A Double-edged Sword?

One thing that we’re never told about those magical white Christmases that we’re often sold is that there’s a darker side to them too. Just ask anyone trying to fly before Christmas this year and they may have a thing to say about the weather that we saw.

What visited Heathrow and Gatwick on the last Saturday before Christmas Day caused enough disruption but it was the repeated showerings of snow that caused havoc at Dublin’s airport. All that was needed was a single hefty shower and runaways were shut for several hours. The result was many panicky travellers with some booking ferry crossings as a backup plan.

Rail travel became tricky as points suffered in the cold weather with many needing defrosting. It didn’t matter whether it was Euston station or Heuston station in Dublin because delays and cancellations were made more likely; London saw more cancellations than Dublin, it has to be said. Then, London Midland train passengers were to discover how it felt to be crammed into a smaller than usual train because two couldn’t be joined together due to frozen couplers. Special timetables with lower service frequencies saw introduction in Wales, Merseyside and Scotland because of the conditions.

Buses in the south of England saw enough disruption to set Twitter alight with a multitude of status updates. That wasn’t all because the same comments applied to Lancashire, Yorkshire, Northumberland and Wales. Seeing the flurries of updates was enough to remind me of the action of snow blizzards.

All of the above information provision was heartening to see but not everyone was as good at keeping passengers up to date. For instance, I spent several hours in a plane, diverted from Dublin, sat on the tarmac in Shannon and the lack of speed in making anything happen was enough to try your patience. Decisiveness and responsiveness weren’t characteristics of the experience and it didn’t help that the I had to return to a snowy Dublin when my final destination wouldn’t have been far from Shannon anyway; it was nearer than Dublin anyway. If buses and trains did this type of thing, you could foresee uproar…

All in all, the whole experience makes me appreciate the service offered by bus and train operators all the more and neither Dublin Bus or Irish Rail left me down on the day in question anyway. My observations and experiences of what the snow did this year have me wondered why I have been pondering outings to savour the snowy hills of Scotland and Wales during a spell of cold weather. It’s no wonder that I have been sticking to enjoying what’s close at hand when snow visits.

This is our second really cold winter in a row and my only hope is that lessons are being learnt. One climate scientist has suggested we are in a run of a few of these so we all needed to be doing some learning, myself included. With regards to dreams of white Christmases, we need to live in the real world and that’s even when somewhat surreal weather comes our way like it has done this year. Let’s hope that everyone stays safe and that the stranded get to their intended destinations as soon as possible.

Not so bad around here

With all the noise that there is about the closures of Heathrow and Gatwick due to the heavy snow that hit the south over the weekend, it is worth remembering that other parts are affected as well and that more snow hit the southwest and Wales today. For instance, Wales seems to be seeing disruption to its train services and MerseyRail is running a Sunday service tomorrow to ensure resilience (how’s that going to work with folk going to work and about their business?).

There may have been snow in the Manchester, Stockport and Macclesfield areas on Friday night but local buses and trains seem to be running well. The way in which we have been feeling the effects of what happened on Saturday are in the form of train cancellations and delays with Virgin faring worse than CrossCountry from what I could see. Macclesfield town bus services are being operated as are those to Crewe and Manchester. We may have to take care where we walk but that’s the extent of what the cold weather has done to us in the town.

A recent trip to Glossop confirms the same sort of conditions. Most buses seem to be running there too and trains seem not to be missing a beat. Good accumulations are there to be seen in the surrounding hills but any roads that I saw were clearer than the pavements by their side. Apart from greasy soft snow, the only real ice was to be found on a bridleway and that needed footwear with spikes for it to be crossed. Otherwise, busier routes could be negotiated though some needed care in order to do so.

Ireland hasn’t escaped the snow either with a heavy fall this evening having closed Dublin Airport to arrivals and departures until at least 23:00.The general Dublin area seems to have had quite a dump of the white stuff too, much as the southwest of the country did over the weekend. That has made road conditions tricky in usually mild parts such as the county of Limerick; the town of Newcastlewest is badly affected by ice due to the very low temperatures.

All in all, I could see folk in Britain and Ireland welcoming a wet Christmas if it took away the snow and ice that we currently have. With all the excitement of white Christmases in previous years, who’d have seen that coming about? After all, I suppose that it’s harder to enjoy a visual feast if you feel that your normal way of life is disrupted.