Monday, 27 December 2010

No 'Lessons Learned' Here



I woke this morning to find another couple of inches of snow has fallen during the night. It was expected and forecast, although the BBC Met Office forecasts these days seem to cover every eventuality over the whole of the UK and any accurate local forecasting is usually well off the mark.  The weather presenters vaguely wave their hand at their map and announce 'the east', 'the north' or 'the west' when referring to Scotland with 'the central belt' having entered their vocabulary in the past few weeks.  Nothing to do with the resignation of Stewart Stevenson of course.

What does trouble me though this morning is a case of deja vĂ¹.  Last year at this time  we had snow and the roads and pavements were left untreated until council staff returned to work on the 5 January.  Many older people were housebound because they couldn't negotiate the pavements in town and were afraid they would fall.  It's common knowledge that fractures in the elderly shorten their lives and I admit to being very wary about walking in snow or ice.

Last week, when I was discussing the state of the town's pavements with a local shopkeeper, I was told that after the heavy fall last Sunday council workers were contacted and asked to come into work to help shift it before the roads became busy on the Monday morning.  All refused because they were exhausted having done hours of overtime in the previous two weeks.

Fair enough. If someone's exhausted they won't do a good job and they won't do themselves much good either. But why do the council not have a bigger pool of capable people to call upon when necessary?  The answer is simple.  My local council has reduced snow clearing equipment from 16 machines to 2 over the past 12 years. You don't need extra manpower if you don't have the tools for them to do the job.

Today's snow may thaw a little but, as the temperature is due to dip again within 48 hours, the slush will turn to ice.  Nothing will be cleared in town until council workers return on 5 January.  Only 8 days to wait. The same as last year.  No 'lessons learned' here in the past 12 months.

Since the day in 1999 when Scotland's roads were divided into major and minor, with the major trunk roads maintenance being privatised, the standard of winter maintenance has plunged.

In the long winter of 1963 I lived in the borders.  Twice a week I attended the Royal High in Edinburgh for night classes.  Not once was the bus service cancelled.  I vividly remember leaving Edinburgh one night, at the usual time of 9.40pm, only for the bus to make a lengthy stop on the outskirts.  (The majority of us on the bus were young folk who were studying a range of subjects which couldn't be accessed locally.) When someone asked the driver why we were held up, his reply was he was waiting for the snowplough, as, hadn't we noticed, there had been heavy snow falling all evening. A prior arrangement had been made with local transport services for a plough to lead the bus the whole of its 40+ mile trip to Galashiels.  The plough duly arrived and off we set on this exciting, yet scary, adventure. The snow was as high as the bus windows, yet the driver pressed on, delivering several cold and weary teenagers safely to their destination.

We were late arriving, perhaps an hour or so late, but it didn't matter in the least.  Worried parents had telephoned the bus operator and were told the situation - at around 11pm.

Would any bus operator answer a telephone at 11pm these days?  I hae ma doots.  Would a bus operator have an arrangement with local snow clearing services?  Mair doots.  In these days of health and safety, would a bus run at all in such conditions?  No. Back in the 60s there was a 'roads network' consisting of roadmen dotted all around the country who kept each other informed of local situations, kept the local council informed and knew every farmer who owned a tractor. The system worked well.

Sometimes progress leaves much common sense and genuine commitment in its wake.

27 comments:

Joe Public said...

Part of the problem is all the "Services" that local authorities are expected to provide. ['Expected' sometimes in the context of what national government decrees they have to provide, as opposed to what its citizens want. And, current employees doing something / anything to justify heir existance.]

For example, Dundee City Council has 90 entries under "A" of its services!

http://www.dundeecity.gov.uk/a2z/a/

When resources are used to advise NetSurfers that Toucan Crossings in Dundee include Balgowan Avenue &
Claypotts, then I can understand why there's no cash left to clear icy pavements.

Mr. Mxyzptlk said...

subrosa


it is disconcerting that in old technology days snow and ice had less effect on the economy and British society in general.

whilst todays more modern technologically advanced United Kingdom grinds to a halt.

This is how the fall of civilization will begin the failure of modern technology and no one to show how things worked in the olden days

Sandy said...

Tools for the job ?

That would be a shovel and a brush then.

Except no self respecting council worker these days would know what to do with them , and would probably need extensive health and safety training , protective clothing and a certificate to operate either of them.

Spot on about the weather forecast in Scotland too, a wave at the map , some fluffy clouds and a mutter of ummm western parts and northern districts.

Oh well I'm off to shovel the pavement myself.

Hope you had a happy humbug Rosa.

Dramfineday said...

"Back in the 60s there was a 'roads network' consisting of roadmen dotted all around the country who kept each other informed of local situations, kept the local council informed and knew every farmer who owned a tractor. The system worked well".

As I recall Rosie, they also did a bit of hedging and ditching so that road signs were not obscured and that local flooding spots were taken care off. But that's SUCH an inefficient use of resource!

Rightwinggit said...

"Toucan Crossings in Dundee include Balgowan Avenue &
Claypotts,.."

Claypotts? Is that where the Cuckoo's nest pub is?

I've just finished reading Bob Servant, Hero of Dundee, by Neil Forsyth.

It's like Rab C.Nesbitt, only funny.

banned said...

In January I put up a post Praise Where Praise Is Due congratulating my local council for the excellent way they had cleared the pavements from snow and ice.

Not so this year, County is responsible for roads and initially they only did the through-routes leaving important local ones untreated, including the steep hill down to the train station.

Pavements are down to the local council and they have been rubbish. I can hazard a few guesses as to why; unfortunate timing, just before Xmas when all council workers care about is their Xmas Parties and two weeks off.
The calculated terrorising of the public, especially pedestrians who are reduced to the 'safer' option of walking on the highway (I and many other drivers go out of our way to be polite to them in this difficult time) so as to be able to point at The Cutbacks and blame DaveNick for the chaos.

That they are still in thrall to the Global Cooling Deniers (h/t wattsupwiththat.com) and salt/grit stocks have not been properly replenished.

Chris Booker: IceCap: The green hijack of the Met Office is crippling Britain
h/t OldRightie

Demetrius said...

There has been "progress" in the complexity and management of financial systems. Unluckily this has meant regress and added cost for those of us who actually use and pay for the relevant services.

banned said...

I've been watching the met office website closely, they have been using their old trick of putting back the great thaw on a daily basis, on Xmas eve it was supposed to happen on boxing day, now they are saying tomorrow.

They did that daily a couple of years ago when the unforcasted Indian Summer was repeaedly predicted to end tomorrow or in a couple of days; it lasted for two months.
So when the thaw does eventually come they will be able to say "Just like we said yesterday"

I know of someone who walked to work in the usual thirty minutes through last mondays 10 inch snowhell, the only Manager on site was the cleansing Manager who told him to go home because there was not a single car in the car park.

In the winter of 1962-3 I was a child in a small town in north Derbyshire, the town got snowed in, which was not unusual, it just lasted a bit longer, I still went to school, dads still went to work, mums still went shopping.

OK so 10 inches of snow and -10C is unheard of around here but this entire city just stayed at home and many used the weather to beging their holidays early.
Oh, and the river has frozen right over for the first time since 1963

All together now

"Must be all that Global Warming!"

subrosa said...

volunteering and active citizenship within the local and wider community
national and international experiences
residential opportunities
cultural experiences

I found the above on my own council's website Joe. It's for the 'youth'. Why are councils providing these services when we have organisations which specialise in such things?

subrosa said...

Very true Niko. The old, very experienced roadmen are no longer there.

Another memory sprung to mind. There was a roadman who lived at Eddleston on the Edinburgh to Peebles road. (The house was provided by the council).

Every time we passed his house on the 9.40pm bus from Edinburgh, he'd be standing at the roadside, at around 10.30pm, and acknowledge the bus driver. Without fail he was there and those of us who travelled the route frequently used to look forward to seeing him there with his suit, waistcoat and bunnet and give him a wave.

You're right. That was technology in those days. I suspect their logs were immaculate too.

subrosa said...

Shovel Sandy? Tut tut, can't have anyone shovelling. Must have a machine for that.

I've done my wee bit. It's 'wet' snow and heavier than of late but at least I have safe egress and access now before it freezes later.

subrosa said...

I'm sure they did Dram and a lot more into the bargain that teenagers never even considered. Can remember the Eddleston roadman had a wee van and he used to go out with some tarmac mix and fill any potholes within a few miles of his home.

It was a civilised life then. Of course there were far fewer vehicles on the roads then but on that particular road they increased greatly once Beeching closed the railway line.

subrosa said...

That's one for my booklist Rightwinggit.

Don't know about the Cuckoo's Nest pub but then I'm not a pub goer RWG. Someone may know.

subrosa said...

What happened here last year was absolutely nothing banned. I do know many complained but there has been no improvement this year. All you hear about is 'it's the cuts'. Pathetic excuse.

Thanks for the link. Booker is usually spot on as he is once again.

lazaruszine said...

More divorced we are from nature, the more we're going to get hit by her. People are so obssessed with their modern technology and their disposable clothing that they don't understand how the weather works. A friend of mine was proud of her 'snow boots;' flat bottomed things from Primark that led to her falling over multiple times and clinging desperately to me to not fall over because I had at least some from army surplus.
To be honest, so long as the council keep the grit bins full, people could organise themselves and sort this out, seeing as how everyone in authority seems to shut down. Only people I saw continuing to work during the first heavy snowfall were the post people, who were very embarrassed that I would even stop to congratulate them on having the gumption to do their job.

subrosa said...

Do you remember when computers became 'the future' and so many said they would push half the country into unemployment Demetrius?

Quite an irony isn't it.

subrosa said...

Aye banned, they're doing that on the TV too. Always snow, always a thaw, always icy roads. It seldom changes.

Speak about covering all aspects.

It was my first year of work in 1963 yet I went to work and so did my parents. The town just got on with it. I remember I had some Clarks boots with the best grip soles I've ever had. They don't make soles like that these days unless you go for the heavyweight specialist footwear.

Derek said...

Having lived near Kincraig just South of Aviemore for 16 months taking in two Winters and what passed for the other seasons as 'Bad weather', it was well known by the locals that what they expected and received in terms of weather, was nothing like any of the forecasts predicted for thereabouts. You could stand in one spot for four hours and experience just about the entire spectrum in that period. Each fifteen minutes would see a change more often than not. Blue skies to white-out, hailstones to rainbows - and the view across toward Feshie might see pouring rain hiding the hill, while you stood in Sunlight.

My Sister who still lives there (78yrs, and 40yrs in Badenoch) reports the thermometer reading -19°C on Christmas Eve night. She'll go out when it gets down to -9°C, but no lower.

On the Cairngorm, precious little grows, and what does takes about thirty five times longer to reach a certain point in growth than down in the valley. Wind speeds have been recorded at 130mph, at which speed snow flakes can cut the flesh and draw blood. Back in the Home Counties they whine about -3°C.

I'll never forget the ever changing skies and the colours that went with them. Thank heaven we have many on film. Fabulous, but not an environment we could make home, we just were not born there.

wisnaeme said...

Eddleston, Subrosa...
Aye,know that road well in the early sixties. I went to school thereabouts.

...and it wisnae Wellington Reformatory Farm school either.

Alan W said...

Round our way, the bins haven't been emptied for nearly a month. Apparently it's too dangerous for the bin lorries to go down the side streets if they've not been gritted. I'm told the council asked the bin men to go out and shovel grit from the back of pick-ups to help clear the side roads.

They refused as they hadn't received the necessary training.

My neighbour and his wife started clearing the street himself. When I saw what they were doing, I joined them. Before long there were about a dozen of us and we battered away at the compacted ice with spades, pickaxes and sledgehammers until we discovered garden forks are the best way to clear ice. It took us six hours but we cleared the entire cul-de-sac.

Still no sign of a bin lorry though.

English Pensioner said...

As a local councillor said to me "How can we possibly put money into our budget for new snow clearing machinery or invest in larger quantities of grit when everybody is telling us that cold winters are a thing of the past. With all these climate experts, expert government committees and virtually everybody believing global warming is on its way, it would be political suicide if I advocated such expenditure when we are cutting back on other things".
For once, I have some sympathy for his position, and indeed for that of the airports and railways. What company director would wish to tell his shareholders they were spending a few millions on snow ploughs, when we have been told by experts that snow will no longer be a problem in the UK.

I blame the Global Warming fanatics for the problems.

subrosa said...

Cairngorm is quite similar to places in the Grampians Derek. I couldn't live in such an isolated spot but plenty love it. Thankfully there's enough space for all to choose.

subrosa said...

Jings, wisnaeme, long time since I heard of the Wellie. :)

subrosa said...

The bin service this council provide in this area is second to none Alan so I can't complain at all.

Garden forks for ice? I'll remember that. It is good exercise shovelling snow though. I quite enjoy it now and again. Just not every day.

subrosa said...

The AGW have a lot to answer for EP, but then the politicians have too. They fell for it hook, line and sinker without question.

Maybe now councils will consider buying more equipment. After all I don't expect much from my council. A library, my bins emptied, street lighting and care of roads and pavements. Other services such as housing, planning and social services too but they seem to be duplicating lots of services which are offered by other organisations. What good does that do?

wisnaeme said...

Used to go to the pantomime the bad lads put on every year, Subrosa. at least there wisnae a hairy pair of legs amongst the "women" performers on the stage.

subrosa said...

Auch I never got an invitation to that wisnaeme. You must have been 'in the know'. :)

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