Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Snow, ice, sleet across UK causes travel chaos

Snow and ice continue to cause travel chaos across the UK, disrupting the Christmas holiday plans for thousands (link via BBC News)

Well, despite the snowstorm back in February, and the chaos it caused, the councils up and down the country didn't seem to learn anything from that experience. Yesterday, the chaos from roads that didn't get gritted (sanded) or salted, is inexcusable. It's unbelievable that news reports are about the gritters showing up today - the day after they were so urgently needed.

Yesterday was a real nightmare for a lot of people in many parts of Britain. There were many car accidents and a lot of drivers were forced to abandon their cars because the roads were so icy and treacherous. Traffic came to a halt in many towns and cities. Conditions were just appalling. Even emergency services and automobile breakdown companies were struggling to get through. In fact, an ambulance and a fire engine were both stranded on our road because of the ice!

A friend said that buses were getting stuck and blocking the roads in London. The bendy buses were the worst because they jackknifed all over the place until even they got stuck and jammed the roads even better. It meant very long journeys home for a lot of people yesterday.

I wonder if any of the roads were salted or gritted yesterday. Apparently they used to add molasses to the grit mix to make it sticky but the cost has gone up and now they don't however this means the grit and salt soon wash away particularly if you have some rain or sleet. Can someone verify if this is true?

Fortunately, Eurostar was back in business today after three days of stopages, although Eurostar services between London and Europe which were thrown into chaos by snow (more than 2,000 passengers were trapped on trains overnight in the Channel Tunnel on Friday) will not return to normal until "after Christmas" according to the latest report from the company.

And it's still only December! Winter has barely started.

What has the weather been like where you live? Have you had a bad experience on the road or perhaps waiting to travel via the Eurostar? What are your thoughts about the lack of gritting?

Related Post:
Frozen UK - snow causes chaos! (December 1, 2010)


  1. The problems over the past week are all too typical in this country! It's always the same that as soon as we get a inch or two of snow then chaos ensues.
    I suppose that as we've had far fewer severe winters in recent times then local authorities have reckoned that preparing for one is an unwarrented outlay.
    It's unfortunate that the snow has come a week before Christmas when it's really busy on the roads and with people travelling.
    The other problem is that many people ignore the weather and advice not to travel, don't drive with regard to the conditions and then when they have a problems expect an instant response from the authorities and/or motoring organisations.
    Thankfully I've not had to drive much in the past week and I'm also grateful that I'm not travelling over the festive period.

    Best wishes for Christmas and the New Year...Flighty xx

  2. You're right, Flighty. It is always the same - just a few inches of snow is enough to cause chaos in this country.

    It would have helped if councils had sent out crews to put down salt and/or grit on the roads early Monday morning, and again whenever it was needed.

    As you say, it's unfortunate that this bad weather has come a week before Christmas - with a lot more people travelling. And it certainly doesn't help that so many drivers aren't slowing down despite knowing the roads are icy.

    I'm so glad you have stayed safe and well. We don't have to go out much either, and I'm so glad we don't have plans to go anywhere for Christmas.

    Best Wishes to you too my good friend for Christmas and the New Year!

  3. Here in New England where we regularly have weather like that in the winter, I believe they usually start sanding before the freezing occurs.

    Even here, the first big snow of the winter causes a lot of accidents as people relearn how to drive in snow.

  4. I'm from Minnesota so I know how bad winter weather can get. It just seems like people can't cope with ice and snow in this country.

    I think a big part of the problem here is that there never seems to be enough gritting (sanding) and salting of the roads and if it's done at all, it's not done early enough.

    And I think regarding this latest period of wintry weather, most people believe the councils have cut back on sanding/salting due to budget cuts even though they won't admit to cutting back. It's obvious that most of the roads aren't getting sanded at all.

    This is a very small island with small roads that are difficult for travelling at the best of times due to congestion. Add the icy roads with lots of accidents and it's easy to see how it can come to a grinding halt very easily.

  5. It's exactly the same where I am in DC, we just had a major snow and it shut everything down for a couple of days. We have problems with the snowplows getting stuck... in snow

    Any place where major snow is rare has terrible response times and nobody ever knows how to drive in it.

  6. You're right about places (like southeastern England) where snow is rare being slow to respond to it. The problem was much worse this time though because the councils appeared to just ignore the weather forecast and not even bother with gritting or salting the roads at all. The roads were like ice rinks.

  7. These days it seems as though the Powers-that-Be think that broadcasting scary 'severe weather' warnings is a reasonable substitute for gritting the roads.
    I live in the Midlands near Birmingham and had planned to drive down to visit my mum in Sussex. If I'd taken any notice of the warnings about heavy snow last night in the Midlands and chaos in the morning I'd not now be sending this from my laptop in Sussex - it rained in the night and was merely grey and drizzly when I set out.

  8. Hi Christine - I'm pleased that you were able to make your journey safely and that the snow that was forecast for the Midlands today didn't materialise. Predicitng weather isn't an exact science by any means so I can understand how they get the forecast wrong sometimes. My complaint is with the councils when they see it's snowing and there are warnings of icy conditions but they still don't salt or grit the roads.