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Why can't we cope with snow?

Snow paralysed Paris last week and there's more to come. Why are we never prepared?

WITH snow set to bring travel problems for many people in France and the UK ahead of the Christmas break, we asked Connexion newsletters readers why neither country appeared to be able to cope with wintry weather

In the Corrèze, I considered the authorities did a good job clearing the main roads but as usual fell short on the smaller roads. Good for the French government to blame Météo France - a good cop out. Part of the problem is that people do not use the few brain cells that they were born with; when it is freezing weather and/or snowy get the trucks off the road and car drivers (unless life or death) should stay off the roads.

I, and most people I meet think that this is just another English whinge. I came to live in France to hopefully get away from all of this. Snow in November and December is rare. How would the whingers feel if they had their council taxes/taxe d’habitation put up drastically to cover the cost of always having the infrastructure in place to deal with this and then it didn’t happen?
David Payne

No country can be more hopeless than Britain as far as winter is concerned; just send down a powdering of a millimeter or two, and the whole country is at a stand-still.
Bob Schedler

I think we are not caring enough – after the event. Once the snow has gone and as you know in England we don’t have it for very long, the local authorities just put their heads back in the sand. For years this has been the case, and nothing has improved at all. What they should be doing in the UK is spending more money on gritters and snow ploughs. I can’t really comment on France but other than the cities it is very rural and we have a place in the country and there is no way that all the roads could be dealt with. We just have to accept that when we can’t get somewhere safely then we don’t go.
J Heywood.

The real fact of the matter is that neither the UK government, past or present, nor the French have ever really come to grips with ‘unusual events’ such as heavy snow/ice or floods. It is always a case of ‘Oh, it doesn’t happen very often and isn’t worth spending lots of money to deal with. Besides the voter will soon forget about it a few weeks after it is all over, so why bother’. This attitude has prevailed for far too long, and, the subject isn’t a vote catcher. If that were true, and by the same token, there would be no point in having the military. After all, how many times has either country actually been invaded in the past 60 years?

Snow and floods happen. What is needed is a supply of equipment and people who can be called upon, when needed, and who are properly trained to deal with ‘the event’, quickly and effectively. When not needed the people go about their normal lives and the equipment used for other purposes. For example, why have purpose built snow clearing vehicles, when you can use other forms of motive power, such as a tractor, and simply attach the appropriate tool to either back, front or both. This has to be much cheaper than producing purpose-built vehicles. The ‘tools’ can then be stored by the local authorities when not need or kept close to the source of motive power until needed. The capital cost and maintenance of the ‘tools’ should be paid for by the tax payer since it for their benefit that this equipment exists.

The initial costs would be far outweighed by the money lost during these events, and , would help everyone to get back to normal as quickly as possible. If anyone is in doubt, they should see how Russia deals with heavy snow. Most roads are kept open, night and day, by an ‘army’ of machines and people, and, life continues almost unabated.

The use of salt, salt and grit, or, just grit, also needs to be addressed. Salt can often just add to the problem, with partially thawed snow refreezing as the temperatures drop. The right sort of grit, on its own, can be far more effective along with the use of chains and safe driving techniques.

Driving in adverse conditions should be part of the driving test. The short answer is that there needs to be a whole range of partial solutions that go toward solving the problem. I somehow doubt either country will be any better prepared next year.
Richard Best

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