Weather, December 2009

Bing Crosby may have dreamed of a White Christmas, but the reality of wintry conditions this week has been rather less romantic.

Snow and ice has wreaked havoc across the country with thousands of motorists left stranded and flights, including to and from Gatwick, disrupted.

And of course there was the Eurostar debacle, with the tunnel closed for three days, tens of thousands of travellers stranded in Paris and London, and worst of all people stuck overnight in the tunnel on pitch dark trains with no announcement. 

I know that President Sarkozy likes to grandstand, but I suspect many travellers were rather pleased when he carpeted Eurostar's boss.

Here in West Sussex, weeks of persistent heavy rain followed by up to eight inches of snow and freezing temperatures have caused mayhem on the roads and the closure of schools.

Hundreds of locals have gone to A&E after falling on icy pavements - more than 120 people at Worthing Hospital alone over the weekend.

I quickly discovered for myself that the steep streets of Arundel were lethal.  There didn't seem to be a gritter in sight.

One of my constituents got in touch with me on Saturday to say that the roads around Burpham and Wepham had turned into an ice rink.

I appreciate that these wintry spells are relatively infrequent in our country, so investment in the machinery to clear snow must be proportionate, but our response even to mild falls of snow, let alone real bouts of icy weather, seems at best to be patchy.

Why is it that bad weather can so often bring our nation's transport system to a grinding halt?

If you've just spent three and a half hours getting from London to home in your car, as one constituent did yesterday, you might be short of Christmas cheer.

But if we're honest, most of us do dream of a romantic white Christmas.  So have a very happy break, hopefully safely at home.

Michelle Taylor