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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  • craig

    ok the 1900 to London City was cancelled just as I was about to set foot on it, literally. The business class lounge then tried to refuse to let me in and said I should exit through passport control and report to the general arrivals information desk to book me a hotel. This did not seem to indicate they were going to pay for the hotel, and I would be out in Amsterdam with no boarding card to get back in, and no luggage, so I declined to leave. They seem a bit cross.

  • Ishmael

    They should have contingency in place. The labour and machinery they lack can be hired at short notice with little effect on profitability and without making their customers think twice about becoming involved with those people. British travel is a complete bloody disgrace.

  • art

    Earlier this year scientists warned that the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the chemicals used to disperse the oil, had disrupted the Gulf Stream. Instead of moving warm water across the Atlantic to the UK and Europe, it hugged the east coast of the U.S. Yesterday, I saw a graphic showing that Greenland and the eastern part of Canada had temperature of 15

  • nextus

    Jeez, Craig, that sounds like a real ordeal. But I’d kind of like to be there to witness you at your obstreperous best.

    Anyhoo, Auntie has once again produced a useful summary, re the rights of air travellers:

    “Passengers with a ticket have a contract with the airline to get them from A to B. So that means the airline must try to re-route the journey – even if that means a bus or taxi transfer to another airport for a flight with a different operator.

    “Alternatively, passengers can choose to have a refund. The Air Transport Users Council says that airlines are usually quite swift to give refunds.

    “Some passengers have had to spend a night in a terminal building

    If a flight is delayed, there are strict European rules in place, which mean that the airline is obliged to supply meals and refreshments, along with accommodation if an overnight stay is

    “People flying into the European Union from overseas are also covered by the rules, as long as they are travelling on a European airline.

    Passengers making their own way home, if stranded overseas, can claim ‘reasonable’ expenses when they return.”

  • dreoilin


    There’s a high-speed train from Schiphol to Rotterdam Centraal, leaving at 23.10 tonight and arriving an hour later.

    The Stena Hollandica ferry leaves Rotterdam at 2.30pm tomorrow and arrives in Harwich at 8pm tomorrow night. It takes foot passengers.

    Don’t know if that’s any help – or if you’re still reading.

  • nextus

    Yep, dreolin, the Stenaline ferry from Hook of Holland (via Rotterdam) to Harwich offers very comfortable cabins which afford a decent kip at a budget price. You can claim the expenses back from the airline.

    Alternatively, the Eurolines bus to London Victoria (via Calais) is OK at a push: you can stretch out and relax if you get a back seat and look suitably menacing when people approach.

    However, I reckon Craig might get a reasonable flight by harassing the staff at Schiphol. He’s the one to judge, of course.

  • ingo

    Good one, ‘the long way round’ dreolin’

    Once in Harwich he still has to get to Ramsgate, the Sotuh East mainline was down today due to the wrong overhead line problems.

    Craig, bloody well nick a bicycle somewhere, or hire a riksha till the new year.

    rest your weary head somewhere and try again tommorrow morning. Flights to Norwich, Ellingham Hall and then on to Ramsgate? Just let us know I’ll pick you up from Norwich airport if you like. I’m motorised.

    Chances are that flights will happen between 10am and 2 pm tommorrow, when the tempersature rises just enough to make them risk it.

    What a darn prospect, a night in HAmsterdam, resist…

    Stuart you are mixing one with the other. There are scientisst who believe, strill in global warming, bvut insist that the next fourty years might bring us more hard winters than we like.

    Our summers will break record temperatures, but our winters will be more severe due to the increased moisture in’t air, sort of. Another feature are increasing chaotic weatherpatterns in summer, widespread flooding that has already made us re design drains and storm sewers.

    Some don’t believe in global warming, I do not believe in fairies or the effectiveness of the war on drugs, there you go, balance restored.

    What is far more surprising than the black and white positions in this global warming debate, is the fact that parents are overwhelmed by such huge, insolvable threats that they are pressed into a stressed inactivity and self denial of reality, the real problems will hit our kids full on and i do not expect them to like any of what we are doing at present, at all.

  • dazed and confused

    I don’t know if anyone is still looking at this thread, but on the subject of crumbling infrastructure, I live in a small Welsh town where all the main roads and most of the side roads are clear. We had no binmen yesterday and when I drove to the sorting office to pick up a parcel I overheard a worker on the phone say that she had no idea when deliveries would be resumed.

  • Stuart


    Thanks I understand that and all the pseudo science that global warming worshippers believe in. I personally think its bullshit and even if its true then long hot summers where things grow followed by cold winters to kill off desease and pests wont be a bad thing and every kids and adults ideal climate if people are honest. The continents already have this and Russia for example is a huge producer of cereals. The main reason for recent crop failures is more to do with inneficient and out dated farming and irrigation methods. If countrys spent more on adaptation crop irrigation, drainage, snow ploughs,4×4 ambulances etc and less on stupid wars then we wouldnt have a problem. To me it sounds like we are entering a new medieval cooling period as part of earths natural cycle all to do with sun spots or earths core temp, or god being upset with us or any other excuse people want to give us. Up until a week ago people from the met office couldnt say if we would have a white christmas saying they cant predict long term weather. But global warming scientists are predicting 100 years in advance. If this was a court case I would use this contadiction. You cant have it both ways saying if I use this cold weather as proof of the non existance of global warming because its local weather but you can use it as proof of global warming because its predicted that this may be a sympton of long term global warming? Using your logic you can never be wrong. If its hot your right if its cold your right I am 45 years old and I cant tell you whats normal weather for the UK I have seen 6 feet of level fall snow in scotland and monsoon rains in london causing flash floods my mum did not go to school for nearly 6 weeks in the 40s due to several feet of snow in Norfolk we have always had a variable climate “If rape inevitable lie back enjoy”

  • glenn

    Stuart: Clearly you don’t understand the difference between weather and climate. For the hard of thinking (such as yourself), there’s a difference between the weather where you happen to be, and the temperature trend of the entire planet.

  • Jon

    @Stuart – I’m no climatologist, and I guess most of us on this thread aren’t either. With it being a complex subject, I either have to trust people who have done some thorough research, or the people who are doing the research themselves. I think it is fair to say that the vast majority of climate scientists – of the order of 95% – are agreed that we are entering a man-made warming period, and that we need to do something about it in order to ensure the planet (or certain areas of it) remains habitable.

    The effects are already being felt at equatorial areas, which are already subject to substantial and unusual flooding. In the UK, we are lucky that are weather system and our location protects us from the early effects of climate change.

    If you research this yourself – a risky proposition if you have already made up your mind – then look at what the representatives of tiny islands around the equator are saying. They are nearly tearing their hair out, as they realise that within a generation, some of the places in which they live will be underwater. Plenty of sources for this – Monbiot’s “Heat: How to Stop The Planet Burning” has some first-principles analysis, useful even for sceptics.

  • Jon

    @Stuart – what did you mean by your “if rape inevitable” comment? I’ve never heard that phrase before, but I can’t think of any interpretation – even if it is intended to be metaphorical – other than one that is disgustingly and violently misogynist.

  • glenn

    Yeah, I missed that “if rape inevitable” comment too. Jesus H Christ, are you just trying to discredit yourself? Do you actually expect people to nod sagely and say, “Yup – he’s got a point there.” What sort of scumbags do you hang around with?

  • Jon

    @glenn, I googled it. Seems like it’s an established metaphor, albeit one of the most unpleasant I can recall hearing.

  • Stuart

    God political correctness gone crazy here aswell get a life you lot that metaphor has been used for years and by far more prominebt people than me. Get a life you lot only a paid up member of the P.C brigade would get offended by it in this context.

  • Stuart

    Just to balance if anyone is genuinely offended for themselves then I apologies I didnt wish to make offence or be-little rape.

  • dreoilin

    “During the campaign, Williams publicly made a joke likening rape to bad weather, having quipped: “If it’s inevitable, just relax and enjoy it”.[3] …

    “Clayton Williams raised over $300,000 for the 2008 John McCain presidential campaign. However, a fundraiser at Williams’ home for June 16, 2008 was abruptly rescheduled and relocated[7] after Williams’ controversial 1990 comments about rape were rediscovered and mentioned to the McCain campaign by ABC News. The campaign condemned the remarks, saying that they were “incredibly offensive”.[8] The campaign said it would not return the money Williams had raised, as it was donated by other individuals.”


    “Rape quip and final years

    “On November 24, 1976, his weather spot came up just after a report of a violent rape of a five year old girl. Tex [Antoine], who had only been aware of the topic of the report, and not the fact that a child was involved, thereupon quipped: “With rape so predominant in the news lately, it is well to remember the words of Confucius: ‘If rape is inevitable, lie back and enjoy it.'” (The same joke later helped derail Texas gubernatorial candidate Clayton Williams’ 1990 election bid and got Indiana University Basketball coach Bob Knight in trouble during an interview with Connie Chung in 1988). Roger Grimsby led the 11 p.m. newscast that night with the official apology from WABC.”


    “that metaphor has been used for years and by far more prominebt people than me Get a life you lot only a paid up member of the P.C brigade would get offended by it in this context”


  • Jon

    “only a paid up member of the P.C brigade would get offended by it”

    OK, so next time you’re at your next Conservative Jam and Cake sale, give it a whirl. I am sure your non-liberal brigade will find it hilarious, and regard you as all the more colourful for it.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    And as for Conservatives, let them eat jam and cake! Yes, it’s the first time I’ve heard that metaphor, too – but maybe that’s just my ignorance. Some metaphors are best ditched, not because of PC-ness but for all the reasons outlined by Jon and dreoilin; I note that Stuart’s apologised for any offence, so I think he’s taken the point.

    I agree though that the climate thing is by no means straightforward. I have read critiques of Monbiot’s provenance as well. The question is less whether sea-levels are changing and islands being submerged, glaciers melting, the subtropics burning-up, etc. as whether human activity has caused all of this. Many people in the ‘developing’ world regard the Climate Change issue being instrumentalised as a means of controlling their growth. Maybe that’s an inevitable response though. I simply don’t know.

  • Nicko

    Changing the subject slightly, Craig finds it weird that what he calls ‘health and safety bullshit’ has become part of corporate culture.

    I think that betrays a fundamental misunderstanding.

    I don’t deny that the sort of thing he describes exists, but in fact it’s a product of corporate culture. It has it’s origins in the willingness of wealthy corporations to pay out relatively small sums on even spurious claims in order to avoid being tied up in costly and inconvenient litigation.

    In my experience, this practise only made it’s way into the public sector relatively recently. I well remember at a public sector job I had in the ’80s we had a situation where a man made a spurious claim that work done by my colleagues had caused him to have an accident. “The private sector would just slip him a couple of thousand to **** off” my boss commented (he was quite forthright), before explaining that we couldn’t do that, we were accountable for how we spent the public’s money.

    It’s worth remembering also why we have health and safety regulations in the first place. Not so long ago, my oldest friend died of an industrial disease contracted whilst working for a negligent employer. Trust me, it wasn’t a nice way to go.

    If anyone doubts that such practises still exist, they only need to familiarise themselves with the appaling safety record of big companies like Corus. But of course, that’s just not a fashionable issue.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    Nicko at 5:53pm, what you say is exactly right; it accords with much of what I wrote yesterday. It’s a complex subject.

    UGG UK at 5:22pm – hello, nice to meet you. Be a devil! Eat snow! Ride the left wind to the farthest dominion. Become cucumber. Psych-in!

  • Suhayl Saadi

    I’ve watched men die from mesothelioma (one of the asbestos-related malignancies). It is a terrible, terrible way to die. While one can control (at least to some extent) pain, one cannot do anything, really, for slow asphyxiation, which is exactly what happens in mesothelioma and some other lung diseases as well. I remember every one of those guys – ex-shipbuilders – and their families. One of the main characters in the novel, ‘Joseph’s Box’, Archibald MacPherson, has this disease. In some respects, the fiction demanded it, but in a key way, it was my very small and insufficient way of paying tribute to the guys for whom I could do nothing.

    I know that’s not what Craig was talking about in his original post. I’m just developing and extrapolating the subject. Serious industrial disease remains a legacy in the UK and of course, as I said yesterday, is an active issue in both rapidly industrialising countries and underdeveloped countries. Scandinavia probably has the best and most comprehensive occupational health systems in the world.

    Nicko is absolutely correct in relation to the dynamics of the insurance companies/employers/employees vis a vis payouts versus expensive legal process – whether or not the claim is genuine.

  • ad

    “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.”

    BAA was privatised a quarter of a century ago. It owns seven airports. That makes for 175 airport-years of private sector operation.

    Can you prove that they have had thirty-five airport closures due to bad weather in that time?

    And that state-run airports have better reliability?

    You might at least notice that Stansted is in operation and is also owned by BAA.

    And has to put up with the same H&S laws.

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