Want to pay for a fleet of snow-ploughs to deal with that, so they only get used one every decade? Fine. Don’t bleat when you have to pay more council tax, then. And all this costs the economy a fortune? Er – some things in life are more important. Sometimes, nature’s got to take its course.

Politically, you could see Boris at the limits of his statesmanship – fair play to him for cycling in and being seen to be the capital’s figurehead, but encouraging people to drive by suspending the congestion charge? That’s nuts. But he was probably regretting missing the chance of earning a few quid by penning a witty Telegraph column lambasting the health and safety culture that’d driven the buses off the road. Not so easy when the boot’s on the other foot, eh?

I drove a 286 from Eltham station to Royal Standard and back… then I was finished!! Was interesting but not impossible. The ABS got a workout thats for sure when pulling into bus stops, having said that I only picked up 3 people as I was one of the first (I think the 1st Greenwich bound 286) I got to the standard and called the garage to say I wasn’t brave enough to be the first bus down Westcombe Hill, I was advised to do a code red and tell centercomm. They asked me if it was possible to get down there so I told them I had no intention of doing a 8 ton sledge ride down to find out. bus drivers’ forum

Of course, maybe the roads should have been gritted better, but against a night of snow you’ll always be fighting a losing battle. There’s a real question over whether the mayor should be taking charge of more roads from the boroughs, where gritting is inconsistent – but nobody seemed to be asking that yesterday. Far more fun to have a moan, and go into a “it wasn’t like that when I was a kid” routine, and then wonder why it’s still a mess next time.

That said, Tuesday’s been annoying because Southeastern hasn’t laid on a proper train service – there was nothing at 7am, and we’re stuck with a supposedly half-hourly service hauling its way in from the Medway Towns. That’s simply not good enough, especially when the Tube is running well even to its outer extremities. I suspect if TfL was in charge, we’d have a proper rail service running. But despite it being a long-term aim of Ken Livingstone that’s not anything anyone seems to want to seriously entertain. If there’s one thing the snow exposes, it’s not our lack of preparedness, it’s the faultlines of complacency in the way London is run.

Right, that’s off my chest. Who’s up for a snowball fight before it melts?

2 comments

  1. I always marvel at how London collapses whenever it snows. I admit that this time, you have had a significant amount of snow – but each time it snows, whether it’s a light dusting or heavy fall – London stops! OK, Brussels is much smaller, the metro is much newer than the London Underground and public transport here is, in general, better, I would say. Perhaps I’m wrong.

    Go and enjoy the snow – those wankers who continue to drive in those conditions should lose their license.

  2. It’s the same things that go down at the slightest dusting, though – local councils’ gritting is inconsistent, and mainline trains freeze up. Nobody really seems to question why they do this (maybe because control of them is all fragmented) or to suggest a better way, they just have a moan, and not do anything.

    The Tube generally stays robust, despite the Standard/London Lite’s scaremongering, and so does the buses, which is what makes this week so unusual. As well as the four-inch deep white stuff that’s still out the front after 36 hours…

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