Why does snow cause transport chaos in the UK?

snow chaos ukThe UK experiences snow, somewhere, every single year. Some years the majority of the country can be affected for a short period, and other years it is just higher ground that is covered. The UK doesn’t just receive unpredictable snowfall, it also experiences different types of snow, and so when people ask – why does snow cause transport chaos in the UK? – this is usually the reason.


Snow is exciting; snowman building, sledging, pretty white landscapes – however then thoughts turn to commuting to work. It is true, the UK does have a reputation for transport coming to a standstill at the fist sign of snow, however there are valid reasons for this. So, why does snow cause transport chaos in the UK?


Other countries seem to manage snow as an inevitable part of Winter, and are prepared for it when it happens. Snow is cleared efficiently, and people attend work and school as normal, with the least possible disruption. The UK however, seems to descend into chaos at the first flurry; trains are cancelled, more road accidents happen, deliveries are late, and people get stuck on motorways for hours on end.


In Britain’s defence, not all snow that falls is the same. Other countries might have vast snowfall, but then the days will be bright and crisp, and the snow that is cleared will often stay cleared, with the temperature staying frozen. Britain on the other hand often has snow and rain due to it’s milder climate, resulting in slush, which then freezes to cause dangerous travel conditions. Britain’s milder climate actually makes it more difficult to predict how to deal with the snow, as depending on the weather it can take many forms.


For the small amount of snow that the UK usually experiences, it simply is not economically sound to invest in transport infrastructure that will help manage the snow. This, along with the type of snow and weather conditions being harder to predict, makes the methods used by other countries, obsolete for Britain. Specialist vehicles and tyres, again would not make economical sense. Countries such as Switzerland and Canada have much colder conditions for sustained periods of time, and use types that are softer, resulting in a better grip. These soft tyres would wear out and are simply not practical in UK conditions.


The analysis of cost-benefit is calculated against how much money is lost to the economy due to snow disruption, and it clearly does not warrant heated transport infrastructure and other such modern technology for dealing with snow conditions.
So, it is not a valid argument to compare the UK with other countries who experience snow and manage it well, the climate and snowfall are completely different. In fact, Britain’s milder wet climate, along with the powdery snow that we so often get, makes the conditions extremely difficult to predict and manage. Drivers and pedestrians should always do their bit to obey weather warnings and make sensible choices in such weather, as this can impact greatly on how chaotic things get on the roads, as well as in terms of accidents.