Belfast Telegraph

Friday 19 September 2014

Editor's Viewpoint: We need to be better prepared

With the worst snowfall across Northern Ireland for 25 years, the results of this chaos are all too evident.

These include the closure of many schools, delayed transport, a downturn in business and widespread disruptions.

The local airports have been closed temporarily, but there is also a considerable knock-on effect, due to the closures or delays in other UK airports, including Heathrow and Gatwick, which delay our local travellers.

This is the third bad winter in a row, and still the United Kingdom is unable to keep its airports open or ensure that road and rail transport is fit for purpose in these exceptional conditions.

The Government has already ordered a rapid report by the Quamby Committee on its Winter Resilience Review, but it is hardly rocket science to conclude already that more needs to be done.

One of the main problems is that the UK has such a variable climate, and many of our past winters have been relatively mild compared to Scandinavia and other parts of Europe.

These areas routinely experience severe winters, and are geared up to deal with the extreme challenges such weather brings.

However, the United Kingdom is still unprepared for such icy blasts, even though the past three years' experience suggests that these might become more common.

The attitude of uncertainty cannot last, and it is a time for the authorities to be ready for the worst that each winter might bring. This requires a strategy to deal with all possible outcomes - including the disruption to airports and road and rail transport.

Such preparations will be costly, but they need to be measured against the income lost during our temporary winter wilderness.

In the long-term, significant investment in extensive severe weather precautions would be money well spent.

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