Snowy London

very few snowflakes falling in Fulham BroadwayPrelude to the big snowfall: very few snowflakes falling in Fulham Broadway

 I have been in London for over 3 years and I had never experienced heavy snowfall. It snowed on Boxing Day some years ago (or so my flatmate said), but I was in Greece for my Christmas vacations. Occasionally, there would be snowfall during the night, but nothing would betray it the next day. But last week I was positively surprised to see what was termed as the heaviest snowfall in London for the past 18 years.

I woke up on Sunday morning unaware of what was going to happen later in the day. The weather was cold but not particularly different from the previous days. And suddenly, during the evening, at around 18:00 o’clock, it started snowing. Having not been accustomed to this kind of weather here, at first I welcomed it but, having lived in Germany for some time, I was aware of its consequences: it turns into mud and ice the next few days.

The big snowfall

The big snowfall

The next day in London was not far from this picture. On Monday morning of the 2nd February, the roads were full of snow, the bus services were not running, most of the tube lines were partly suspended (if not all) and most trains services severely disrupted. I was lucky enough to have decided to work from home that day (without knowing what was going to happen) and did not experience any of the frustration of the other people going to work.

In fact, it reminded me of a very similar situation in Greece a few years ago, when it snowed heavily several days after New Years’ (I was not there).  Transport was severely disrupted and even flights were suspended from the newly-built Athens International Airport. The single equipment to defrost the airplanes couldn’t simply keep up with the demand. As a result, a number of travellers were stranded at the airport and were almost left without food, as deliveries could not be made. (Nowadays the airport is connected to the Metro and National Rail network, so this situation might never happens gain). But, after a few days everything came back to normal.

Picture of Hammersmith Bridge taken with low shutter speed. The falling snow resembles rain.

Picture of Hammersmith Bridge taken with low shutter speed. The falling snow resembles rain.

Back to London, I browsed the Internet to learn about the people’s reaction to Monday. While several were not angry -after all, they got to spend their time at home relaxing and playing with the snow – many were frustrated, especially by  the poor performance of the London transport authorities. Foreigners living in London, especially Germans and Austrians, even remarked that: “Back in our country, we also have snow, but this is not a reason for the trains / buses / metro not running”.

And it is true. When I was living in Heidelberg (a small city close to Mannheim and Frankurt in the Baden-Würrttemberg state), the local authorities would be fully prepared for long periods of snowfall. Special equipped vehicles would clean the roads, council workers would clear paths, clean and grit the sidewalks. All of the services ran smoothly and I never experienced any disruption or delay in transport services because of the snow. I was even told the residents are required by law to clean and grit the sidewalk in front of their house.

So, the complaints of the Germans would be justified, right? I don’t necessarily think so.

Comparing Germany with the UK would be unfair. After all, it was the heaviest snowfall in 18 years. It would simply not make sense for the British authorities and the London transport authorities to invest into equipment to deal with situations that only rarely occur. It is better to immobilise existing services and be patient for a couple of days. In Germany, Austria and the like, you almost certainly experience snow for at least 1 month every year, so you do not expect snow to bring life to a standstill. For all the other countries, it just makes sense.

I just hope that you enjoyed it while it lasted.




(all photos © Lambda Phage)


Tags: ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: