Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Editor's Viewpoint: Snow exposing a lack of foresight

It has to be admitted that weather conditions recently have been extreme for the UK and that travel disruption is inevitable on the roads, on the sea, by rail and in the air. Yet the situation at Heathrow, Europe's biggest airport and a vital hub for travellers, appears to be worse than even the current snow and ice should demand. Two weeks ago there was a foretaste of this latest severe weather, but no lessons seem to have been learned and the situation is gaining greater urgency as Christmas approaches and people are desperate to get home.

Airports are notoriously bad at handling passengers' concerns and it is no surprise that one of the strongest complaints about Heathrow is the lack of information. This has created another problem with thousands of passengers turning up hoping against hope for a flight out only to be disappointed.

Such is the overcrowding that the airport yesterday closed two of the terminals and urged people to stay away.

With the various methods of communication nowadays it is unacceptable that passengers continue to be left in the dark or simply forced to leave the airport with no knowledge of when they may be able to get a flight. Management of the airport leaves a lot to be desired. There appears to have been no plan to keep runways open or to deal with snowfalls and ice. Gatwick airport by comparison has had a better record of getting passengers away.

The cold snap has exposed much of the worst of the British way of life. Here our local councils cannot even agree to grit town and city centre footpaths at the busiest time of the year for commerce and have had to be virtually shamed into performing their duty. Like Heathrow, there seems to be a lack of cohesive management, a lack of preparation and a lack of concern for the public. The inevitable disruption from the snow and ice has been compounded by slow-witted bureaucracy, and that is unacceptable.

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