No Windmill spirit

It was hardly surprising that there were transport problems today, given the amount of snow that has fallen.  But it is pretty inexcusable that there has been the worst weather related transport crisis in living memory. The fact that Transport for London did not put out a single bus this morning is nothing short of disgraceful.

One can detect the heavy hand of Health and Safety here. The TfL spokespeople and the mayor himself have been saying that the roads in and out of the depots have been impassable and therefore it has been impossible to get the buses out. But every depot in every part of London? Hardly. My knowledge is patchy but there are some depots which are virtually on a main road – Chalk Farm, Westbourne Park – and there must be countless others.

What is missing is the old ‘the show must go on’ Windmill spirit. The spinelessness is reflected elsewhere, too: Camden’s parks are all closed for safety reasons and the government building where my daughter works was threatened with closure because not enough security staff had got through the snow.

On the trains, the National Rail website foundered in the first snow drift, with clearly no contingeny plans to ensure that it could run in an emergency. Yes, it would cost extra to build in say 5 times the normal requirement, but the whole point of a transport system is that it should be able to cope in an emergency. It is not good enough to say there was unprecedented demand. Accidents, bad weather, floods and sudden increases demand should be factored into the software systems as they are bound to happen at some time.

Of course, to be fair, this is the worst weather that I, as a Londoner, can remember in my near 60 years of living in the capital. But nevertheless, we give up too easily. There is no readiness to try to make sure that at least some services are running. And it is understandable why staff cannot be bothered to go the extra mile. The whole ethos of the privatised transport industry is to make a fast buck and to forget the old virtues of public services. People who are threatened with redundancy at the first sign of a downturn are hardly likely to make that effort. The trouble is, it is not National Express or FirstGroup that suffers, but the passengers.

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