Again it has snowed; again, the crowded bits of north-west Europe have ground to a halt. I’m hearing the usual complaints: where were the gritters? Where were the emergency services? Why was I stuck in a blizzard? This doesn’t happen in other countries!
Well, two quick thoughts:
(1) Snow clearance does not come cheap. This site says that snow removal costs the Canadian taxpayer over C$50,000 per centimetre (that’s £33k/€37k)! The city of Montreal spends around C$128 million a year on clearing roads of snow. That’s over £83 million. To put that into context, the annual snow clearance budget of Greater Manchester Councils is around £5 or 6 million (source). Yes, Montreal gets more (a LOT more!) snow; but much of these costs are fixed overheads – you need to invest in infrastructure if you want it there when you need it. Canadian taxpayers pony up because they know they need it. Would British taxpayers be happy ditching a couple of hospitals, or closing a few libraries, to pay for more/better snow clearance equipment which might – MIGHT – get used once a year?
(2) Even in countries where they get plenty of snow, these things take time. I hear Canadians, Swedes, Poles, interviewed on the news saying how their countries don’t grind to a halt after a little bit of snow. OK, but you Canadians, Swedes, Poles, etc are not so daft as to go out driving in the middle of a blizzard! When I was living in Canada, I got used to seeing the major arteries cleared overnight after a big fall, with the sides streets cleared within the next two to three days; but not even Canadians expect to be able to keep driving as normal through the middle of a blizzard! Use your noggins and wait. I saw the images of irate motorists stuck on British motorways on Monday evening; if those motorists had lived in a country where big dumps of snow are regular occurrences, they would not have been out in their cars.