So, the snow defeated Cardiff Council pretty easily

After our “blizzard” of Friday morning which left about 4-inches of snow in and around central Cardiff, and then with the sky pouring white stuff most of the day on Friday, Cardiff Council seems to have retreated and called it quits. I haven’t seen a council vehicle in days, the roads are a mess, nothing has been cleared since the snow dropped and this is causing chaos – with cars getting stuck, unable to move at junctions and all normal services (buses, mail, rubbish collections) seemingly cancelled or on a limited service (with regard to buses).

Of course, all of this stems from the single point of failure, and that is that if you don’t clear roads and pavements, nothing else can function – and this leaves the burden firmly on Cardiff Council’s door. TheĀ repercussionsĀ of them not doing their job, and making roads passable, means that all other efforts are doomed to fail, it’s simple really.

I was at Penarth Road this morning, just after the snow started falling, watching buses with “Sorry, not in service” on their signs and returning to the depot. The picture this afternoon is pretty grim for anybody that has to travel around Cardiff – their Facebook page is being continually updated with service cancellations, because the state of the roads is making many routes undriveable.

Snow at Penarth Road & Clare Road, Grangetown, Cardiff. 20/12/2010.

Here is a picture I shot at the intersection of Penarth Road & Clare Road in Grangetown today – this is one of Cardiff’s main roads, and it hasn’t had any attention at all since the snow first fell – a clear example that Cardiff Council do not have the equipment to handle large scale snowfall.

Many council’s across the UK are hiring snow ploughs, a rental service that is available in South Wales, but Cardiff has clearly opted not to do this – and I’m sure many people would like to know why.

Update: Cardiff Council have tweeted that they currently have 4 gritters working the city, 3 of which have ploughs. The questions that must be asked now then are,

a) Why have they not been deployed before? It snowed 3 days ago.
b) Why are there so few for such a large city?
c) What do they class as a “strategic route” and “principal road”? I would have thought Penarth Road & Tudor Street would have been, considering the trunk traffic that the former takes and the bus routes that rely on the latter.

Update: Cardiff Council have pointed me to this map on their website (beware, it’s not very user-friendly) which shows all of the routes that are to be salted (doesn’t say anything about ploughing, salting won’t do very much over the sludge) during winter times. If there are currently only 4 gritters out at the moment, they won’t even touch a portion of these routes – they have 12 available, according to this page on their website, where they boast about having “26 gritter drivers and loader drivers trained to City and Guilds Winter Service Operations 6159 standard are scheduled to be on a rota.”. So where have they been until now, or do they have weekends off?

Update: The page that Cardiff Council pointed me towards has some information on footways, and the salting plan for pedestrian walkways; and as far as I can tell none of the plan was executed. I walked through the City Centre yesterday and nothing had been salted or cleared, and the snow was forecast. See the details here.

10 Comments

  1. a) In unusually cold conditions, or times with heavy snow/ice grit-salt is pretty much useless – simple physics.
    b) Cost of maintaining more than 4 gritters is probably not offset by the low risk of such snowfall happening – you’d complain if there were 20 gritters sitting idle 98% of the time, but still using up Council Tax funds.
    c) God knows about their routing decisions – highways departments are usually a bit nuts.

  2. Matt: I’m talking about ploughs, according to the Cardiff Council website all 12 of their gritters can be fitted with ploughs. They need to have been deployed to scoop up the snow; I am aware that putting grit over snow would do very little.

  3. Admittedly I come from a place that has better infrastructure to handle this kind of weather, but maybe I can be a bit constructive here. Where I come from (Finland) it is everybody’s responsibility to clear the snow from the public path in front of your dwelling. There is a view, that since snow falls from the sky and covers everything, it is everybody’s problem and therefore a shared responsibility. I don’t see that attitude here. Everybody seems to sit back with some popcorn and say ‘Let’s see the council deal with this!’ and inevitably criticise them when things don’t get fixed immediately, well, or at all…

    I work for a council (not Cardiff) and I have made it to all of my appointments scheduled in the past week. All of them have been cancelled ‘due to snow’, many of them because members of the public could not make it. During this time, the reception staff at our county hall has been manning the desk the whole time. The highways team has been fighting around the clock to keep main routes open against an onslaught of snow and freezing temperatures while we are warm and comfy indoors.

    The one thing I will concede is that these winter conditions have become more frequent and regular, that we can’t use the ‘exceptional circumstances’ excuse for much longer. But are the public ready to pay for the required infrastructure investment required to be equipped to mitigate this weather? Is everybody ready to take care of their 50 sq meters of snow clearance for the benefit of others? And is the national psyche prepared to adjust its attitude from ‘oh my god, it’s snowing, go panic shopping and then shut everything down!’ to one of ‘it’s snowing again, carry on!’?

  4. I just see it as another thing that Cardiff Council don’t, won’t or can’t do.
    The things they do well: planning and executing a new task force to hand out parking tickets, planning outdoor concerts events that make them money and rubber stamping plans for massive shopping centres, that again make them a lot of money.

    Public services, they don’t do well. We had an abysmal recycling service for years, they can’t stop digging up roads – Castle Street has been a total mess for years since they keep laying it and digging it back up.

    If I could move, I would, believe me. I hate always being such a grouch – but unfortunately I have too many ties to go elsewhere.

  5. Stop moaning or I’ll take you out to drink spirits and teach you how to survive a night sleeping outdoors and IN the snow ;)

  6. That would actually be quite cool as I don’t actually mind the snow.

    I also don’t drive and have nowhere to go to be this week, so I really am just making a point on behalf of the poor people who DO have to go to work or get about in the week before Christmas.

  7. I think you’re being a tad unfair on the council here Nate. True, most of the city is a mess, but I have seen two gritters with ploughs working since the snow started falling (which is about 50% of the times I have left the house!) and considering how exceptional the weather has been, I think people have to be a bit more understanding and realise that in exceptional conditions, the freedom they take for granted might be curtailed for a short time.

    Matt raises a good point about resources, the council have massively increased their spending on road grit, what else do you want? How much more council tax would you be willing to pay so that we don’t have one or two days a year when some people have to work from home?

  8. Things are slowly getting back to normal now, but it’s Wednesday.
    Friday, Saturday, Sunday and most of Monday we were screwed – nothing appeared to have been done on most roads.

    I have had a direct reply from Cardiff Council (which I will be putting into the post) that they spread over 400t of salt over the weekend – where did they spread it? The city centre was a mess, the A48 was undriveable, Penarth Road was a sludge farm…

    My point is that it’s not acceptable for a city of this size to be on hold for 3 1/2 days – it was only on Monday afternoon that they appeared to pull their finger out, and since then we’re seeing major improvements and we can actually SEE that they’re doing something, rather than spreading 400t of phantom salt.

  9. I think the major improvements are more likely down to the fact it stopped snowing!

    I just don’t think it’s reasonable to expect things to carry on as normal in circumstances like these, without acknowledging that it will cost a significant amount of money just to have all the facilities on standby all the time. In my opinion, the extra expenditure on grit is more than enough (especially considering a lot of it seems to have been wasted by spreading it on top of thick snow).

    At the end of the day, it’s disruptive, but there are very few journeys that can’t just wait a couple of days, or be made anyway, just more carefully! On the other hand, the trains have continued running (albeit on amended schedules) and the buses were only stopped for a short while.

    I agree with Esko’s point about people taking responsibility themselves as well, even most shops hadn’t bothered to clear the snow/ice/slush from their fronts, and that’s a major factor in the state of, for example, queen street.

  10. And, with respect, Cardiff is not a big city by UK standards. You can make an argument like that about London (which has also been on hold) but not really about Cardiff.

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