By Road for Christmas

By | Category: Travel rumblings

Much has been made on the TV and the newspapers about the problems that air passengers have had. Less has been made of the way that most of us will use to go away for Christmas, by road. Usually at this time of year, CD-Traveller gives the forecasts from ABTA of how many of us are travelling and to where. We could do the same again – if it wouldn’t raise a big question mark in people’s minds.
Are the drivers amongst us going to get away when yesterday, a half hour journey to Gatwick took an hour and three quarters. Usually just one part of the UK gets hit by snow and once you get through it, things improve. But the south east, the south west, Wales, the midlands, East Anglia, Northern Ireland, the borders and the highlands have all had road closures. The motorways are open and look quite reasonably clear but you have to get to them. Train services, which are extremely busy in mid- December have been affected and, whilst many trains are running the frequency is less than planned. Will people get away? Eurostar has stopped taking bookings until after Christmas Eve which might have been an option as airport delays will continue for a day or two yet. (Though Etihad and Singapore Airlines, for example are expecting to fly out today from their home airports and Qantas hopes to do the same.)
The complaint by airport passengers has been lack of information which CD-Traveller touched on yesterday. But who will be brave enough to say that we will all be able to get away and that the roads will be open, the trains free of overhead cable, third rail or points failures and the airports functioning normally? The answer, of course, is that they can’t. It doesn’t help with the opposition criticising the Westminster government, They didn’t achieve anything better in February or last year or the year before so how come they suddenly are concerned? Keeping roads, rail, airports and ports open is not a party political issue. It requires some sensible thinking instead. In the US, prisoners are used to keep pavements and roads free. In some countries, the armed forces are used. In some places, residents are responsible for the paths outside their homes. How do other countries manage when they experience unusual conditions?
After the debacle at Gatwick two weeks ago they bought two additional snow ploughs and have had a greater success at keeping the airport open despite having one runway. Competition, lacking before BAA was forced to sell it off, might just be working. Rail seems to have done slightly better this time. Which leaves us with the roads, the most used method by which we will get away. One suggestion from the AA is that lorries can only travel in the inside lane when the roads are icy. That still doesn’t help if they jack knife and is about as useful as their comment over the weekend that one of the reasons that the roads were icy was because there weren’t sufficient vehicles on them churning up the snow. Hell’s teeth; they tell us not to drive unless it’s essential and then use it as an excuse when we don’t. So what’s the answer to the problems when we have this much snow over such a vast area within a short space of time? Rock salt won’t be very effective in the temperatures we have so more snow ploughs seem to be the answer. But use them on the roads people live on as well as the main ones. Any one got any other ideas so, if we can’t drive for Christmas, we can next year?

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