Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Truly amazing...snow in London

If the weather becomes excessively hot in Melbourne, or it rains heavily, our public transport system is prone to collapse and our roads almost stop functioning. Given we do have some extremely hot days in a normal summer and at any time can have heavy rain, why our systems cannot cope puzzles me. I've expressed an opinion before that there is insufficient drainage for our overpopulated inner areas but it is obviously more than that.

Mayor of London Boris Johnston warned of bad weather a few weeks ago with heavy falls of snow forecast. He was quoted as saying that systems were prepared and resources ready to cope, and what happened? The system collapsed as soon as snow fell. No sooner had a train poked its nose above ground, it failed or some part of the system failed.

Like in Melbourne with hot weather and heavy rain, it is like London has never seen snow before. It is like the city is undergoing an extreme weather event.

Is this an Anlgo problem? I don't hear of failures like that in Europe, where some parts get much more severe weather.

I can appreciate that snow can get so bad that things just can't operate, but was London's snow that heavy?

Perhaps the complexity of modern systems are to blame. Take for instance a week or so ago where I train was stuck at Darling Station after overhead wires became entangled. At the next station towards the city where High Street crosses the road at Glen Iris Station, the boom automatically came down and stayed down, no doubt because of fail safe systems. This caused horrendous delays to trams, local and non local motorists.

Have we become so clever that in perfect conditions everything works like a Swiss clock, but as soon as something is not quite right, we just fall in a heap.


  1. Maybe it is the same in other places and that we just happen to hear about it in London because news from there historically has always been reported in Australia.

    At the first sign of rain - and we've had plenty this summer - Sydney's transport system and road traffic comes to a halt.

  2. Nothing stops here during snow ..... except for the airport! Apparently Geneva airport decided to forgo the cost of heated runways and snow clearers, considering the costs higher than shut downs for a day or two. The mind boggles.

    Trains, buses, trams, cars etc all carry on just fine though.

  3. Our system suffers from poor maintenance, cost cutting and it wasn't designed for the number of passengers or services we have today in other words the system is old and needs upgrading big time :-).

  4. Huge electrical storms in Melbourne have been known to bring the Frankston train line to a halt for 3 or 4 hours. The people arranging buses for stranded passengers could not run a chook raffle.

    Perfectly mild weather and calm days have been known to bring the Frankston train line to a halt for 3 or 4 hours. The people arranging buses for stranded passengers seem to be the same mob wots on duty during electrical storms.

  5. Victor, see what Kath says? While what you say is plausible, I am not sure it is the case.

    Kath, given the importance of Geneva to important people in the world, I am surprised that the money wasn't spent on the airport. Pleased I wasn't particularly wrong in what I posted.

    Windsmoke, although a good bit of money is being spent now, it is still really patch up rather than renewal.

    FruitCake, a butterfly flaps its wings in the Amazon and that brings the Frankston line to a halt. You are talking about the crew on standby just for when the Frankston line fails.

  6. Anonymous12:01 pm

    In a normal winter in northern Japan, public transport continues as usual. There are some delays and the odd bus substituted when train tracks become too snowy but generally, it's business as usual.

    In a bad winter, things can come to a grinding halt but we're talking about times when 100cm of snow falls overnight. You'd expect some problems then. And the transport companies do their best to get things up and running again.

    I don't understand why transport systems aren't designed to cope with local weather conditions. If the Japanese and Europeans can do it, surely Anglo countries can too. V

  7. Thanks V. I was going to mention about Japan, but I wasn't entirely sure.

  8. The weather in San Francisco never has an effect on transit. It's like the post office. Rain, sleet, snow, nothing stops it. Of course the weather is always pretty much the same there. :)

  9. I think the blame lies fairly and squarely on systems that aren't properly researched, aren't properly tested and aren't properly built without cutting corners to save costs. other countries get it right, why can't we? (and London). Because "they" choose the cheapest option. That's why.
    Still, I'm not too fussed, as long as the buses get me to work on time.

  10. Rubye, it sounds like the system was designed for the locations, a novel thing for us now.

    And yet River, we pay millions for feasibility studies and construction planning. Cheap option is often a reason I think.

  11. What I don't understand is how on earth a pantograph becomes entangled in overhead wires?
    I did LOL when London's PT went tits up after old Boris made such declarations!

  12. Fen, one reason I know of is that the part of the pantograph that touches the wire is carbon and it wears out and needs to be regularly checked. Once worn out, it is metal on metal and things go wrong then. Also at Darling Station there is a crossing where trains can go back to the city, so there would be extra wires there.