Cold Weather Failures 74

The good news is that I am at Schiphol airport with a passable internet connection for the first time in three weeks. The bad news is that I am at Schiphol airport a great deal longer than I anticipated. Schiphol is colder than Heathrow and has mpre snow than Heathrow. It is operating normally – except for flights to the UK, of course.

A combination of crazed right wing thinking and crazed left wind thinking, so typical of the UK, is why our airports are rubbish.

The crazed right wing thinking is that our privatised infrastructure operates on the basis of maximising short term income. BAA is a renter of luxury goods retail space and the planes are just an unavoidable inconvenience. Following modern capitalist dogma, it carries no redundancy. It has only enough staff to just run the airport if they are all present and at full stretch. It can’t cope with a percentage not being able to get to work; it has no built in insurance of excess capacity.

BAA invests in only enough cold weather equipment to cope with a mild to normal winter. It has not tied up capital in equipment that may be fully needed only once in every five years. It crosses its fingers and hopes – it has, in effect, no insurance.

It is not of course unique. The philosophy of just in time ordering that transformed cash flows two decades ago, means total collapse if transport is disrupted. You hold no stock, carry no excess of anything.

It is this ideological commitment to short term profit maximisation that makes capitalism an unsafe model for British public infrastructure.

But then there adds to the chaos the left wing rubbish of health and safety culture. A man may not unload bags if there is any ice under his boots. He may slip. All risk must be eliminated and we must live hermetically sealed from our environment.

Weirdly the health and safety bullshit has become a part of corporate culture, an intrinsic part of management speak, trotted out by people who would sell baby parts to turn a buck, but not if there was a danger someone in the workplace would slip on the blood. Health and

safety is a mantra divorced of either morality or common sense.

Now where is that free champagne?

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74 thoughts on “Cold Weather Failures

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  • Ed

    The salient issue re. Heathrow is that it snowed for only 2-3 hours on Saturday morning. Yes it snowed hard, and it was completely understandable that the airport had to be closed for a while, but 48 hours later and still not much happening? Shameful.

    Still, we must build a third runway. Because being unable to keep two clear is not enough FAIL.

  • CheebaCow


    If it’s any consolation, I have been sitting on a bus for the last 14 hours. I’m now on a boat, still about 2 hours away from home. No free champagne for me =( I can’t even buy alcohol as I still have to ride my motorbike over a mountain with no sealed roads.

  • Craig

    Lots of people shouting at the Dutch staff at the minute, which is a bit silly as there is nothing wrong with their airport.

  • nextus

    Welcome back, Craig. We’ve got a proper White Christmas this time. Coming back from Ghana, you’d guard against chilblains.

    My relatives are all stuck in the coldest, snowiest, corners of Britain, so I guess I’ll be sharing turkey in MK with my housemate’s cats. This place looks like an Xmas postcard, mind you. Wonderful!

    Christmas wishes to all the family (inc. Frazer, if he’s looking in).

  • The Cartoonist

    Craig, it’s not only BAA/Heathrow. The same chaos is happening at all Paris airports, Brussels, Berlin, Frankfurt … you’re probably just lucky being stranded at an airport where everything works. 🙂

  • nextus

    Or rather, welcome back … when you finally get home.

    I think frustrated passengers just need someone to shout at. It can be awfully therapeutic.

  • somebody

    BAA now flogged off to Ferrovial (the founder did well under Franco – see below) couldn’t run a whelk stall and their vacuous PR gentleman Mr Teacher just mouths empty words.

    Lord Stevens ex Met Chief Commissioner is on the BAA Board. Don’t know how many times I have seen his name on lists of board members. A nice little earner once you have done a stint at the Met.

    I don’t agree with The Cartoonist’s version of events from what I have been hearing. Have just seen a massive queue at St Pancras where they have been standing outside the station for over 4 hours. Babies/children/old people included. Disgraceful. Like BAA, Eurostar are shit at public relations and customer care.

    This on the 12 arrests today. A Sky goon is standing in an empty street in the Midlands again mouthing empty words. They are all SO good at it.

  • Clark

    Welcome back Craig. Those are good examples of the Left vs. Right idiocy. I think the root cause is the polarisation inherent in the two party system.

  • nextus

    I see that Auntie Beeb has noted this phenomenon and is blaming the same operational-capacity ethos.

    “There are of course airports that claim to tackle snow and ice with ease. Stockholm-Arlanda, the biggest airport in Sweden, currently only has severe delays involving flights to Paris, London and Frankfurt and that is because of problems at those airports.

    “In fact, in the five decades since Stockholm-Arlanda opened, it has never closed because of snow …”

    “In an airport like Heathrow – much busier than Stockholm-Arlanda – which can often be operating at 98% of capacity, small amounts of disruption can cause rafts of cancellations.”

  • craig

    All KLM and fBA lights to Heathrow today definitively cancelled. Hope to get on a small plane to London City, but then so do two thousand other people.

    Not even free champagne. Cremant de Limoux.

  • Stuart

    Welcome home Craig well nearly home. Have a glass for me. You are spot on. What most people havnt thought of is its all about the global warming bull shit. People honestly believed in it and truly thought that it would never snow again so why buy de icer grit shovels or 250000 snow ploughs. It is also about its someboby elses job. Years agoevery council worker would pitch in and clear snow push cars or generaly help out, now you need a 3 day course to use a shovel or push a wheel barrow full of grit. and elf and safety rules forbid you from pushing a car or helping out its not my job and i havnt done the course are causing the country to grind to a halt.

  • Clark

    Stuart, you’re right about our Rules And Regulations culture; good judgement seems to have been mostly replaced by a “ticks in boxes” mentality. But if those in charge were taking global heating seriously, they’d know that it is likely to give the UK much colder winters, because of the Gulf Stream.

  • Andrew

    Stuart embarrasses himself by not being able to distinguish between global climate and local weather.

  • Stuart

    Not embarrassed at all Andrew. I personally dont believe in climate change or global warming as the planets tempreture hasnt increased in 15 years. But the point I was making was that the authorities have been duped by the global warming con. I was told last year by a local authority manager when we had the cold spell. We dont stock grit and have got rid of our ploughs and gritters because snow events will be far less due to climate change.

    Thats what I meant prick

  • Suhayl Saadi

    Bloomin heck, Cheeba Cow (at 12:47pm), who are you? The ‘Milk Tray’ dude? (!)

    Clark, in the spirit of necromancy: so then, it’s bye-bye Gulf Stream, hello Moscow!


    On winter raven

    I ride the left wind

    Craig, safe journeys always and have a happy Christmas and New Year.

  • somebody

    The Just In Time culture contributes too. ‘They’, the gangsters-in-charge-, don’t want their money lying idle in stacks of salt in stores. Similarly we now hear that the de-icing fluid is in short supply at Heathrow.

    The culture is prevalent throughout. Even a wiper blade assembly for my 5 yr old car has to be ordered (can’t just buy the rubber blade now) and British Gas engineers no longer carry a full complement of parts as they used to.

    Breakdown Britain.

  • craig

    Been in Schiphol for 13 hours now and actually have a boarding card for a flight that is listed to leave! The 1900 to London Coty shows delayed to 1950, but that gives a perhaps spurious air of confidence it will actually fly.

    I have been told though that my bags won’t be on it and I will need to fill out a missing bags report on arrival. They should be with me in a few days, which inspires no confidence at all.

  • glenn

    Good luck Craig – we were hoping to go out via Schiphol later this week. But it’s looking pretty unlikely we’ll be able to get out of the country. Europe is cut off!

  • kathz

    Hope you make it for Christmas. Note: don’t try Eurostar – I came through St Pancras this morning and there were queues all round the station and repeated announcements in French and English begging people to cancel or postpone their journeys.

  • ingo

    Craig, great to have you back in mad Britain, were they can fight high tech wars, but can’t buy low tech snow clearing equipment.

    How about plan B. I’m sure you will be able to get a train to either calais, or Ostend.

    details: Ostend to Ramsgate ferry LD lines, booking online,. check it out, its a 4 hour crossing from Ostend.

    Another point, can’t you try and get on to a commercial/freight/postal flight as a paying passenger to Ramsgate? just an idea. cuts out all the failures inbetween.

    Tried to find a company, the only thing I could find was a 12 hour commercial flight from Rwanda to Ramsgate.

    I would try the ferry from Ostend, you’ll be certain to get home. heathrow is embalmed, some planes are frozen solid, they haven’t moved for days, they just can’t get their act together.

    Take care.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    Yep, Craig’s right about the lack of ‘stretch’ in all sectors. Same with hospital beds, and for the same reasons. The market, great for selling goods, simply is not an efficient mechanism for provision of public services. Makes big profits for a few fat cats though. Of course, some of us having been saying the same thing for 30 years. Smug? No. Angry? Yes.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    I agree, too about risk-averse corporate culture. The situation, though, is not helped by the massive number of spurious claims put in every year by members of the public and some employees (the ‘banana skin’, ‘tripping over the kerb’ effect). In the case of employees putting in such dubious claims, insurance companies often tend to pay out for, eg. back ‘injuries’ en masse, then raise the premiums for everyone – great profits all round!

    It’s also important to recall that by far the most deaths and serious injuries at work still occur in the construction industry. In countries without safeguards, the death and serious injury rate is far higher.

    Like all public institutions, the HSE (Health and Safety Executive) is being attacked – not just by this Govt; it was the same with the New Labour Govt – and denuded of physicians, inspectors, etc. One wonders whether this too will be privatised/ outsourced.

    So there is a real continuing need for sensible H and S practices. But I agree that sometimes things can be taken to ludicrous and laughable extremes; I think that anno has written about the effct on his (electrical) work of this type of red tape.

  • somebody

    Thank God they didn’t get a third runway to foul up.

    Colin Matthews CEO BAA has just been on Ch 4 News. He made a slip of the tongue and referred to ‘heavy snowflakes’ meaning heavy snowfall. He denied that the parent Ferrovial has been cost cutting.

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