Surprise – its December and there is Snow

One thing that truly amazes me about the British (and heck, Ireland is largely British, but without needing a Queen) is their massive inability to cope with weather.

It is December now, and one could reasonably argue that there is a high chance of snow at this time of the year. Yet still, after one week of snowfall traffic on the roads is still crawling at the slowest speed possible. Streets are barely cleared and the country is in a cold icy shock. And every year busses, trains and car owners alike act surprised that this happens. Who could have known that there may be snow?

I came back today from a futile attempt to flee the country, as the Dublin Airport once more closed down due to the weather conditions. OK, flying with limited sight is not safe nor fun, so that one I accept. Outside the airport a warning sign informed the grounded travellers that “Taxi service is limited due to the weather conditions.” Snow fall, not storm, not rain, just plain snow flakes coming down. But most people here have no winter tires. Last winter was so harsh that the water pipes in many Dublin areas burst due to the cold, leaving the citizen of Dublin with very limited water supply for the first few months of the year. Before that, the winter 2008/2009 was considered the coldest since 8 years. So there is plenty of proof that from time to time the mild Irish weather turn a bit harsher.

In the mean time, the whole of England is gripped in the same chaos.
Oh, and Germany is down in chaos as well.

Dang, when I was young (and mind you, that is not that long ago) snowy days like these did not cause that sort of chaos. But then there came the privatization of all public services. And for profit oriented corporations, high cost events like snow fall, gets ignored. With proper (and plenty) machinery such chaos could be easily reduced. But as long as the taxpayer pays for the chaos and those corporations are not held responsible for the delays and costs caused, they do not have any incentive to change their behaviour.

You would be surprised how quickly your train company installs proper procedures as soon as they have to pay for the lost earnings of all people that were affected by those delays. ‘Cause at that point, public snow costs cut into their own profit.

Funnily the same people who say the state should retreat from providing such public services also say that the state should bear the costs for such chaos. The airlines tried to sing that “taxpayer gimme your money song” when last year’s volcano chaos grounded their planes. They could have insured themselves against it, but chose not to so that they could make more profit. Wanna bet on whether the airlines try the same with the losses incurred by the snow?

Well, I will make my escape with the ferry tomorrow. Ships are safe. Whether the trains in Britain will then bring me to my target city is probably a different story…

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About Thomas

After working as all-hands guy and lead developer on Pentaho Reporting for over an decade, I have learned a thing or two about report generation, layouting and general BI practices. I have witnessed the remarkable growth of Pentaho Reporting from a small niche product to a enterprise class Business Intelligence product. This blog documents my own perspective on Pentaho Reporting's development process and our our steps towards upcoming releases.