Urban England in winter comes grinding to a halt, yet again, as a bit of snow falls on south London.
2.30pm UPDATE: Traffic around central Croydon has ground to a standstill, as vehicles gingerly try to manoeuvre around largely unsalted, ungritted roads.
Latest reports received at Inside Croydon Towers state that Wellesley Road is at a standstill, the junction of Purley Way and Croydon Road at Five Ways is jammed solid, the Brighton Road at South End, Bramley Hill and Southbridge Road (headed southbound) have all come to a halt.
There are also reports that services on several bus routes in Croydon have been suspended because of the weather and resulting traffic conditions.
Meanwhile, the Council’s own newspaper’s Twitter feed is claiming that all roads have been gritted by teams working round-the-clock. Of course they have, as we can see by the free-flowing traffic on the self-same roads.
Now read on…
It’s not as if we have not been warned: the forecasters pretty much got this one right. They may have been out by a few hours, but they were predicting snow falls in Scotland and the north-east before the weekend, and yesterday forecast snow for London and the south-east overnight.
What is always hard to understand is the total ill-preparedness of this country for what is, after all, nothing very extreme in terms of weather conditions (compared to what people contend with and get on with business in Scandinavia, eastern Europe, Canada or parts of the United States).
So we have had schools across the country closing last week because they have no heating. In November. Naturally.
One terrific Twitter feed service today has been coming from @AllaboutCroydon, updating with announcements about school closures in Croydon.
By 12.30, they had listed Byron Primary and Archbishops Tenison’s as closing at 1pm, and Coloma Girls, Thomas More and Roke Primary as being closed. Various extra-curricular activities at schools across the borough have also been cancelled.
We hear that Whitgift School is also closing at 1pm, and has already made the decision to close all-day on Wednesday (with the number of 4-wheel drive vehicles used by parents at that school, you’d think it would be no problem driving through a bit of snow and slush).
But Whitgift is not alone, as some schools in neighbouring Sutton are also shutting up shop after lunch today.
Further updated information can also be found here: http://www.facebook.com/allaboutcroydon, or by visiting the relevant school websites.
The usual excuses given by school management when “bad” weather closures take place include the safety of the children (quite right, if truly at risk) and the difficulty for the pupils and staff (interesting how that is always added) to make journeys by public transport to and from school in the “conditions”.
“Conditions are not improving in the local area and although the school site is at present safe we are concerned about how students and staff will get home at the end of the school day,” is typical of one school’s statement today, treating South Croydon more like western Siberia.
It’s hardly what the Daily Express would describe as the “Dunkirk Spirit”, now is it?
Much of the attitude comes down to local council planning and spending. On Saturday night, driving up through London, Lambeth council had an expensive piece of kit out on the roads, a purpose-built gritter, spreading salt just in case the cold snap saw the icy conditions worsen overnight.
Today, in Croydon, we witness the other end of local council planning for bad weather: a flat-bed truck, with a pile of grit, inching its way through South End, a hardy council employee standing on the back, his only piece of safety equipment his hi-vis waistcoat, shovelling grit on to the pavement on one side of the road.
Then, as this piece was being written, two other cheery Croydon employees, made their way down the opposite side of the street, using upturned garden rakes to push some of the snow off the pavement.
Of course, we know that it is often easier and more effective to grit roads and pavements before adverse weather. Maybe Croydon Council did not know it was going to snow…