All businesses are impacted by severe weather. This week’s heavy snowfall, and the slow response, are no exception. The closure of schools comes first. When parents have to take time off, productivity falls, affecting local and national economies. There’s also the impact on international trade. Many businesses are inconvenienced by flight disruptions. Further, many also move their products globally as part of complex supply chains. Delays at airports, ports, on the roads and railways costs them time and money. The UK needs to be better prepared for extreme weather; experts call it resilience, but businesspeople call it common sense. A mixture of public and private investment, as well as company-specific plans for bad-weather, are increasingly critical as weather becomes more unpredictable.
Dr Adam Marshall is the director of policy at the British Chambers of Commerce.
To many, Germany is a byword for efficiency. But a check of the news reports reveals it and much of northern Europe is mired in the same travel chaos as us. It is true that, in places like Scandinavia and North America, where the snow appears each year as regular as clockwork, they have the equipment and the skill to deal with it. But in other countries which share our latitude – not just Germany but also the Netherlands, France and Poland – the picture is mixed. One advantage these nations have over us is that their road networks are less heavily congested, meaning weather disruption does not have quite the same impact. But UK councils are now better prepared than ever, with plentiful supplies of salt and whole fleets of gritting lorries and snow ploughs. But what we all lack, authorities and drivers alike, is regular experience in dealing with extreme conditions, which remain rare events.
Professor Stephen Glaister is director of the RAC Foundation.