Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Travel Trouble Through The Tundra

With no sign of a thaw and predictions of more snow on its way, Ynys Môn is beginning to look like an arctic tundra. Although most trunk roads are open and ice-free, like many other people I have spoken to, I have had a few hairy moments on some B roads and in town centres. The exit from Llangefni's one-way street yesterday morning for example was something resembling an ice-rink. Pedestrians are also suffering due to icy pavements thanks to lack of surplus salt. Business leaders throughout Wales are complaining that access roads to business parks and industrial estates have not been gritted and that staff and deliveries just aren't able to get through. What effect this is having on Anglesey's struggling businesses -- at what should be their busiest time of the year -- is exceptionally worrying.

And it could be about to get worse as, according to WalesOnline, many Welsh councils now only have a few more days worth of salt left -- meaning that if more snow does come as predicted we could all find ourselves snowed-in. Apparently WAG is awaiting the import of 12,000 tonnes of extra salt "at the end of the month" -- which is still some time away. After all the chaos of last winter's salt and grit shortages -- and the ample warnings of another cold winter -- I would have hoped that the Welsh Assembly Government and Ieuan Wyn Jones as Transport Minister would have been better prepared this time.

I would be very interested in what experiences you have had trying to get around the island in the snow. Have you been able to get to work? Have you had trouble getting to shops? Any un-passable roads?

38 comments:

The Red Flag said...

I went for a drive sunday from Morrison's via FMB, TB, Port Dafarch and Llaingoce. Took over an hour. Roads completey covered.

I am confident about driving on snow and ice as I have lived in North Germany (where they only grit the autobahns and strategic main routes), and also Central Bosnia.

Gritting roads in severe cold does not work - it melts the snow which then freezes to ice. I think it's below minus 5 where if you grit roads you will create an even worse problem.

A lot of the trouble is the UK do not know how to handle the weather. In Germany it is your legal duty to clear your path and driveway and to clear the pavement outside your home/business to midway to the next one. If someone slips and injures themselves on your bit of pathway you are legally responsible not only for the injury bt also the medical costs of treating them (hence why Germans have personal liability insurance). Again people in North Germany have two sets of tyres - summer and winter. Winter tyres are softer, wider and with a wider grip. They also carry snowchains in their vehicles from October to March by law (along with 5 litres of fuel, a first aid kit, a bardic lamp and a breakdown triangle) and a minimum amopunt of cash €30 I think - incidentally, random car checks by the Polizei are very common in Germany and you don't get a fixed penalty for not having the kit - you get seized and your car towed away and it costs a fortune to get it back.

They also use a system known as 'Nachbarschaft'(watching neighbours) where school children between the ages of 12 & 16 are 'allocated' old people and people, sick people and living alone and they have to check on them, help them with their paths and run errands for them.

In France on the motorways they hold all vehicles at service stations and form convoys - one lorry, next one car alternately and escort them to the next service station etc.

We grind to a halt - Holyhead has had no postal deliveries since Thursday. The bins are overdue and the recycling at Gwalchmai was closed up to yesterday (don't know about today). The Gateway Bridge is a death trap and I sincerely hope someone sues the backside out of the council.

Anonymous said...

I fail to see how Anglesey Council can be short of grit - it's not like they've been out and about using the stuff.

Anonymous said...

I can't believe these posts- I have nothing but praise for the roads of Ynys Mon!. Compared to Gwynedd we have a 1st class service!.

I travelled from to Bangor via Llan.PG and Menai Bridge- the roads were fantastic- as normal UNTIL I crossed the bridge where it was very poor in particular when one went to Caernarfon Road. According to sources Gwynedd had only 2days of grit pre-snow. What a disgrace.

The A55 is also great on Anglesey, however I understand that is managed by A55 Ltd- a private company. Whereas the Gwynedd side is far worse, I'm not sure who Grits there.

I also went to Morrisons to Holyhead, again the roads were great apart from the car-park itself.

I went to Llangefni via one way on Saturday and it SEEMED ok on that day.

So on the whole, I think FOR ONCE Anglesey are doing a decent job (apart from I assume 'wild' B-roads) and compared to Gwynedd/Cardiff its superb. So despite the political farce, the service we have been given almost all year round (in particular I hear the libraries) are very good.

Diolch/Thanks and I hope we can remain an 'independent county'.

Anonymous said...

I also went to Morrisons to Holyhead, again the roads were great apart from the car-park itself.

Nobody doubts the A55 was clear. It's heavily used main arterial route but once you came off it it was a different story. The A5 up around Mona/Gwalchmai/Bodelwyddan was completely sheet ice sal day saturday for the most part (and is little better now) and that is the 'second route' so to speak. Estates around Llangefni were in no better condition than the experiences described by the Druid himself of Llangefni town centre (which are true) - I daresay the same was true of Amlwch and Holyhead as well.

The Druid is not implying the A55 was in anyway unpassable - he's on about off the A55 I think and the impact on small businesses. For instance what impact is no mail for 4-5 days? Quite significant for some of them I should imagine. Staff unable to get in will also have caused significant problems - most small businesses employ 5 or less people. 1 absent is 20% of the workforce and if that one has a critical skill then you've got a major problem.

Anonymous said...

On Wales Today, there has been an update saying Ynys Mon has 'just 16 gritting runs left' I'm not sure how many days that is... but doesn't sound good!.

Sorry- I haven't been around Mona and Gwalchmai area. I just thought I'd give a boost to the Council (in these festive times) by stating the areas I've been are good (particularly compared to Gwynedd). So sorry if I painted it too 'good' but credit where it's due.

I'm surprised about the comments about the industrial estates, I would have thought there plans in place for those areas e.g delivery of salt for the factories. So I feel for those businesses.

And with the mail, it is totally ridiculous. For 'private' use it's not a big deal for a COUPLE of days, however I'm sure for businesses it's horrendous. The private couriers are delivering so I don't understand why RoyalMail can't (in particular for businesses). I assume it's something to do with H&S.

In terms of 'non council owned' housing estates, just wondering whose responsibility are they?

Overall despite the good points I have made. The Ynys Mon, Wales and the UK have once again failed to cope with snow, and it's amazing!.
But I do feel for those who Govern us, can you justify spending billions on this, when it only occurs a tiny amount per year?
But then again why else do we pay council and other taxes?

Anonymous said...

Perhaps we should institute similar rules as per the German method that was outlined above? (or are we now that 'nannified' that we regard this is the council's job?)

Make businesses clear access to, surrounding and within their sites, make householders/shops clear their paths and driveways and the pavement area out front? (Snow chains probably not a good idea though unless we were prepared to do without gritting on all but motorways and dual carriageways.)

That alone would make the towns, villages, estates, shopping areas and business areas more accesible and safer.

Why aren't the mail delivering? I can understand if it's outlying areas, but bigger towns such as Holyhead, Llangefni etc where it's done on foot should be no problem. Is it H&S and slipping danger? Is there another reason? Any Postman Pat's out there willing to enlighten us?

Prometheuswrites said...

Having had one of the super-efficient oil fired 'condenser' boilers installed, I've just found, (from the fumes), that the water-trap and outlet pipe are frozen solid as are some of my water drainage pipes.

My plumber tells me that the extent of freezing pipes will become apparent when a thaw arrives.

I anticipate a busy time for those working in the water and home-heating sectors.

Prometheuswrites said...

Maybe the post office should invest in some of these when they get them back in stock:

Pogu Spikes

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Pogu-Spikes-small-spikes-trekking/dp/B00494T8OC/ref=tag_stp_st_edpp_url

Darth Sidious said...

I have to say, the pavements are like ice rinks in some parts of Llangefni,. Even I, a young-ish resident, am worried about walking on some parts, I even sometimes walk on the road as this seems to be safer!

Groundhog day said...

I echo all that Red Flag says. I lived in Berlin for 9 years and in all that time despite the temperatures falling to around-16-20 on a regular basis the city and its suburbs never stopped moving. There is a sense of community amongst the locals who tend to keep an eye on the elderly and infirm and the pavements are cleared of snow and ice either by the authorities or burghers themselves. I would highlight one complaint I have regarding drivers in this country, very few of them take the time to clear snow from their car bonnets and roofs before driving off. This is an offence in Germany punishable with an instant 60-Euro fine.
Regarding the gritting on the island, I live on the north coast and on a very steep hill which became impassable during this last week except for 4x4 which I fortunately own. There are many elderly living on the hill yet it never gets gritted despite being on a school bus route. There are two salt bins on the hill for residents to use on the hill but they have been emptied by people from the town for their own private use. I have had to drive my district nurse wife into many parts of the island and very few of the minor routes were clear, in addition the A5025 between Amlwch and Moelfre was really bad in parts but once past the roundabout it was much clearer. Do the gritters turn around at this roundabout?

Anonymous said...

Well now we have had a fresh fall of snow in Holyhead on top of the old stuff, the roads an pavements are really bad, it amazing that when you hit one of the main roads as it seems to be a whole different world and is all clear. Having taken 2 bad falls on the ice despite being well shod I am now terrified to go out as there are only so many times I can bounce and it might be 3rd time unlucky

Anonymous said...

The Celtic Gateway is really dangerous. It's a solid sheet of ice from Market street right across to the port terminal building and when I say solid I mean solid - inch thick, pure smooth ice (now with a dusting of fresh snow).

Somebody is going to get seriously hurt on there.

Surely the cost of replacing old people's hips then having them in hospital for weeks when they fracture a femur far outweighs the cost of keeping the footpaths and footbridges clear?

Anonymous said...

Can I recommend the following website for the purchase of cross country skis in time for the next bout of snow and cold weather?

www.crosscountryskis.co.uk

Anonymous said...

The Europeans are used to wintery conditions, the posters who write about their times in Germany and Berlin know how efficient they are, the Germans in particular are excellent at keeping their country going, even though they have snow from Nov through to April, my question is, do you think we as a Country would ask them for advice on keeping our country moving? Unfortunately, no, we are too ignorant to do that, Dunkirk, etc etc etc etc..... who won the war?

Let me put it to you this way, in Germany a standard Taxi there is a Mercedes Benz, in this Country it's a second hand toyota with a clapped out engine and dodgy indictaor, how do I know? because that taxi driver in Holyhead didn't indicate when he turned left..

the outsider said...

as someone who lives in a rural area that never gets gritted and gets lots of snow I have the following useful suggestion:- apart from wearing good walking shoes/boots with a grip type sole I always carry a yard brush. It looks ridiculous, but who cares. It works like a third leg that grips the snow and ice. Also make sure one foot is firmly planted before lifting the next. This takes some thinking about as it's not the way you normally walk but it means you have stable balance between steps and so you can control a slip with the other foot.
The best brushes are the new ones with blue plastic bristles the brush is about a foot long and lightweight to carry.

Rhiannon said...

No buses or taxis for two days, no post for three days, and refuse not collected
Tesco deliveries fully booked until 2nd January
I'm not a driver, but have been told that principal road just passable, but hills negotiable. Snow knee-deep in places
Would have been much worse if the earlier fall had been as bad as this - at least many of us were already stocked up for Christmas
Could still be difficult if this doesn't let up after the Christmas holiday

Anonymous said...

On clearing pavements - in my experience, clearing them is what makes thme slippery - walking through snow is much safer than walking over a cleared area that has subsequently frozen

Rhiannon said...

Correction - intended to type "hills not negotiable" - people have been taking long routes to bypass them and getting stuck in snow on lesser roads

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...On clearing pavements - in my experience,

What happened here was it snowed, people walked on it packing it down, then it thawed slightly and then froze again turning it to ice

Anonymous said...

When I was a lad, my father and I used to go down the beach and help ourselves to the sand..job done, but let me guess, now I would probably be jailed for theft, the simplest solutions are the best, so forget going to buy grit sand from shops help yoursleves at the local beach...

Anonymous said...

So is Iolo correct when he says that Tories would cut transport budget more than Lab/Plaid?

Anonymous said...

Winsford Salt mines in Cheshire are reputed to have 40 billion tonnes of road salt, be it still institute.

So why none here? Is it a matter that WAG import their's from abroad at a cheaper cost. whilst every one else suffers?

Anonymous said...

The pavements in Holyhead are deadly. Need not worry about our Town Councillor - the pavement outside the Town Hall was well gritted.

The Red Flag said...

Be interesting in a couple of days once it's thawed to find out how many people from Anglesey were treated for injuries attributable to the weather.

Who would have the stats? RoSPA?

Anonymous said...

I reckon all the grit will be used in the morning after whats happened tonight either that or nothing moves at all

Anonymous said...

Watching a manager from Greater Manchester on telly this morning. They got a severe snow warning so they gritted all the roads and nmotorways. Later in the evening re-confirmed by the Met as very heavy fall expected there so they went and re-gritted everything just to make sure.

It didn't snow. It missed them completely and battered well to their south who thought they weren't going to get hit at all.

Les. Hayward said...

The lanes around Carmel are NEVER cleared or gritted. We have been snowed in for a week. Global warming strikes again!

Anonymous said...

Go to the beach and help yourelves..

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Photon said...

It's ben a disgrace all round. I shall be posting an item on some travels around the island this morning - just after one lot of snow, and about a week after the first heavy fall.

Where is the salt? Who will take the blame? What are we paying council tax and business rates for?

Diabolical! Heads should roll (alternatively, we'll take senior staff's pay back as compensation).

Colin said...

"that the water-trap and outlet pipe are frozen solid as are some of my water drainage pipes."

I am told when you ring British Gas with a problem you are asked first to check for the above. Everyone is driven to upgrade gas boilers and they can't even get the basic design right

The Red Flag said...

Council down to the last 20% of grit that was ordered for this winter:-

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-12055533

Photon said...

Colin - the condensate drain, if installed properly, shouldn't freeze. The problem is that millions of boilers have been installed with dog-legs, allowing water to pool, accumulate, freeze, and block.

On the local conditions:

http://photonicanglesey.blogspot.com/2010/12/gritting-what-is-going-on.html

PromoW said...

Photon said: "Colin - the condensate drain, if installed properly, shouldn't freeze".

True, however if the condensate drain runs out of the house the freezing weather (it was -12C here the other night)is so cold and the condensate flow so slow and with a small volume of water that it still freezes even when lagged.

I resorted to removing the flexi-tubing from the boiler condensate pump (both sides of the pump)and running the boiler tube into a tray inside the boiler. This will save the pump from burning out, though attention needs to be kept on the catch-tray as the condensate is acidic (slightly stronger than Coca-cola).

Anonymous said...

lets just hope Wylfa don't go BANG or we'r all fucked !!!!

The Red Flag said...

lets just hope Wylfa don't go BANG or we'r all f****d !!!!

Yes but at least it will melt the snow and we'll be warm.

(PS - The Druid will probably bin your post - profanity)

Anonymous said...

Photon, I've just read your knee-jerk reaction on your blog. How can you possibly compare our conditions and how we cope to those of countries like Iceland - (bankrupt or not) These countries have fine-tuned their coping strategies over many generations of annual severe winters which are the norm for them and which we do not normally have in the UK and certainly not on Anglesey. I have posted a reply on your blog but you seem to be very keen on censorship and appear only to allow replies to your comments after you have vetted them! Very commendable - not.

I, as much as anyone, critiscise this useless and inept council for many things but even I draw the line at blaming them for our weather. I have been advised on good authority that the amount of grit held in reserve on Anglesey was increased after last winter and would normally have coped adequately with our normal icy weather but even you cannot say that the weather we have all experienced of late has been what we would normally expect. I live in a rural area on a steep hill and have suffered some discomfort and inconvenience during this cold spell but that is all that it is. I have kept any eye on a couple of elderly neighbours and shopped for them, I don't hear them complaining or whinging. I think that if we can keep the main routes open where there are real hills such as Dulas and Bwlch Dafarn on the A5025 then fine, you quote the molehills around Llanerchymedd, I easily negotiated this area twice in the last week, yes there was ice and yes it was slow going but with care the road was quite passable. Cut the authorities some slack for heaven's sake and stop whinging.

The Red Flag said...

Prometheus - here's a good article about your boiler problem

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1342357/Central-heating-break-big-freeze-Heres-.html