England is completely pathetic
There, I said it. But I also mean it. I woke up this morning to about 3 – okay, perhaps 5 – centimetres of snow on the ground. Enough to persuade me that riding a motorcycle to the station might not be the wisest option. So instead I take the bus, who – despite driving very carefully indeed – nearly spins out on the first sharp bend.
Anyway, so I made it to the station in about 45 minutes instead of 20 minutes (very careful bus driver), and I arrive to discover that all the trains are either 45 minutes delayed (!) or cancelled altogether. Now, I don’t want to appear cynical, but a train weighs... what... 200 tonnes? 300? I completely fail to understand how a loosely conglomerated alliance of snowflakes can stop a six thousand horsepower colossus of steel.
Now, upon finally arriving in Paddington (on a train that was 45 minutes delayed, but rolled into the station about 2 minutes after I arrived on the platform, so was perfectly timed for yours truly), I’m faced with the next obstacle on my journey: The tube system. Most of the tube lines are part closed, and a few are completely shut due to ‘extreme weather conditions’. Okay, so London had a little bit more snow than Reading – 10 cm, perhaps 13 at the most – but here’s a newsflash: the word ‘underground’ in ‘London Underground’ should be a hint... And the Circle line, which runs almost entirely underground (apart from one or two open-air stations), should under no circumstances be allowed to close due to snow.
Walking from Embankment hit me with a realisation, however: All the roads were completely covered in snow, and this is at 9am in the morning. Why? The roads are usually full of people with brooms and (wait for it...) shovels, cleaning up the discarded bottles, chip wrappers and mess from the night before. From a city which proudly didn’t skip a beat in the face of the 7/7 tube bombings by the hands of terrorists, isn’t it just a little bit pathetic to be completely handicapped by a few fistfuls of snow?
I buy the argument that the country isn’t prepared (and perhaps that it isn’t economically feasible to be prepared for an edge-case which occurs one day every couple of days), but frankly, it isn’t as if you need specialist bomb squads to deal with a couple of inches of snow. All you need is some shovels, some snow ploughs and some grit. Easy.
Here’s a suggestion: When you realise there’s going to be snow (which you will do at 4am, because there’s snow already then), start calling everybody who normally cleans the streets. Get them to leave their brooms, and just bring their shovels. And then start shovelling. It’s hard work for sure, but pay them extra, and engage the local Starbucks, Nero and Pret franchises to keep everybody who works warm with tea and bagels and baguettes. Of course it’s going to cost money, but is it going to cost more than letting the entire city grind to a halt? Like hell. Pay homeless people, pay people who are out of work, pay people on community service, hell, see if you can get prisoners to volunteer. Call in the national guard if you have to – it’s not that bloody difficult to clear the roads of some snow, people.
Finally, I leave you with this thought: If I were a station manager on the London Underground, I’d grab a spade myself and clear the stairways in and out of the station of snow. It’d take me 20 minutes to clear all the stairs, and the stations would be infinitely safer as a result. Hell, I’d have done it as a commuter if I could find an implement to do it with.