Investment in our road infrastructure is a sure way to save both money and lives

Experts believe that it would take an initial investment of £1.4 billion and annual ongoing costs of less than half a billion pounds to keep Britain’s planes, trains and road infrastructure operational whatever the weather conditions.

If that sounds expensive, consider this.

The cost to the UK economy of NOT spending this money is estimated at £1.2 billion A DAY.

Austerity measures are essential if we are to ever reduce the enormous debt the government has created. It is unbelievable that any government is not prepared to spend a relatively small sum in order to save us all a massive amount of money and at the same time drastically reduce unnecessary loss of life.

Not surprisingly, the Transport Secretary, Philip Hammond has come under increasing criticism over the past week for blaming the nation’s gridlocked roads on “abandoned cars”.

Abandoned vehicles may be a symptom of the problem. They are certainly not the cause and after 12 hours in a freezing vehicle, who would not walk away from their car?

Mr Hammond said “Highways authorities are working to keep roads open but delays have been caused by broken-down vehicles and minor accidents”.

It is not appropriate to blame stranded motorists, abandoned cars, exceptional weather conditions, lack of salt supplies or indeed lack of appropriate meteorological information for the unbelievable scenes that we have all witnessed on the UK roads over the last few days.

Mr Hammond has ordered an urgent  “review” of the current situation and has claimed this is “not a review of a review” referring to an exercise carried out by David Quarmby following exactly the same problems this time last year.

Clearly we have experienced enough bad winters and financed enough reviews in this country to know exactly what we need to do to keep our road network open in the winter.

Mr Hammond had previously claimed that we were better prepared than last year, but that “being better prepared didn’t mean there wouldn’t be problems”.

Let’s put that into perspective.

Gatwick was bought to a complete standstill last week with temperatures of -5 degrees centigrade. Helsinki Airport on the other hand remained fully operational despite temperatures of -20 degrees. The Transport Secretary should also take note of the fact that Helsinki Airport has never closed – not once in 54 years. No excuses – no apologies. An operational airport because that’s what everyone wants and that’s what everyone expects.

That is what being prepared really means.

Meanwhile, here in the UK, politicians run from one unacceptable sound bite to the next.

Last year’s report stated that we needed around 250,000 tons of salt to cope with anticipated snow and ice during the winter and yet only half of that amount was available when the forecast snow arrived. To say that the rest of the salt “is on order” demonstrates a profound misunderstanding of what “being prepared” actually means.

After witnessing the complete breakdown of the transport system in Scotland, Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson insisted that the authorities and emergency services had done their best to confront a “very difficult period” but still claimed that the problem was caused by inadequate warning by weather forecasters. The Met Office have denied this by saying that the snowfall only exceeded their forecasts by a mere 2cm.

Other ministers waxed lyrical about the ineffectiveness of salt at temperatures below 10 degrees – as if the science proved that we are all in the hands of the Gods once we get past October. Yet still the planes flew out of Helsinki (and other airports) whilst workers at those locations told UK cameramen it reminded them of “being back in the 1950s”.

It is clear that this is an issue of inappropriate investment.

It is also clear that investment in the the UK road infra-structure is as much a saving as fitting loft insulation in your roof or fitting energy efficient bulbs throughout your house.

Only a fool would expect to get that investment back in one year – but only a bigger fool would NOT make that investment in the first place.