Beats the wrong kind of snow

Motorway snow chaos caused by lack of cars as ‘Black Monday’ looms for commuters

Technically it’s true as well, as the wrong kind was:

However, Highways England claimed it had eight gritters patrolling the road continually but said there had not been enough cars in the morning to adequately spread rock salt across the road.

“There was a lot of snow, and the action of the salt relies on traffic, and it was a Sunday and the emergency services were telling people not drive, so there were not enough cars for it to be effective,” said a spokesman.

32 thoughts on “Beats the wrong kind of snow”

  1. What is it with the Brits & snow? Years ago, spent a winter in Germany & the Germans seemed untroubled by snow covered, icy roads. Wintered in France & heavy overnight snow didn’t seem to faze them in the least. Flown into Palma Majorca in the middle of a snowstorm. Airport had three inches of snow on it. Even the Spanish, to whom incompetence is an art form, coped with little drama.
    Wasn’t always like this, was it? I can remember a winter in the 80s, a mate had to stay at my place because the lane to his place was drifted 10 foot deep. Quite entertaining driving on sheet ice on the way to work, every day. Now a quarter inch of heavy frost, the entire country goes into…well not melt-down anyway.

  2. Motorway snow chaos in the UK is generally caused by a lack of winter tyres, lack of driver awareness and lack of training/experience in driving in icy conditions. 3 Swedish winters provided me with a rough idea of surviving on ice-bound roads.

  3. Fitting the winter tyres this week.

    Vital for snow. First used them 15 years ago and couldn’t believe the difference.

    Would only need chains on sheet ice which I don’t come across.

  4. It’s a myth that “salt melts ice”. It doesn’t. It lowers the freezing pint of water.
    Tyre action crushes the salt and ice together, melting the ice a little. The water doesn’t re-freeze because it is now slightly salty.

  5. Went out yesterday in the 2 inches we got – saw some absolute idiots on the road. The boy racer in his hot hatch doing handbrake turns in the mostly-empty Tesco car park was the worst.

  6. Bloke in Spain,

    The kids school was closed today. I’ve just driven to Bristol. And I’m not joking when I say it was easier than most days.

    My own thinking is that it’s the working mother effect and how they’d like an excuse to not go in, combined with teachers doing same, using safety concerns as a shield.

  7. Vital for snow. First used them 15 years ago and couldn’t believe the difference.

    They only work if just about everyone else has them though. They are fairly useless when you are stationary in a traffic jam because everyone in front of you has summer tyres and are spinning helplessly away.

    Anyway, they are right about the snow and traffic yesterday. Early morning it looked like chaos and ungritted roads, but if you scraped some snow off the road you could see the grit underneath. By mid afternoon the main roads were almost completely clear.

  8. I had a job once, buying gritters for councils. Interesting job, the manufacturers get quite enthusiastic about the varied methods of spinning the salt onto the roads at a measured rate of grams per sq. m.. Orders were placed in early summer for delivery in October.
    Point is, each gritter was £30-40k including the lorry chassis. And they don’t do anything for most of the year. That’s a lot of investment tied up. So they buy the minimum, and run programmes to grit the minimum necessary for forecast conditions.
    If Britain had Scandinavian weather we’d invest to that level and drivers would have the tyres and experience to drive properly.

  9. Germany gets predictable, heavy snow every year (and winter tyres are mandatory for all cars). In SE UK we get lying snow about once every 5 years (and decreasing, due gerbil worming) so it makes sense to invest less heavily in dealing with rare events.

  10. Flew into Heathrow yesterday and had to wait 2 hours to get off the plane and in the end they were running bus shuttles out to the plane as they couldn’t clear the gates. Didn’t seem to help that they were de icing the planes at the gate causing them to sit there longerp

  11. Rob

    You are right. Never yet been caught, but on the hill out of the in the country place I live in, I was shocked to see cars and a bus all over the place a few years back, spun off to the left and right.

    I just drove up in and out around them. People stared and couldn’t believe it. Before I started one guy stopped me (I wouldn’t have stopped once on the slope, no point in pushing your luck) and said I needed chains.

    Makes you feel good when you are better prepared.

  12. Some lovely rain today to wash the snow away. Marvellous.

    It’s nice to have snow for a day on the weekend, but the next day the pavements have frozen and it hangs around for days. Best get rid of it ASAP.

  13. In Russia the first snowfall always caused chaos on the roads and at the airports. Then they get the right tyres put on and all the winter kit out, and everything is normal again.

    I have a spare set of wheels with winter tyres on when I go to Annecy and up into the Alps in winter. 4WD helps, an SUV is of no advantage on the roads, but winter tyres are absolutely essential. I tried driving in summer tyres in the snow there once, and I was all over the place. I don’t bother with chains, but I have a full set in the back of the car in winter in case I suddenly need them. I also keep a set of winter boots, giant mittens, and a shovel in the back. If you need to walk somewhere, or dig yourself out, it’s better to be warm. I also keep a headtorch in there: I’ve seen tourists in hire cars on the side of a road in the pitch dark trying to fit snow chains by the light of a mobile phone. A good headtorch costs about a tenner. If I’m going far I also pack a sleeping bag. As others have pointed out, you might have the right tyres on but if the hundred cars up ahead and behind don’t you might have to spend the night in your vehicle. Might as well be warm, then.

  14. Man on radio this morning stating that the ‘not enough cars to aid the salt’ excuse was cobblers. Strangely, he was from the Highways Agency too.

  15. Bloke in North Dorset

    I read somewhere that in UK some insurers treat winter tyres as an after market modification so it’s worth notifying them if you fit them.

    A major part of the chaos is the people just don’t negate their brains and take simple steps like starting in 2nd or even 3rd gear and slowing down so you don’t have to use the breaks as much. Also as TimN says, be prepared and over hear just carry a small bag of your own grit to throw under your own wheels, accepting that doesn’t work if your in a ditch.

  16. BiND, I fitted all-weather tyres manufactured in Finland to my car. Absolutely awesome in the snow and on wet surfaces.

    As for getting stuck. I keep strips of old carpet in the boot in winter. Wedge them under the wheels and great for getting out of trouble.

  17. Maritime Barbarian said:
    “Point is, each gritter was £30-40k including the lorry chassis. And they don’t do anything for most of the year.”

    Indeed. In a country where you can’t leave the house for three months without cold weather kit, it’s worth spending the money. In much of England, it may be economically more sensible to not bother and just shut down for a couple of days when it’s snowy.

  18. Absolutely awesome in the snow and on wet surfaces.

    My winter tyres aren’t good in the rain and vibrate at high speeds. The summer ones are excellent in torrential rain, though.

  19. I’ve fitted all-season tyres to our vehicles. I expected to use them for real this weekend in Huddersfield but the heavy snow never got this far North.

  20. “I read somewhere that in UK some insurers treat winter tyres as an after market modification so it’s worth notifying them if you fit them.”

    Oh the joy of consistency. If you don’t fit them in Germany when the weather is inclement, your insurer is rather less likely to accept much (if any) liability.

  21. Thoroughly endorse TimN on the necessity of an emergency kit. Even the run-about stays local has a space blanket, torch, lightweight anorak & a basic toolkit stowed. You may never need it but if you do…

  22. Bloke in North Dorset

    I’m surprised this got through and on tto the BBC website –

    Heavy snow blanketing northern Europe has caused many flight cancellations and delays at Schiphol airport in the Netherlands and Brussels airport.
    Nearly 300 KLM flights were cancelled at Schiphol, while Brussels airport scrapped at least 50.
    Travellers have been advised to check flight updates at home, rather than set off for the airport in bad weather.
    In Germany the heavy snow has caused many car crashes and traffic jams, as well as train delays.

    Aren’t Europeans meant to be perfect at this sort of thing?

  23. Winter tyres went on to the family fleet (3 cars) in mid-November. It takes me about 20 minutes to change a set of wheels on one car.

    The benefit for those who live in non-snow areas is in braking performance. There’s nothing like whizzing with locked brakes into the back of the stopped car in front at 20 mph to remind you about no claim bonuses. Similarly, if the dick behind you can’t stop, then that’s his insurance problem.

    FWIW. It’s nearly 11 here and chucking with snow. I’ll set the alarm for 04:30, spend an hour taking on tea and reading the news. Then venture out for two hours clearing the shop front, parking and verge.

  24. A couple of winters ago we had the first snowfall in more than 100 years in Guangdong. The snow didn’t even settle but there were tons of accidents because the idiots who generally drive awfully anyway were filming it on their mobile phones as they drove around the city.

  25. I drove up from central London to the North East yesterday. As has already been said my problem was not my car (which has winter wheels on) but the number of cars and even lorries in front of me that turned into spinning tops the second a slight incline appeared. This included the slope up from the M1 London Gateway which would have been hilarious if it wasn’t slowing me down early on a 300 mile journey.

    As I drive around the Pennines and to the Swiss Alps, having winter wheels (and indeed chains in the boot – although I have never used them in the UK) is an obvious choice for me. However I can understand why UK residents (particularly SE based) think the cost is too great. What I can’t understand is how few people have wheel socks. £30 from Halfords and really easy to put on (I know people don’t like chains). They would have allowed every single car to cope with yesterday’s snow.

  26. It’s rather like my arriving in Cambridge and seeing people poncing through snow in ordinary shoes. In a flat city with little snow it’s not worth buying walking boots.

    I don’t like cycling in snow or, much worse, on ice. Back to shanks’s pony then. My walking boots died years ago. I do have one pair of walking shoes with proper cleated soles: even now they are warming up prior to getting a good beeswaxing. Hand made, they were, when we lived in NZ.

  27. Ditto on all of this. It tooke me so long to pass my driving test that I have lessons in the snow. My instructor offered to cancel them but I insisted, and it’s held me inh very good stead.

    First thing I did when I got my own car was weigh down the boot with shovel, torch, oil, grit, blanket, pillow (oo, luxery me), plastic petrol can, water, mars bars, etc. etc. Has come in useful a couple of time when driving home way too late at night and pulling over for a few hours kip, plus one time for real when the little spinny thing fell off the other spinny thing and the battery died in the middle of the night in the middle of the North York Moors.

  28. We carry Mars bars too. They have the advantage that neither of us would eat them in normal conditions – they are edible only in emergency (or boyhood).

  29. A major part of the chaos is the people just don’t negate their brains and take simple steps like starting in 2nd or even 3rd gear

    I was trying to help a bloke get some sporty number up a steep short hill yesterday. It was an automatic, and we just couldn’t work out how he could get it into a ‘manual’ mode or to start in a higher gear. So he just ended up revving and revving and getting nowhere.

  30. 25°C here but it doesnt stop half the population wearing their thick woolly jumpers and hats! I go out in shorts and they think I’m barking mad.

    As for driving in snow, I did a winter in Canada, where you were expected to get into work unless over 5ft fell in one night, but of course, everyone is geared up for it, and winter tyres absolutely change the game. Generally overkill for the UK unless you live in a difficult patch, but snow socks for your tyres will keep you mobile for those 3 days a year where the white stuff is an issue.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *