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Sunbathing in Edinburgh

Incidentally, I was meant to be in London right now. Indeed, I was meant to be there by Tuesday evening, but the airport has been closed for three days, the East Coast Main Line is intermittently closed, the A1 is periodically blocked by jackknifed trucks, the A68 is missing (presumed buried under snow), the Forth Road Bridge and the A90 north are intermittently blocked, the M8 motorway west to Glasgow is down to one lane in each direction with huge delays, and ScotRail are complaining about the wrong kind of snow on the tracks.

That's what Princes Street looked like (at the corner with North Bridge — the tall building on the left is the Balmoral Hotel) at 2am on Saturday night this week. It's not much better right now ... these are the Scottish lowlands, we don't do snow!

(Canadians, Siberians, and US mid-westerners may feel entitled to sneer, but we've had around 50cm of snow this week, in parts of the country that expect maybe 5cm all winter. And it's worse elsewhere: this blast of cold weather has been closing airports in Switzerland.)

Update: Apparently it's the heaviest autumn snowfall since 1965. So that's all right, then.

186 Comments

1:

may I, as a Tyrolean, sneer a bit as well? please?

2:

Go ahead and sneer. Consider, however, that Edinburgh's climate is a bit like that of Seattle, only warmer in winter. Usually. This week, it's colder than Reykjavik.

The only natives who're dealing well with the current weather are the penguins at Edinburgh Zoo.

3:

The wrong kind of snow? Any kind of snow is the wrong kind. Its just a damned nightmare. Frankly the trains get pretty much screwed up if there is a very sticky toffee paper on the line, never mind snow. However, I still managed to drag my sorry ass into work and do a 10 hour shift, doing guess what? Yeah, driving trains.

For whatever reason Glasgow has been very much like Edinburgh, pretty much brought to a stand by the winter weather. Here in Dumfries its certainly cold but not much snow. So why is the country grinding to a halt? I managed to drive my trains through the blizzard north of Dumfries and the similar blizzard towards Carlisle. Am I just missing something? Or am I just too dedicated to say "Fuck this, its a bloody whiteout here, I am moving no bloody train Guvner!"

Jesting aside, I know its bad, the East Coast is getting hit hard. I was in Glasgow on Saturday staying at a friends house in Kilsyth and it was a bloody nightmare there. We were almost not coming home at all and just staying with them because it was so bad. The big question is this.... Its winter. We know it comes round every year. We know it could be really nasty. Why the hell are we NEVER prepared for it???

4:

Its winter. We know it comes round every year. We know it could be really nasty. Why the hell are we NEVER prepared for it???

We've had a couple of decades of uncharacteristically mild winters, far as I can tell. The old habits have been forgotten. Maintaining the infrastructure to deal with rare events is expensive, so it gets dropped. And until this month, presumably council planners were able to tell themselves that winter 09/10 was a one-off fluke event.

This isn't looking like a fluke any more, though -- more like a fundamental shift.

5:

I will not sneer. We usually get snow -- a lot of snow -- in winter, but this year, we're more or less dry. Only, it's so cold we've got ice all over. I'd swap you for the snow gladly.

6:

I'd post a photo of the view from my backyard in North Queensland, Australia but unfortunately it's currently under a meter of water. It has rained each day for around 3 months with sporadic glimpses of sun and blue sky. I believe we are on our 5th rain event since the beginning of spring with no end in sight.And to think this time last year I was still concerned about the drought. It is also cold enough that I actually considered wearing a jumper today. This is summer. In Australia. We do not do cold.

7:

"The big question is this.... Its winter. We know it comes round every year. We know it could be really nasty. Why the hell are we NEVER prepared for it???"

Well there's the thing, it doesn't come around every year (well, not like this anyway!) and while we've seen a couple of "big snow" events in the last few years I'm not (yet!) perceiving them as any more than statistical clustering of what are really once-a-decade (or thereabouts) events.

For me the big question is actually "How much would you be prepared to pay for infrastructure and equipment which is quite likely to just sit there quietly depreciating unused just on the off chance ...", and for me, I have to say that for my money (which as a UK taxpayer it is!) The Powers That Be are probably getting the answer to that one about right. Yes it's annoying and inconvenient but on the whole, with the help of a little bit of goodwill essential services are lurching along well enough, and I can live with that...

8:

We used to do snow in the lowlands, but that was before hordes of english and others moved north and we became even more car dependent.
But this is breaking records - the most snow I ever recall at my parents house over the last 20 years was about a foot. It passed 14 inches deep on tuesday and is probably up to 20 inches by now. Here in Polmont we have 16-17 inches, and the effort to move it all is twice as much as during a normal 6 inch snowfall winter.

As to whether this is a fundamental shift, we'll have to wait and see what the met office says. Suffice to say, weird fundamental shifts like this are rather expected due to climate change, but whether that is to blame for this is not yet certain. What are the circulatory differences between now and the late 1940's/ early 50's?

Anyone in Edinburgh got information on whether they cut the gritting budget or not?

9:

The NHK weather forecasters were saying yesterday that the cold weather currently paralyzing Europe will move east and hit Japan in another fortnight or so, having picked up a whole load more snow on the way over Siberia. I'm looking forward to seeing what effect it has on Japanese train timetables (usually unaffected by anything less than a typhoon or severe earthquake).

10:

ISTR some of the Realclimate guys worrying about long-range forecasts of several cold winters back in 2007-2008 and the political consequences.

When you finally escape from the Arctic wastes, do let me know.

11:

re: Preparedness.

It is also the wrong time of year. It is very unusual for most of the UK to get snow before the new year.

12:

Here in the "far NW" of Scotland (about 6 hours drive nearly all on single carriageway plus 2 on a ferry so I'm not expecting Charlie to ever visit ;-) [but you'd be welcome given adequate notice]) we have a lot of snow by local standards (this means 3 falls maybe 1 inch each that have lain for more than 24 hours) but that's close to it for snow, and most of the main roads, plus a fair percentage of the side roads have been cleared.

The folk I really feel for are in places like Altnahara, which is 40 miles from the sea and has been down to -20C overnight!

13:

Here in south-east England, part of the problem with the trains is that modern rolling stock is less resilient to snow and ice than the old slam-door stock that was replaced during the last 10-15 years.

When the conductor rail ices over you get a lot of arcing (some quite spectacular on the journey home last night) which causes overload on the trains' electrics. The old 60s-era stock could cope with this - yes some components would be damaged and would need replacing sooner than otherwise, but the trains would keep running. The new trains are computer controlled, and the system trips out if it detects a potentially damaging overload and shuts down, hence the new trains keep breaking down when the old trains wouldn't.

I've noticed that our newest, Japanese-built, high-speed trains seem to be more resilient than the slightly older British-built trains dating from 2000 or thereabouts. OK, so most of their journey is under the overhead electrification on the high-speed line, but they seem to be able to cope better with the icing on the third-rail sections too. They do get quite severe winters in parts of Japan, so presumably their designers built in more tolerance than their British counterparts.

Ironically, the British trains are now built by Bombardier, a Canadian company, but sadly the Canadian takeover was after the ones on our lines were built!

14:

Being born and raised in Chicago, I would never sneer at another's snowbound plight. Chuckle perhaps, but never sneer.

15:

Cue Fox News to start babbling that Global Warming is an Al GOre hoax because it's cold and snowing a lot...

16:

Last weekend, the night of the first freeze, I was returning to my house at about midnight and was somewhat startled to see what looked like blue spotlights flickering up above the nearby houses. It eventually turned out to be a train crawling past, blue lightning arcing about its wheels, huge showers of blue sparks... it looked as if Doc Brown had taken a wrong turn and ended up in Reading!

I think it was going at about half speed, but it's hard to tell on my bit of line (as the trains are usually accelerating/decelerating due to a nearby bridge).

17:

Well, it's called Global Warming for a reason. And after years of being told they're headed for a sunny, watery, palm-topped demise, you can't really blame people for pointing out that none of that is happening.

Personally, I've always found it strange that people would call Bush a retard, but believe every word from the guy who lost to him. I mean, if Bush is a retard, what does that make Al Gore?

18:

We're getting the reverse sorts of problems Down Under. Here on the west coast, we've just had a heatwave (3 or more days of temperatures over 35C) in November, and the last time that happened, my age was still in single digits[1]. The east coast has been being drenched by heavy rainfall and battered by storms, and everyone over there is busy trying to either bail out the floods or batten down for the next lot arriving.

Oh, and the cyclone season is also kicking off, but that's pretty much par for the course at this time of year.

What was that about global climate change being a myth? Can't hear you over the sound of the fans on everything running full tilt to try and keep the electronics cool.

[1] Back in 1978.

19:

Here in Paris, we've only have light snow so far. Obviously, this is completely freaking out the Parisian drivers, who are bloody mental under the best of circumstances. Risking my life every day on my bike.
Still loving the snow, though.

20:

Half that snow would shut my town (Miami, Florida) down.

Fortunately it hasn't been a big few years for hurricanes here.

21:

gulf stream, effects of on Britain. Read up on it, will you?

22:

so, from what I can tell from comments, the big problem for trains in the UK seems to be that you have this system where electricity is provided via a third rail on the ground instead of overhead wires?

(ISTR my mom telling me about the winter olympics in Innsbruck, so it must've been either in '64 or '76, where it was so cold that they had to get the military to unfreeze the switches on the railroad tracks .. whether that's "in my youth things were harder"-talk I don't know ..)

on the less-sneering side of things reading the German news today I read about various places where rail traffic is at least very late right now .. either due to large amounts of snow on the tracks (being piled up by wind to great heights) or, again, trouble with the switches)

23:

Note that the Swiss airport which closed was in the French part.

Is it progress that people have mostly given up attacking the idea that climates are jinking all around the place and are instead choosing to attack the populist 'global warming' name instead?

B>

24:

Laurent @ #19: You should expect snowier winters with increased temperatures; warmer water, more evaporation, more precipitation. As long as you're below the freezing point, it's not cold that brings on the snow, it's humidity; there's damned little snow in the Dry Valleys of Antarctica.

25:

Actually, the wrong sort of cold and snow can shut down Canada as effectively as it has Scotland. Ice storms almost led to the evacuation of at least one major city (Montreal) in 1998. Right now Vancouver is just recovering from its own traumatic experience with snow and ice (transit closed, traffic accidents everywhere, Canadians elsewhere sniggering in derision etc...) In both cases the temperatures aren't really that cold - sometimes actually above freezing - but the formation of slick ice on just about everything in these conditions is very dangerous and very hard to deal with.
Frankly, I also find that the first snowfall in Canada also causes chaos for at least a day (even in the most winter prone places) until everyone get used to it.

26:

the big problem for trains in the UK seems to be that you have this system where electricity is provided via a third rail on the ground instead of overhead wires?

South of the Thames, yes. The cut-over is just outside Blackfriars station on Thameslink.

27:

one other comment/question:

Does anyone in the UK have snow tires for their vehicles (cars or otherwise?) I'm expecting not, given how rare winter conditions are - and that makes a huge difference in getting about in the snow. Here (in Canada) even the bicycles are fitted with studded snow tires. (Yes, some people still commute to work at -30 C on bicycles.)

28:

Some people will do. But for most people, having a complete set of snow tyres for an event that may not occur during the ownership of the vehicle is not cost effective.

A complete set of wheels will also take up more space than most people would want to devote to them.

29:

the big problem for trains in the UK seems to be that you have this system where electricity is provided via a third rail on the ground instead of overhead wires?

South of the Thames, yes. The cut-over is just outside Blackfriars station on Thameslink.

Also parts of Merseyside.

30:

I quite like that photograph.
It's a pity you don't see more snow, because you've got the scenery for it.

31:

someone ought to to mention the North Atlantic Oscillation:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_Atlantic_oscillation

32:

Britain isn't the world.

However, my point was simply: Every hot summer has been used to spell the doom of our planet. You can't ridicule the opposing camp for using the same tactic.

33:

Dude, only idiots call it global warming. It's global climate change. If you pump more energy into a dynamic system, it oscillates more wildly -- so some bits get warmer and others get colder. And right now we -- if you're in the UK -- are in the cold end of the cycle.

What do they teach in schools these days?!? (Hint: statistical numeracy doesn't seem to be part of it ...)

34:

You've just accidentally made one of the most important and interesting points: serious meteorologists who accept the reality of AGW get very annoyed by people trying to assert that individual events or specific local warm periods constitute proof. Even the most 'serious' AGW deniers, on the other hand, are happy to publically support assertions that local cool periods are proof of their opinion. (Note the fuss made by numerous deniers about the fact that it was cold in the UK and US in January this year, thus 'proving' there's no warming going on. Globally speaking, of course, January 2010 was actually the warmest January on record, but they prefer not to talk about that.)

From this, it's reasonable to conclude that even the most 'serious' denialists are in fact not interested in science or reality. They have an agenda to support, come hell or high water.

35:

In many way, depreciation on at least some of the equipment is an accountant's fiction.

For instance, the snowploughs may well be mounted on other council-owned vehicles, which do other work during the rest of the year. So the fitting brackets have to be paid for over the life of the vehicle, which is what depreciation is supposed to be about.

The snowplough itself will need some maintenance: again, an annual cost.

But if you depreciate that snowplough over three years, it doesn't mean you have to but a new one in year four.

Incidentally, one change, over more like 20 years, has been over the cover for rural areas. Farmers are allowed to use diesel taxed at a low rate for farm machinery. But it used to be the a farmer could contract with the council to clear snow, or trim roadside verges, and that was still considered farm work. Now it isn't, and you need both special insurance, and to use fully-taxed diesel (DERV). The latter, in particular, is a PITA. There'll be traces of marker dye in the vehicle's fuel system if it's ever done work using farm fuel.

So all this work ended up being down by full-time contractors, charging a full commercial rate, rather than farmer Giles running a tractor along the road with a slurry-scraper blade mounted.

And some of this was a collective endeavour, local people pitching in for the local community. We were there, we had a fix for the problem we saw, and we fixed it.

Yes, it will be different in the middle of a city. Some of the people running things seem, frankly, detached from reality. And the just-in-time thinking of the supermarkets can only add to the strain for everyone.


36:

That's a fair chunk of snow for regions that don't have snowplowing or sanding equipment. Sayeth the Canadian.

37:

As an ex-pat Canuck in Alabama, I'm just
_waiting_, waiting for the snowy day where I make the front page news riding my bike with studded tires while everything else is stopped. Yes, I brought the full kit with me. No, they don't have the equipment to clear roads.

38:

Half of Germany was closed down for the last days, too. Including trains stranding in Frankfurt, trains not reaching Leipzig - and "streets not allowing for busses as replacement", closed airports, and massive cold. Fortunatly, all this didn't happen in the part where I dwell - in the south-west, near the French and Swiss border, we had snow since mid of last week, but only "normal" amounts and something like -2/+2 °C. Looks very nice and doesn't create problems ;-)

The other interesting point is what I read somewhere: that colder/longer winters in Europe are indeed an effect of global climate change. So I guess we should start to expect them (most often twittered joke in Germany today was something along the lines of "Terrorist group blocked all public infrastructure with unexpected white stuff").

39:

This is true. I've talked to middle aged and older people who grew up in Connecticut, and they tell stories about skiing down the streets in winter, and feet of snow. In the 10 years I've lived here we've never had that. I don't think there has been a really bad winter here since the 70s.

40:

In the US the media seems to have stuck on the name "Global Warming". So of course every winter people make bad jokes about it. Perhaps that's why most Americans don't believe in it anymore.

And yes, our schools are terrible teaching anything about statistics or probability.

41:

50cm of snow in a week would be a big deal in parts of Canada not set up to deal with it. It'd bring Vancouver to a grinding halt, for instance. 50cm of snow in a day Ottawa or Montreal, however, would be a small winter storm and wouldn't disrupt much of anything for more than 24h after the fact.

It all depends on how many snow plows and salters are available....

42:

You need to target different audiences. e.g

Global Oh Fuck We're all going to die!
or
Global Oh Fuck The Poor People are all going to die!
or
Global What do you mean I can't have a golf course in the middle of the desert?

43:

So is it a heavy wet snow or a light blowing and drifting type?

44:

#38 Para 2 - And they say that Germans don't have an SoH!? I mean, I'm not German, and I laughed!

45:

Actually, it's the global "Let's change everything chaotically and see who survives best" lottery.

By the way, there's a similar argument for why conserving rare species makes a lot of sense:

There's a wide spectrum, but at one extreme, we've got species that need our special care (read: stop fucking with them) to survive, and at the other extreme, we've got weeds and pests that take everything we throw at them and come back for more.

Now, if you're the smart kind of person, which species do you want to share your world with: the ones that are vulnerable to your actions, or the ones that are totally invulnerable to you, and in fact take advantage of you?

Obviously, competition is ideologically, so you do everything you can to spread the weeds and pests. Right? (/sarcasm)

46:

What you just said about the denial side of things, also applies to the supporters. As loudly as deniers claim a strong winter for their argument, supporters do the same with a hot summer. Everyone has an agenda to support, and it's one of the reasons I'm becoming fed up with the debate entirely. Something like this shouldn't be politics. Especially seeing how it's rational in *any* sense to limit pollution and consumption of fossil fuels. But now we're stuck with a nice "Us vs. Them" situation.

@Charlie
As far as I'm concerned, it's an enormously difficult subject. But like I said, most supporters lay heavily on the warming side of the argument. Hence, a rather natural reaction by their detractors is to do the same when cold comes around. Please note, I'm only commenting on the social characteristics of the phenomenon, which, if you ask me, are even more interesting than the phenomenon itself.

47:

No one's mentioned last year's Snowmaggeddon in the Washington DC area, so here's a link to the Washington Post meteorology crew's retrospective.

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/capitalweathergang/2010/11/dc_snow_map_winter_2009_2010.html

Note that the little map there is showing snowfall in inches, not centimeters. Note also that the WaPo has the annoying habit of putting full-screen ads up on its site-- the 'close' button is in the upper right hand corner.

48:

Some people will do. But for most people, having a complete set of snow tyres for an event that may not occur during the ownership of the vehicle is not cost effective.

That's a popular misconception. Winter tires are important not for snow, but for temperature. The rubber in tires gets stiffer with the cold. As the flexing of the tire grips the road, too stiff means you lose grip. So a temperature too cold for the tire means you have less control. (And too warm means your rubber is soft and the tires will wear out quickly.)

So as long as the temperatures get cold, it makes sense (in terms of safety) to have a set of winter tires.

(Studded tires help driving on snow and ice, but are prohibited on many roads because they rip up the surface. Studded tires are snow tires; winter tires have softer rubber for better grip.)

49:

Yep, that was a good'un.

That was, historically, the most snow we'd got since they started keeping track. That Area generally gets, maybe, one or two storms a year good for about 6 inches each, if we get that.

50:

Here in Central Canada (Ontario and Quebec, pop 20 million together) we're absolutely NOT sneering at the current snowy weather in Northern Europe. We're having impossible mixed-up weather.

Sure, we had our first snow about a month ago but for the last few days we've been getting loony weather for the season: Tons of rain mixed with freezing rain, and not a single snowflake. We've got the heavy equipment and the social habits for clearing snow and dealing with all related aspects but there's nothing we can do real fast with water-covered ice or sleet.

Meanwhile, over at the extreme West end of the country on the shores of the Pacific, in Southern British Columbia (Vancouver and Vitoria and surrounding areas, pop 4 million) they're getting snow instead of the usual rain! This is the only relatively "warm" part of Canada, the only tiny part where good Canadian citizens can migrate to if they want to remain in Canada and avoid getting parts frozen off in the winter. Not any more!

I think that right now only the polar bears in Scotland are happy:

http://www.nowpublic.com/environment/mercedes-polar-bear-meets-walker-polar-bear-scotland

51:

Possible, but more likely, we're just going through a cycle of easterly winds driving our winter weather

Good long-view take on UK winter weather here:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-11887777

Not much enjoying trying to stay upright in central Edinburgh this week with my somewhat buggered central nervous system though....

52:

Is it heretical to say that I like the snow? But then I was taught how to drive on it as part of my second ever driving lesson, so I'm not intimidated by it like the rest of my work mates.

My daughter however is spitting feathers because it seems hers is the only school in Derbyshire which isn't closed and, evil mummy that I am, I make her go in!

53:

Igor: collapsed the roof of the Coliseum. That was a fun time, plus I had to hunt for my newish puppy in snow that people literally dug tunnels through on the sidewalk. We built a 15 foot high snow man. Good times. I hate our new climate. We never get a real fall anymore, just about 2 weeks and then poof winter.

54:

Robert, the all-time low temperature record for Scotland is -23 degrees celsius -- in the middle of one night in a small glen in the Highlands. Usually it doesn't go below -5 all winter down here. It's not cold enough for snow tyres.

Also: this is Edinburgh. Most of our housing stock pre-dates the automobile; many folks -- me included -- do not own garages, and have to park our cars on the street. Where are we supposed to keep the spare set of wheels when they're not in use, in the (non-existent) attic?

55:

Personally, I've always found it strange that people would call Bush a retard, but believe every word from the guy who lost to him. I mean, if Bush is a retard, what does that make Al Gore?

Concern about climate change isn't about uncritically accepting Al Gore's word. It's about being persuaded by the overwhelming evidence and knowing that human-caused climate change is accepted by the vast majority of the scientists who study the subject. Al Gore has brought a lot of attention to the issue, but it's not about him.

Also, it's not true that the most intelligent candidate will always prevail in an election!

56:

re temperature: The number I've heard quoted for "from here on down, winter-tires are better" was around the +1 degrees Celcius mark, but I may be misremembering.

re storage: of course if this is not a thing that ppl do in your parts then this will not be available, but hereabouts (where I grew up, i.e. Tyrol, as well as where I live now, i.e. Swabian part of Germany) most people don't store their own winter-tires. They are in storage at a car-workshop for a small fee and around late October, everybody goes there to have them swapped, whereupon the summer-tires will be stored there.

Note: Austria and Germany now have a mandatory-winter-tires law (unless you just don't drive your car when it's snowy, icy or cold, then you may keep having summer-tires only). Makes sense because usually traffic jams were caused by the one idiot who thought he didn't need winter tires and then got stuck ..

57:

That's a very sensible way of doing things. Utterly un-British, though.

I caught a radio phone-in program yesterday in which one irate caller complained that he'd gone to try and buy a set of snow tyres and been told there was a three month waiting list.

58:

the one idiot who thought he didn't need winter tires and then got stuck

The classic British TV pattern on a snow day - miles and miles of white landscape, with a double black stripe. The stripes are the carriageways of a motorway, the blacktop being clear. On the cleared blacktop, three lanes of stalled traffic. Arguably, snow clearance isn't the problem.

(Sometimes you see this with three lanes standing still on one side, and traffic flowing freely on the other side of the road. What, it magically stopped snowing along the central reservation?)

59:

We're just south of Amsterdam, and the combination of sub zero temperatures and that cold blasting wind leads to the coldest conditions I've cycled in.

The extra icing of terror is that we're in the NETHERLANDS, so they (a) have lots of open tracts of thinly frozen water and (b) have no guard rails about them. Cycling in town therefore has the added possibility of slipping on ice under snow, and falling through the ice and into the freezing water.

Yeah, climate change.

60:

I could say better you folks than us in DC but it's early days on the season; lot's of time for Snowpocalypse II.

61:

Pretty remarkably cold in Dublin as well for this time of year (last time we saw temperatures this low in November was 25 years ago... and they say the climate's not changing!).

Also, someone left the TCD engineers alone with snow and without adult supervision (click to see full-size):

62:

Or Chionocalypse, literally "snow-lidded"?

63:

While much of Canada is pretty snowy, there are exceptions, and I happen to live in one. Victoria British Columbia on Southern Vancouver Island is a town that also has snow only rarely.

And just as with your description of things in England, a recent dusting of snow, now all gone, brought Victoria to a complete grining halt for a weekend. Why, there were whole centimeters of it on the ground! Accidents all over town, and the bus system ground to a halt. Actually, several people died because of this so I suppose I should not make light of it.

Anyway, living in the warm semi-tropical part of Canada I am defensive when people use my country as a synomim for "snowy" even though, outside the southwest corner of B.C., it is as a whole perfectly correct.

64:

Okay, maybe Canadians or Siberians would reflexively sneer at 50cm of snow, but speaking as a Midwesterner my first response was "okay, divide that by 2.5...".

Having done that, there's no reason to scoff or sneer: you've got a fairly respectable pile of snow. It wouldn't be a big surprise if a Midwestern airport was shut down by that kind of blizzard, although by three days in our painfully-learned expertise would probably have improved matters from paralyzed to merely sclerotic.

(Yes, I know that properly I should have divided by 2.54. Anyone who divides out to two decimal places in their head is even nerdier than I am, and I would like to join their pub trivia team.)

65:

As an ex-pat Scot in Canada I won't say anything snide. Particularly as the town where I currently live (Victoria, BC) is so unused to snow that 3cm pretty much shut it down last week.

66:

There was one local news story here (Kent, UK) about a farmer who still has a road clearance, contract.

Or at least will do when the council get round to finalising it, and apparently it's going to take them another week minimum.

Presumably the council don't think the conditions warrant actually tasking someone to ran round the office to collect the signatures (or whatever it takes).

Of course this is modulo TV-journalism accuracy so I expect the story is more complicated.

[Cant find a link unfortunately]

Today there was a minister promising some sort of enquiry about the national situation, which as a student of Yes, {Prime,} Minister - my immediate thought was ,what did he want to hide...

67:

As earlier posters have noted snow sucks, but ice is much worse. I live in Minnesota USA, or sometimes lovingly referred to as MinneSNOWda. On a fishing trip near the Canadian border to Minneapolis, Yes people actually sit in little shacks in sub zero temps just to catch a fish, and even consider it fun, although it was probably developed as a way for cranky husbands to escape nagging wives to avoid cabin fever, but that is for another post. Anyways when I left in was -20 F and 45 above in minneapolis. I passed through a blizzard where in some places I faced 8 to 10 inches of unplowed snow and saw a few cars in the ditch( most people have 4-wheel drive so going through the snow isn't the problem it is stopping. But as I approached the area where the temp was right around freezing I saw over a 100 cars in the ditch, many flipped over. So the point of the story: bad or unusual weather is inevitable on a long enough time line, or maybe a short one depending on how climate change shapes up, the best thing to do is stay at home if possible, hopefully with booze, friends and some sort of entertainment, and if you do go out just thank god for cell phones, the annoying things I am sure have saved many lives in the last few years, at least if you aren't texting while driving. As far as what municipalities should do is a tricky question. Being prepared is quite expensive and running a cost benefit analysis is hard to do when frequency is an unknown variable. So to the Scottish posters, I feel your pain and don"t scoff at the amounts, but try learning from our experiences, stock up on drinks, movies, and try sledding out, it can be fun.

68:

Not far west of Edinburgh, but up in the hills and we have nearly 4 feet of snow here now. Being off the main route we have no official snow clearance, but everyone has been making do together successfully enough that I managed to drive to South Queensferry yesterday, and hoping to get in to central Edinburgh tomorrow. The only danger on the roads is the morons who think they can still drive at speed. I have a nice powerful 4 wheel drive vehicle and I think 20 mph is not bad for most of that journey, and yet I saw a couple of small cars (maybe a polo and a yaris) at crazy speeds.

The weather isn't the issue on the roads - its the not taking weather into account.

69:

Could I invite all you snowbound folks to south-central Texas (Austin and San Antonio and thereabouts)? While we suffered the past few days from cold weather, that meant getting to 0 C (273 k) for an hour or two from radiative cooling into clear skies around 6 AM. The roads are crappy because of the equally crappy state gummint, but the weather is fine, the landscape is interesting and not infrequently attractive, and the TexMex food not bad.(*)

(*) Weirdly enough, TexMex food seems to get better the farther north of the TexMex border you get. Northern Virginia, DC 'burbs, had some great TM restaurants when we lived there.

70:

Well, in my bit of Colorado, last Sunday set a new record for Latest First Snowfall, by one day. And as is usual here the snow melted the next day, and it's currently warmish. Though it got cold a few weeks ago and the joints were already complaining.

We used to get blizzards in the end of September, but it's been years since that's happened. And occasionally get early spring blizzards (wetter and heavier than earlier ones) and some shmuck will exclaim "Well, so much for Global Warming!." Clearly someone who doesn't get the difference between weather and climate.

71:

Rommelig: "Well, it's called Global Warming for a reason. And after years of being told they're headed for a sunny, watery, palm-topped demise, you can't really blame people for pointing out that none of that is happening."

You could if it wasn't happening, but it is, and it's perfectly fine to blame people for either (a) talking from ignorance or (b) lying.

72:

Someone on another forum I hang out on has been extolling the virtues of snowchains for your tyres. He has a point, although given our variability they probably wouldn't be as much use as they think. At least you wouldn't have to change your tyres.

73:

I'm finding this fascinating: "High Speed Train Operation in Winter Climate - A Study on Winter Related Problems and Solutions Applied in Sweden, Norway and Finland" from Gröna Tåget - an RD&D program for high-speed trains in Sweden. Everything you'll ever want to know about bogies, brakes and springs packing with snow, arcing on pantographs, frozen rail switches, and ice blocks falling off rapid trains that then kicks up ballast that beats the train to crap.

If the Scandinavians are still having problems running trains in winter, then there's little hope for the Anglosphere.

74:

The infrastructure in this town is suffering and it's not just the transport networks.

We've just had a power cut in our street across in the New Town.

I don't think we're alone. Scottish Power's website is unavailable and their helpline has several minutes of recorded updates about other powercuts before one can report one's own power cut.

They hope to have it fixed by 10am. 11 hours to restore power to at least one whole street in the centre of the capital city.

Amazing how us city dwellers take reliable electricity for granted. Hadn't thought about the gas-fired central heating not working without electricity for the combi boiler. Not fun in a draughty Georgian flat (built in the 1790s) when it's -11C outside at the moment!

75:

Nine months after the DC area's Snowpocalypse last winter, we have a lot of babies. For a while, every time I went to my clinic, a pregnant woman was being taken out to an ambulance.

76:

Actually Australia does get cold, even Northern Queensland. The locals mostly though pretend it doesn't exist. I used to live in Townsville in Northern Queensland and I recall winter nights when the temperature would get down to 4 or 5 C and so you would always feel cold because the houses lacked insulation and the windows were single glazed. My ex from Montreal told me that she never felt colder during the winter than when she was living in Sydney. Sure the temperatures are not cold by those living in temperate latitudes, but with the homes leaking so much heat and with no central heating, one never has a chance to get warm.

77:

Down here in the antipodes we're having a hotter than normal spring/summer. Oz is going to have serious bush fire danger, and NZers will all be at the beach.

78:

Fabulous picture! It looks almost like a painting!

The DC area isn't expected to have nearly as much snow this time, so I can just wait it out. We had 72 inches last winter and while my city cleans roads and the development clears parking lots/roads, sidewalks, and curbcuts, I had to have friends over to get the snow off the van (one of the teens crawled up on top to push it off) and then clear the zebra stripe so I can get in. (I had a stroke in 1987 that made my balance bad -- I can't walk on uneven or slippery surfaces without falling.)

79:

New Englanders get to sneer too.

80:

When I was growing up we had snows like this in Kansas City, but they petered out during my teens and young adulthood, with a few exceptions.

And I like to think of it as global weather 'weird-enng'. Weather is going to change, sometimes drastically. I think (haven't looked at overall statistics) that we're getting more fall/winter tornados in the South. And it has gotten a bit wetter here in Kansas City, at least for the recent trend.

jus saying.

81:

What you said, Wellington, NZ x2.

But at the moment it is GLORIOUS! Time to hit the beach once we've spent an hour applying sunblock.

82:

Robert, the all-time low temperature record for Scotland is -23 degrees celsius -- in the middle of one night in a small glen in the Highlands. Usually it doesn't go below -5 all winter down here. It's not cold enough for snow tyres.

The recommendations I've seen call for installing winter tires at around 5°C. So it sounds like Scotland gets cold enough.

Storage is a separate problem.

83:

Another from the DC area here. While we are better prepared for snow removal here, a snowfall of that depth (20 inches or so, no?) would certainly shut many things down here for a few days, no question. It takes half a day just to dig your car out (there are plenty of us here who park on the street/driveway here too).

84:

So glad I live in Hawaii right now.

A huge part of the reason I wanted to move (from Kansas) was because last year we got hit with the worst winter I've ever experienced. Same deal—my northerner friends scoffed, but it was well over 10x the snow we usually got.

Now the low doesn't drop below 70°F, even in the "dead" of winter.

85:

jaytee, where did you live? In Kansas, that is.

86:

I won't sneer at anyone's snow problems; when we have troubles here in the Pacific Northwest it's most often when the temperature right around 0°C and what falls out of the sky is irrelevant; it's what it turns to on the ground that matters. I've seen trees encased in 3 or 4 centimeters of ice under those conditions; you don't even want to ask what was on the roads.

We got a most unseasonal cold snap a couple of weeks ago; usually we don't get subfreezing temps until late in December but we were down to -7°C for a couple of nights. Luckily it was clear, and we got no precipitation here in Portland, but the roads in the mountains east of here were closed on and off as the trucks slid around.

87:

Osaka may be a little different but believe me, the train companies in and around Tokyo are just as bad as those in the UK at coping with weather. Tuesday evening the den-en-toshi line was closed in places for several hours (rush hour, even) and the Yokohama Municipal Underground had major delays due to the rain this morning. I generally end up late to work / home at least once a month, and it was worse when I was using the Odakyu line. "Japanese trains are amazing" has always struck me as being one of those lines that is totally wrong and largely due to the difference between being a commuter and being a tourist - much like the idea that Japanese people are polite (which is an idea that no-one who has been on a train in Japan during the rush hour can maintain)

88:

Average global temperatures are in fact rising. Greenland is melting, the mineral rush there is already starting. This is blatantly obvious, unless you choose to only look at some facts and not others, aka "anecdotal evidence."

It's like saying "I know this one guy who smoked and lived to be 104, clearly smoking must be good for you."

Or like saying "It's colder now than in August, clearly we're heading for an ice age." Except the Southern Hemisphere is doing the opposite: their oceans will be boiling if current trends continue.

I can and do blame people for this kind of idiocy. Even though it's a very common kind of idiocy, and not just about global warming.

89:

Occasionally the weather gets too much for Canada:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_American_ice_storm_of_1998

A few years after that, my family said "No More!" and fled to Victoria, BC. Mostly the snow here is no more impressive than London's (i.e., little or none).

Of course, Victoria got dumped this year with early snow... Still, it only lasted a couple of days, so as long as long as you could stay off the road, not too bad.

90:

a note re snow-chains: they are NOT a replacement for winter-tires!

One: they are only good on snow (and ice), not on a cleared road, you have to take them off immediately as you clear the very snowy part of the road or you'll ruin the road, the chains and the car

Two: you can drive only very slowly when you have them on, i.e. kindof at a joggers pace. Or you'll ruin your car, more or less.

snow-chains are a last-ditch measure for either when you're truly stuck (although then it gets a bit hard to put them on) or when you absolutely _have_ to go across that mountain-pass and know that if you don't put them on, you will be stuck (in my part of the world, the provincial government will issue a "snow-chain-order" for such a road when the conditions cross a certain trigger-point. Meaning that when you cause a traffic-jam because you got stuck and you didn't have your chains on, it will get VERY expensive because afaik they'll just have you pay the cost of .. well everything. So if you go through Tyrol in winter, better have snow-chains in your trunk/boot!)

91:

Grrrrr.
I clicked on picture at 61, and lost all my comments!

Charlie: Name-changes - the hotel at the East end of Princes Street is the North British, and at the West, the Caledonian, right?
Same as the principal termini in Dublin are Amiens Street, Kingsbridge and Westland Row?
Remember, there's a pub in Stratford (E. London variety) which is still called, by everyone, "The King of Prussia" - it was re-named, officially, the "Edward VII" in 1914 ....

Rail electrics: South of the Thames, and a few other parts of London (and Merseyside where it virtualy never snows) have 3-rd rail top-contact electrification, usually at 750V dc, for historical reasons. For the rest we use 25kV overhead knitting, which is much more reliable.
However there is THIS photograph taken at about noon yesterday in mid-Surrey! The trainlet is a plough/de-icing unit, there is another track somewhere under that snow and two conductor rails ....


"Global Warming" - means more heat in the whole system. Which means more energy in the whole system.
Which means more and more frequent extreme events (in BOTH directions) in the whole planetary system. Which is what we are seeing.
The deniers refuse to see this - either that, or they've been paid not to see it, by US Oil.
Incidentally, if you really want to blow a gasket, go and read the columns of James Delingpole in the Daily Telegraph.
I think he might be on an entirely different sort of white stuff, given the lack of rationality in his blog-postings....

Driving and tires.
Don't. I learnt to drive in the great Winter of 1962-3, so white stuff doesn't frighten me, but, erm, it's no use having an L-R, with all-condition (i.e. semi-off-road or 50:50 ) tires if some complete pillock has slid across the road and blocked it.

92:

Guthrie, re. snow chains -- my car's currently buried under 10-20cm of snow. However, I got as far as the centre of town on foot yesterday and bought myself a pair of Yaktrax (Tiso have stock of the medium size, and are expecting more small and large to show up on Monday). Basically, they're snow chains for your shoes -- and after walking a couple of kilometres on them my opinion of them has gone from "annoying marketing gimmick" to "essential winter gear".

NB: The Gogarbank Met Office weather station reported a low of -13.1 celsius overnight, with wind chill pushing that down to -16. Or, for those who're stuck on the quaint Fahrenheit system, that's 3 degrees.

93:

We came home at 2am to find the lights off on Broughton Street and contractors working on the substation in our basement. The power had been off for about 2 hours (judging by the state of my laptop's battery) and was back on by 3:30am. But I feel your pain; the central heating pump was out for the duration.

I gather you can buy natural-gas-powered generators that run off the gas supply and which could, with a bit of work, be used to provide an uninterruptible power supply for your central heating (as long as the gas is flowing). But plumbing one of those in would not be cheap.

94:

When I was working in London I would have been ecstatic only to have been late getting to/from work due to train delays once a month or so! It was more like two or three times a week. OK, so that was 20 years ago, and things may have improved since then.

I think the Tokyo private commuter lines probably do have more delays than anywhere else in Japan, and the Den-en-toshi and Odakyu lines do have particularly bad reputations. I tried and failed to find some official statistics, but some people are posting diaries describing delays of 5-10 minutes several times a month. I have to admit I was surprised, as I haven't experienced that in Osaka, or even on the Seibu line when I lived in Kanto.

At least on most commuter lines in Japan, if the train is delayed by more than five minutes you can ask the station staff for a certificate of delay to present to your workplace, to prove it wasn't your fault!

I totally agree with you about the complete lack of politeness on trains, though. A good quote here from a guy who's been living in Japan training football referees, complaining that Japanese players are too nice:

http://tinyurl.com/2drxdsx

"“A bit of aggression’s good, in the right places. Controlled aggression. I don’t think you see controlled aggression on the pitch. The only time I’ve ever come across any aggression in Japan is on the metro! People will push you, people will kill you if there is a seat!”


95:

Lowland Scotland may well get cold enough. And then it gets uncold enough to switch back. The problem is that the temperature fluctuates quite a bit around that point, and unless you want to spend all your time switching tyres, it may not be practical.

I can certainly see the point of different summer and winter setups in regions where there is a large difference in average temperatures between summer and winter - say, Canada or the US mid-West, or continental Europe. Here in the UK, we have a temperate climate, and much less variation. In London, for example, there may be years between snow being encountered, and few individual days in which the temperature is below +5 all day.

Hmm, how do winter tyres cope with extended journeys - ones where the tyre temperature stays high for hours on end due to rolling friction?

96:

Power: my street in London had three outages in eight days a few weeks ago, with some daft explanation from UK Power Networks that sometimes the failed cable "seals itself" and it's therefore hard to trace the fault. Every time it happened exactly at the moment around 0530 when the load starts to ramp up from the predawn minimum, and stayed down for five hours or so.

Fortunately, it seems to have failed often enough that they were induced to fix it properly before it started snowing and descending to -4 overnight. I wonder if the fact I called their press office, declared myself a journalist, and blogged it had any effect?

But about 1800 last night, making my way through a blizzard from Telco 2.0 Towers up Old St, I find the traffic lights out and a whole block or so of Hoxton in the dark, including Shoreditch fire station (you'd think the fireys would have back-up power...wouldn't you?). The Internet may be made of cats, London's infrastructure was engineered by Eccles from the Goonies out of string.

97:

I'd heard of the Hoxton blackout - friends of ours live there, and there was tweeting from there. Power apparently came back at about 03:00, after 10 hours out.

98:

re winter tires and extended journeys: given that in my neck of the woods, people usually have them on their cars from end of october to sometime in late april .. I would say they cope well? It's more that due to deeper grooves and softer rubber, the petrol consumption gets higher and therefore you only want to have them on your car when they might conceivably help. As soon as you know you're not going to encounter patches of very cold road and/or snow any more (that depends on how high up into the mountains you go, of course, there may be snow there in August ..) you switch to summer tires for better fuel-economy ..

99:

Re: the wrong type of snow
A southern rail spokesperson said yesterday on BBC news that the snow wasnt the problem per se it was the ice that formed and then got buried by snow which is disrupting the conductor rails. Makes me wonder why trains in siberia et al work?

It will be interesting to see how many winters of snow it will take before investment in decent snow defences (trains that work, efficient salt/grit etc) becomes more economical than the loss in trade (hint, I live in london and tube strikes for one day cost the capital tens of millions. snow that disrupts travel for weeks every winter isnt going to be cheap)

100:

Yes, those are good things to have.
I havn't found it bad enough to need them, I have several weeks of winter mountaineering experience under my belt and generally don't have a problem with current conditions. But its hard work digging the car out of 16 inches of snow.

Delingpole is a nutter - he once posted the full address of someone he disagreed with on his blog, his minions proceeded to make lots of nasty comments, and after a few hours Delingpole deleted the address, but didn't appear to understand there was a problem with posting peoples addresses online. Helloooo?
I also once put a post on his blog about global warming, pointing out he didn't seem to have read any science (or something like that) and he actually emailed me back saying I clearly didn't know anything. What sort of nutter emails people they don't agree with who post on their blog?

-13 C eh? Thats pretty bad. Here near Falkirk icicles are growing due to melt from roofs, and the snow seems a bit softer.

101:

Umm.. That would be the famous Eccles from the Goons?

102:

Ryan@99: Makes me wonder why trains in siberia et al work?

Because trains in Siberia get their electricity from overhead cables, not a third rail.

Whilst third- or fourth- rail systems are not uncommon for metros, I'd hazard a guess that SE England has the most extensive main-line third-rail system in the world.

103:

Here in Southern Finland we got snow some weeks ago, a bit earlier than usual lately (not even every Christmas is white). Now the temperatures are around -5 C and it feels nicely warm.
It was about -15 C (plus windchill) for a week or so, and that felt cold this early in the winter.

At least most people have changed to winter tyres, they're mandatory here during the winter, so traffic isn't that chaotic. It's slower and some busses have been missing, but nothing major, really.

A couple of years ago we didn't get much snow at all, but last winter's mounds of it are still remembered, so the snow doesn't block everything. If people are not prepared, it will be worse, but at least most people know how to survive here.

104:

@ 99
Older 3rd-rail electric trains had discrete-component electrics, a "bit" of arcing didn't matter.
Now, all computer-controlled, any big arcing, and the damned things shut dowm.
That is at least half of the problem.
And, of course, why 25kV overhead-suff, works better.

@ 101
Yes
Walking backwards to Christmas, indded!

105:

the snow wasnt the problem per se it was the ice that formed and then got buried by snow which is disrupting the conductor rails. Makes me wonder why trains in siberia et al work?

By not using third rail power systems, of course. The third rail is a lousy system in many ways (no good for high speed running, vulnerable to weather problems and icing, a safety hazard for line workers and accidental pedestrian intrusions), but it's cheap and reliable if the weather is moderate.

106:

Overhead wores are indeed much better than third rail systems for running electric trains, but you still get arcing from the overhead wires. You watch an electric train on any frosty morning and you will see the pantograph arcing like a sonofabitch. Only just dont watch for too long. Arc eye is bloody painful.

Both systems have their good and bad sides. Overhead wires are easily damaged. Third rail is easy for staff to screw up with and electrocute themselves. Blah blah blah. Diesel anyone? Well that has its own problems too.

107:

We must convert the entire UK network to Maglev immediately!

108:

The prospect of a maglev passenger express running into a snowdrift at 500km/h does not fill me with joy ...

109:

Away with your petty objections! What's a few hundred lifes against the march of techology?

Besides, we could arm them with lasers to melt the snow/fight off rival franchise holders.

110:

I like the laser idea, there are one or two ScotRail managers who would be prime targets for me. (Just kidding in case anyone decides to report this to the Sun like the Facebook Conductor from Ayr.) I like the Maglev idea too. But it would probably need to be fairly highly raised above the ground to avoid the snowdrifts or indeed the morons who place shopping trolleys, washing machines, wheelie bins and assorted other items on the line currently.

Are the drivers of these trains to be armed with personal laser weapons too? Nothing would put the fear of god into a fare dodger like the sight of an energy weapon weilding angry train driver.... Aaaaah the possibilities...

111:

Chardonbleu,

Not fun at all; I hope your electricity returns soon.

But at least you can still flush the toilet (until your pipes freeze). With an electric well pump, things get nasty fast, so I spent a ridiculous amount of money on a standby generator to run the well (plus fridge, freezer, water heater, and greenhouse ventilation). I guess it isn't very environmentally sound to burn all that LP gas, but I figure that since I spent the money to prepare, Murphy's law dictates we will never have a power cut again. So I'm doing all the neighbors a favor.

113:

Hmm, how do winter tyres cope with extended journeys - ones where the tyre temperature stays high for hours on end due to rolling friction?

They remain stone cold.

I've just driven a _fully_ loaded 3.5t van from London to Bratislava with winter tyres on as they're a requirement over here. It's about 1500km and I checked the tyre temperature a couple of times by hand and I was surprised that they remained colder than I was expecting. I had thought that they would get much warmer than they did thanks to the 100-120kph speed, very high weight, and long distances

Kwik-Fit in the UK are offering a summer tyre 'hotel' for £40 when you buy winter tyres from them.

FAQ: http://www.kwik-fit.com/winter-tyres-faq.asp

'We recommend that come March when it should be averaging nearer 7°C in the morning, you change back to summer tyres.'

Kwik-Fit do have a bit of a reputation so make sure to do your research.

114:

That's interesting, thanks Charlie.

We're in Hart St, facing the back of Broughton St at the rear. I was wondering where the local sub-station is!

The lights went out at 23:22 last night (and I'd finished calling Sc Power by 23:36) so your battery-drain-time-estimate is pretty good.

I did spend a while fantasising about buying a house with enough room for a giant UPS/diesel generator and tanks/ground source heat pump. Didn't think of a gas-powered generator though.

115:

Relax Charlie, it's only the beginning of December. Wait for Feb, when the cats have been skinned for warm fur hats. Then bitch.
I am in KY in the US, it's pretty here. So far, I can get up the driveway, and I don't have to go anywhere much.
At least you don't have to listen to "1 1/2 inches of global warming last night".

116:

In 30 years of owning a car in Minnesota, I've never had snow tires.

Driving long distances on secondary roads would require different
choices! But for normal driving around the city, I don't need them
(all front-wheel drive cars, much better in snow). The one place that
has very occasionally been dicey is getting out of a parking space (or
garage); I've had to shovel parts of the street occasionally, maybe
once every few years on the average. But I'm not in the way while
that's going, my car is still in the parking space. A number of
people do do switch to snow tires here; and it was more common way
back when (before most people used all-season radials as their base
tire).

I like the picture with the falling snow a lot!

117:

So far this fall I've only seen a few snowflakes southeast of Kansas City, perhaps later. A suggestion on climate, if you talk to someone and find them to be outside the circle of belief, smoothly shift gears and discuss the evils of coal.

118:

It's a problem with all nominally "warm" countries.
When I lived in South Africa I was freezing my ass off every winter. The standard house ventilation system is every room having a hole to the outside near the ceiling.

119:

Ah, I suspect that the tyres we see here are all season tyres.

Having wandered off to find more definitive information about winter tyres in the UK, I came across this article indicating that some insurance companies charge you more if you use winter tyres!.

(To summarise the apparent logic: winter tyres are not standard equipment on British vehicles => having non-standard equipment on your car affects its handling => any change to the handling must be making it worse => winter tyres are less safe. Obviously, one of the steps is wrong ...)

120:

Apropos of nuthin':
"America is about to deploy drones equipped with a surveillance system called Gorgon Stare," from
http://www.economist.com/node/17572232?story_id=17572232

America owes you some Laundry copyright money, methinks.

121:

RE: Winter tyres coping with extended driving and high temperatures.

They wear out quickly. Then you have to buy another set.

122:

That is partly true - winter tyres do have a different composition than summer or all season tyres. However, they also tend to have very different tread patterns - a good pair of winter tyres will shed snow much more effectively than summer tyres.
Here (northern Canada) very few people bother with studded tyres, but winter tyres are very common. Studded tyres tend to lose their studs really fast when there is no snow on the road surface (like right after the plows have cleared the surface)
Having tried driving with all season tyres (when I lived in an apartment with no space to store spare tyres) I can attest to the difference good winter tyres can have in keeping you on the road. I suspect that if snowy winters become common in places like Scotland/Northern England again, you will see services that store spare sets of off-season tyres (and install them when the season changes) for a fee becoming common. That would help solve the problem with lack of storage space our host mentioned.

123:

Elevated maglevs are OK for places with infrequent snow and mild weather that makes everything melt or evaporate a few days later but in Finland or in 99% of Canada the snow and the ice will get in and gum up everything, no matter how much you elevate the track.

Snow doesn't fall vertically. There's always some wind during the snowfall and long after the snowfall too. All those interstices, those electrical junctions will get snow and then water and then ice. The sun comes up, heats up some crucial surfaces just a little bit at midday and then disappears beyond the horizon, leaving "sticky" ice in tiny hard to reach places. And, of course, you'll have sleet now and then in addition to those snowfalls.

It's also just as disastrous for high speed rail. Having an elevated catenary doesn't stop ice from forming. Installing heating elements can work in places with mild winters like Northern Japan or Southern Sweden but it's too costly in places with real winters.

The only solution is a vactrain.

124:

It may be un-British, but my summer back wheels are currently at my tyre fitters and will be until March (not because I have nowhere to put them, but simply because they need new tyres and the guys said "just leave 'em until they're going back on, save the trip"). Of course if everyone was doing it it would be a different matter!

My car is not well-suited to wintery conditions - light, rear-wheel-drive, rear-engine - though even on summer tyres it coped better than my old volvo 940 auto, which was spectacularly useless. I now fit winter tyres from November to early March (in Manchester and Bolton), and they're *well* worth the money - even though, as I work in a school, work would close long before travel got properly difficult.

(And, other than the cost of the set of steel wheels to put them on - not a lot - they don't cost you any more, because when you're running the winters you're not running the summers, and the wear rate seems comparable. If, of course, you have a place to put them :).)

125:

Resistive losses in the static coil systems would allow thorough de-icing over the entire length of a maglev track. It would entail more power consumption than normal operation where the coils are not powered unless a train is in that section of track but effectively the de-icing heaters are in place anyway, unlike normal train track infrastructure.

126:

Maryland, the state north of DC, had 10 crashes on a slippery road today. The state's contractor put out the wrong road prep liquid.

127:

Completely, totally off-topic:
This Item .. does anyone ... have
Any comments?

128:

You don't have to go that much further north from San Antonio to get the ultimate Tex-Mex - Herbert's Grocery and Taco Hut in San Marcos (not New Braunfels) is the real thing. (You may find occasional heathens and heretics online who disagree, but they are doubtless crypto-dieticians or agents in the employ of lesser restaurants.) It's been famous for over 30 years (It came up in my Google toolbar with just "Herbert's G"). It's also famous for its Texas-Monthly award-winning black velvet painting of Jesus and being really cheap. If you're coming all that way there's no point in getting anything but the Herbert's Special.

129:

It would entail a huge power consumption, because the distances are greater here. Those heaters would have to operate way below zero, often at minus forty degrees because of the wind chill factor. Also,we don't have as much population over those distances as they have in the US and Europe. We can't spread the cost of that extra electricity over that many fare-paying riders.

130:

It doesn't take that much power to keep something from icing up or to remove snow overburdens even in the worst of conditions. The killer cost would be installing and maintaining heating elements for the full length of a roadway or a track and with maglev systems that's an intrinsic cost of operation, not an expensive extra. Indeed, for the high-speed maglev track which has been built and operated in the mountains of Japan for over a decade it seems like effective cooling of the track-mounted coils is more of a problem assuming heavy traffic usage.

131:

The prospect of a maglev passenger express running into a snowdrift at 500km/h does not fill me with joy ...

Elevated maglev! With giant lasers to melt the snow ahead!

(Sorry, in a silly mood from marking too many undergrad tests…)

132:

It will be interesting to see how many winters of snow it will take before investment in decent snow defences (trains that work, efficient salt/grit etc) becomes more economical than the loss in trade (hint, I live in london and tube strikes for one day cost the capital tens of millions. snow that disrupts travel for weeks every winter isnt going to be cheap)

Probably many, if the people paying for the snow removal and the people losing money are not the same ones (or don't see that they are the same).

Here in Ontario, we put salt on the roads to prevent ice buildup. It works, but cars rust away in 5-10 years, while out West where I grew up a 10-20 year old car would have no visible corrosion.

There are alternatives to salt, which cause less corrosion and don't hurt the environment as much, but they cost more. They cost less than fixing all the corrosion damage to vehicles, but as the individual pays the cost of that and the municipality would pay the cost of the better salt-substitute the municipalities keep using salt and vehicle owners keep paying for bodywork.

133:

RIGHT
Time to kill this "maglev" rubbish.

We already have an infrastructure for trains, and those trains can travel, out-of-towns, on high-speed lines at up to 400kph, no problem. They can also run ON THE EXISTING TRACKS into the city-centre stations.
Maglev requires an entirely new right-of-way, and into the city centres.
What the US calls "switching" - the pointwork, and route-selection is a LOT harder than conventional flanges-on-the-inside steel wheels and rails. (The same reason "monorails" are a complete waste of time, space, effort and engineering).
The problems are political ones, in deciding whether to bite the bullet (pun intended) and build the things or not, and, of course maintain them properly.

134:

RE: Winter tyres coping with extended driving and high temperatures.

They wear out quickly. Then you have to buy another set.

My winter tires last as long as my summer tires. I put the same driving mix on them (half highway, half urban), and about the same distances.

135:

Resistive losses in the static coil systems would allow thorough de-icing over the entire length of a maglev track. It would entail more power consumption than normal operation where the coils are not powered unless a train is in that section of track but effectively the de-icing heaters are in place anyway, unlike normal train track infrastructure.

Would that work with the Seimens TransRapid system? Their guideway is basically a steel track. They have a stator motor embedded in it, but that seems to be a different part than the steel support/guidance track.

136:

Actually, you can't use such high speed trains on existing tracks. Not unless you close the lines to local trains and freight. Shinkansen and TGVs run on dedicated lines, with no other traffic, which is how they keep the speed up. In Japan, the shinkansen lines going into cities are elevated lines over the existing rail, and this is what we'll have to do if we want fast trains.

The alleged monorail switching problem is a canard put forward by the descendants of people who complained that making wheels round was too hard, and that you'd never be able to make high-pressure steam safe enough to use. Again, I suggest you visit Japan.

137:

@ 132:

Maglev requires an entirely new right-of-way, and into the city centres. What the US calls "switching" - the pointwork, and route-selection is a LOT harder than conventional flanges-on-the-inside steel wheels and rails. (The same reason "monorails" are a complete waste of time, space, effort and engineering).

Why not build them underground? You'd also have a lot less worries about weatherization that way.

138:

Having tried driving with all season tyres (when I lived in an apartment with no space to store spare tyres) I can attest to the difference good winter tyres can have in keeping you on the road.

My own rule is: Summer tyres for summer. Winter tyres for winter. All-season tyres for no season, because they're shite.

In Norway, studded tyres are allowed from 1 November (except in the north where they're allowed from 16 October) till a week after easter (1 May in the north). Though if it gets cold outside that season or you're going somewhere you'll need them, studded tyres will be allowed. I've found studded tyres to be a near necessity on some cars.

139:

It takes extreme engineering to get steel-wheel trains to run at 400kph (which nobody has in production yet) and that doesn't mix well with regular express trainsets since the overhead power feed systems are somewhat different to begin with. To get reliable high-speed trains you need dedicated trackways and extensive maintenance -- the Japanese shinkansen has all its trackwork maintenance done between midnight and six a.m. which is only possible since all the overnight trains, early morning commuters and slow freights run on a completely separate set of tracks. Most shinkansens stations are city-centre, as will be the maglev stations.

The Japanese test maglevs are already running regularly at 500kph -- notice the plural since they have 40km of double-track on the test system and they have run two trains past each other at a closing speed of 1000kph. These are prototypes, yes, but they can achieve that speed any day of the week (with passengers on board) that the engineers care to run them, unlike the French steel-rail recordholder racecar which ripped up the catenary and damaged the track as it still failed to reach the best speed the maglevs have reached (550km/hr).

140:

A large part of the proposed Tokyo-Nagoya maglev route runs through the mountains in tunnel sections, much as the southern part of the Sanyo shinkansen does although that hugs the coast more once it clears the Tokyo-Yokohama conurbation and swings east and south of Mt. Fuji.

141:

But we do use third rail system in the Oslo metro in Norway, but the third rail is not on the ground. It's elevated about a 30 cm off the ground. You can see it as the yellow rail in this image. We rarely have trouble with this part of the system, but we do have other challenges with our metro.

Unfortunately we haven't had much snow yet this year, but we have had 3-4 weeks now, with temperatures below -10 C in Oslo.

142:

Yep, seen those. And you'll note that the conductor on the third rail is on the underside, shielded beneath the yellow weather shield. If I'm not mistaken, they use that design on the Docklands Light Railway in London, and some of the T lines in Boston. It's vastly superior in weather where lots of snow or ice is anticipated, but unfortunately would require major changes to the London Underground and the south-east train network that run on the older type of third rail.

143:

That is climate, this is weather. Science fiction works better if you think about it.

144:

What? It's been around for a long time. It was going to be dropped from a space shuttle, but the official word is that it wasn't economically sound. The scuttlebutt is that the loss of Challenger made them change their mind.

Back when I was consulting, I also did little three-day classes on joining the new standalone word processors to mainframes. The first shuttle, Columbia, launched early in the morning before one of my classes. I invited anybody who wanted to see it to come to my room (and fortunately, they lifted off in time). Almost all the class came, including the foreign students, and we all yelled and celebrated.

145:

I remember that: I was in school, but sixth form, and the launch window coincided with an open period (it was around 11am, if I remember correctly) so I found a multimedia lab with a TV and a few other spectators.

146:

I've wondered a few times whether, if we didn't know about weather for some strange reason (multi-generation ship with massive data loss for example), anyone would ever have imagined something so varied, influential and disruptive.

147:

Feorag @ 136
Sorry, but wrong.
The TGV's etc run on dedicated tracks OUTSDIE city-centres, yes, but run on the same tracks to get into the city-centre termini.
That's the whole point.

Monorial switching is inherently unsafe, even with trailing points.
Conventional rail-switching is inherently safe with trailing points.
Big and important difference.

@ 137 $BIGNUM
That's why
Really silly $BIGNUM

@ 139
400kph = 250 mph
And we are already at 200 / 225 mph.
So, NOT a problem.
[ The French set a new rail speed record, 3 Apr 2007 ... reaching 574.8 km/h (356mph). ]

@ 141/142
Both correct
It is bottom-contact. The "shoe" is spring-loaded to press UP against the underside of the shielded conductor rail.
Very good for urban and metro systems, like DLR, no use for higher speeds.
SR third-rail is top-contact.


148:

I know mostly about Japanese trains, and there, going into the cities, the shinkansen might appear to be sharing track, but they don't (they can't - they run on a different gauge to other Japanese trains!). They have reserved platforms and reserved track even going into major stations. A shinkansen will not be sat waiting outside a main station waiting for a free platform or route into the station. Presumably, if what you say is true, the French TGVs suffer horrendous delays doing the French equivalent of being stuck just outside York station.

But, as your monorail assertion is purest bollocks, unsourced and unsubstantiated, I will assume your TGV one is too.

All of the monorail accidents I can think of (apart from the Wuppertal elephant incident) have been signalling and/or maintenance issues, something that affects all railway type transport. The only fatal maglev accident was a case of the Germans assuming procedures would be followed, and making no provision for the unthinkable (that procedures would not be followed). And ultimately, the procedures were related to signalling.

Meanwhile, the number of accidents caused when a train fails to negotiate the points is substantial. And trams are particularly dodgy in this respect, though it mostly leads to inconvenience rather than injury due to the low speeds at which trams must switch.

149:

We used to know how to run trains in winter in Finland (and Sweden, and Russia), but then we tried to be modern and broke everything. Old trains 1) went slower 2) had far greater undercarriage tolerances 3) used the same wheel surface for carrying the weight and braking 4) and additionally we had lots of people working the stations so they could bodily force the blocked-by-ice points when (not if) they got stuck by ice.

At least we didn't get rid of the overhead wires. Granted, the arc of a fast-approaching pantograph can be a wonder to see in great cold and pitch-black darkness, but with sufficiently expensive machinery the unevenness it causes in the incoming voltage can be smoothed out sufficiently so that the engines don't explode.

With sufficient amount of road-clearing equipment (something to the order of 50 euros per year per citizen, I hear), the roads are mostly ok, the greatest problem for land transportation is the one-in-a-thousand idiot who really shouldn't drive even in the summer, let alone winter.

150:

TGVs often run on beyond the end of the LGV on conventional tracks. For example, I took one to Toulouse; this shouldn't be possible if they weren't compatible with the existing trackage.

151:

Feirag.
I meet professiuonal raliway engineers almost evert week.
I know what I'm talking about, so it's not bollocks.
Yes, most Japanese trains are 3'6" gauge, whereas Shinkansen are 4'8.5" gauge.
However, TGV, and ICE and Thalys are standard-gauge, and run into normal stations, like: Parig G.de Nord, Brussel Midi, Köln Hbf, etc ad nauseam.
Please THINK about rail track (NOT the defunct company - shudder) and how it is switched, and why the change eas made form "Tramrail" (old-style, 5' gaugr, flanges on the outside and flat wheels) to current rail (flanges on the wheels, running on the inside).
Monorails are showy, very expensive, and, compared to normal rail, hopelessly impractical.

For "substantial" numbers of accidents" I suspect you have a very false view - try looking up the RAIB website.

152:

Read my other comments, will you? I'm not going to explain twice.

At any rate, you're a perfect example of why I'm becoming fed up with the issue. Namely, it isn't the issue, it's the people. Replacing arguments with insults is ever so common.

153:

@ 151
Apologies for the horrible typos!

154:

Yes, the conversation changed from global "warming" to global "climate change" almost overnight, but it would be great to put an exact date on it. Call it one of those "singularities"...

155:

@151 Greg.Tingey

Trailing conventional points are inherently safe? Do you mean that you can safely pass through them when they are set against you if they are spring-loaded and you are going slowly enough? I think most point-related risk to life comes from passenger services crossing points at high speed, on main lines where points will lock in position and not be sprung-loaded (see http://www.irseexam.co.uk/showthread.php?tid=360 ), and so trailing through holds a risk of catastrophic derailment. And that still leaves the question of facing points. I conceded that you are more likely to get away with it on trailing conventional points, but 'less dangerous' isn't 'safe'. It is the interlocking, signalling, driving and (hopefully) ATP that make all kinds of railways safe.

Also, when someone rejects your argument by assertion, expanding your explanation and/or supporting it with references will get you further than patronisingly asserting your authority. I think you have more to apologise for than the spelling of comment 151.

156:

It's been climate change all along except to the simple-minded. Hadn't you noticed?

157:

Thomas, did you actually read Greg's posting before going off on a rant about the safety of turnouts? I did, twice, and the closest he comes to mentioning the safety of trailing turnouts (never mind leading) is to refer the reader to the RAIB website. If you don't know what the acronym means, you're not qualified to comment on the subject.

His main point was about the change from early tramway systems where the rolling stock was guided either by flanges on the permanent way inside the wheels, or by flanges on the wheels bearing on the outside of the rails, to the present system where the wheel flanges occasionally touch the insides of the rails (again, if this needs further explanation, you're not qualified to comment further).

158:

As far as my experience goes, the TGVs running into Switzerland are (once out of France) running on the same track as normal trains. I have on occasion boarded 'the next train at platform 4' at Basel station to go to Zurich, and been mildly surprised to have a TGV stop rather than a Pendolino.

What TGVs don't do is to travel very fast on those tracks. The quickest trains between Basel and Zurich are not (last time I checked) the TGVs, because the Pendolinos make much better speed on those lines. TGVs are built for straight line speed, and really hate bends.

Indeed, the TGV from Brig (almost on the Italian border) to Paris has to cross the Franco-Swiss border on such winding tracks that sitting at the back of the train, you can look out and see the front of the train to your left. Understandably, it only really starts accelerating once it's well into France.

And that is of course the point - the TGV and the LGV are the necessary pairing. On non-dedicated tracks, TGVs are not particularly fast. And for historical reasons, building dedicated lines into towns and cities is usually too expensive. One case in the UK where it has been done is the new HS1 line, though that tops out in the 300 kph range (not 400).

Yon Japanese Shinkansen may indeed run all the way in to city centres on dedicated track. But that cost a fortune to build, and may have been some of the reason why the Japanese railway system went so spectacularly bust.

159:

Yes, the French racecar train set that record, once and never again since. The Japanese test maglev set an new rail-vehicle record of 587kph in October this year using a three-car trainset and carrying passengers. The proposed Tokyo-Nagoya maglev will run at 550kph in service but that is only the start with even higher speeds expected as the technology matures.

What is the plan to get passenger-carrying steel-wheel trains over the 700kph speed barrier? 800kph? The maglev engineers are seriously considering the problems of going at supersonic speeds in the future (1100kph plus), something the steel-wheel train engineers can't even conceive of.

160:

I'm not doubting your word about what the Maglev guys want to do, but have they said anything about how they plan on dealing with supersonic pressure wave effects on their permanent way, or supersonic overpressure events on real estate near their permanent way?

161:

The Japanese test maglev has side-by-side tracks and they've already run two trains past each other at over 1000kph closing speed (another world record for track-running vehicles). The maglev track design they use is a U-shaped concrete-walled roadway with the propulsion coils mounted vertically on the inner sides. This means a lot of the shockwave effects are channeled and don't propagate outside the track.

There are sections of the regular shinkansen track that run very close to houses in places where the trains are travellinging at 250-300kph; in those locations the track is separated from the housing by solid blast walls. I'd expect any maglev system to have the same sort of protective barriers in place. It's worth noting tha the proposed Chuo maglev route is planned to run mostly through the mountains between Tokyo and Nagoya, a sparsely-populated area and which will require substantial tunneling anyway.

As for dealing with supersonic speeds, they have't got a solution yet but it's something they're thinking about for the far future (2050 or so). It's basically impossible for steel-wheel trains to get anywhere near that sort of speed, of course.

162:

That will all help sure, right up until they get the wrond type of drought, rain or snow, and flood or infill the permanent way. ;-)

1000kph passing speed will cause some interesting inter-unit suction or vacumn events sure, but they've clearly handled those. Supersonic overpressure is a whole different breed of cats though. In clear air, this can propagate for 10 miles around the vehicle, and evidence from Thrust SSC suggests that the overpressure may be heard 5 to 10 miles away, but not neared, in certain circumstances. (others, not least Charlie, should be able to confirm this)

I'm not trolling; I just think there's an unaddressed herd of elephants in the room of "Mach 1 trains".

163:

@157 paws4thot
I was replying to the back-and-forth between Feòrag and Greg.Tingey. Post 151 was the latest in the sequence, but it was in post 147 that he claimed there was an insurmountable difference between the safety of conventional and monorail systems. Sorry that wasn't clear.

Also, i concede that so-far i've only managed to google low-speed derailments caused by trains trailing through points set against them, but i think my argument still stands. (Perhaps the frangible links fail more reliably at higher speeds?)

Yes, i am familiar with the RAIB. Do you have any arguments that aren't appeals to authority or ad-hominem attacks?

164:

Derailing at a trailing point could be unpleasant, but not nearly as bad as a facing.
Two nasty crashes in recent years have been caused, secondarily, by a train becoming derailed at high spped, because of illegal and unathorised track obstructions.
Both trains then continued, upright but decelerating hard (the auto-brakes came full-emergency/ON in both cases), until they hit a set of facing points.
In one case (Upton Nervett) the HST turned over, and in the second (Great Heck) it was diverted into the path of an oncoming heavy freight.
However, with any sort of monorail, and a point set NOT the way you want to run means a BLEEDING BIG HOLE - oops - clang, squish.
I appreciate what the Jap maglev people are doing,, but I don't think the game is worth the candle, not when you can get up to (at least) 400kph - and certainly 350, with "conventional" means, and much more cheaply.
Believe me, although I have never worked full-time in the rail industry (and not for want of trying) I do know what I'm talking about - and my own highest qualification is in engineering.
Come on, we regularly have 235kph in this country, on normal tracks, TGV/ICE go considerably faster, when on their LGV/Nebaustrecken, and even here, there are sections of the ex- GNR, NER, GWR main lines where 250 kph would be regularly possible with a change in the signalling software and 5 (or 6) aspects ....

The problem with "monorails" is: $SHINY! $NEW! $ELEVENTY!
No-one pays any attention to practicalities, except, of course, the engineers.
Then the politicians come along, listen to the lawyers and publicists and ...
If you really want some total disasters of this sort:
1] The Cambridge guided busway, late, over-budget, will deliver buses slower than the trains that ran in 1923 - I kid you not.
2] One Charlie is horribly familiar with: Edinburgh Trams. A really brilliant revival-idea - now as far as I can tell, the politicans and the contractors started quarrelling almost as soon as the first trench was dig, so $BIGNUM has been spent on the lawyers, whilst the engineering has gone completely to pot.
I don't know too much about this one, actually, but I'm sure Charlie will enlighten us!
3] Railtrack - who had NO ENGINEERS on their board ...
4] And, if you really want a horse-laugh read ...
THIS enlightening report paying particular attention to second sentence, third bullet-poin of Para.4.2.5
Hysterical - AND released by a tory administration ....

You couldn't make it up!

165:

Greg, the Edinburgh trams fell victim to three problems:

a) A fixed-price contract in Sterling awarded to a German contractor (paying their overheads in Euros). Graph Sterling against the Euro over the past decade and the problem will leap out at you: bluntly, the contractor is being horribly squeezed by the strength of their home currency. The agreement was signed in mid-2006. Back then, a dollar bought you €0.80; today it buys €0.67. Assuming Sterling shadows the dollar (cough, splutter: alas, I don't have a sterling/euro exchange rate history to refer to), I make that around a 16% drop in the Euro value of the contract. Which has got to hurt.

b) When you're installing a new light rail network, it's necessary to move sewers, gas, electric, phone and TV cables out from under the tracks, lest any subsequent requirement for digging a hole in the ground shut down the entire rail network. After Edinburgh ripped its old trams out in the 1950s, nobody bothered to keep a comprehensive record of where all the in-ground infrastructure was going. Result: they budgeted for exploratory digs and then relocation of 26Km of buried utilities. Unfortunately, last I read they'd had to move 39,000 metres of underground obstacles. This isn't the contractor's fault, but it means they're 50% over budget on a critical path section of the project while under pressure (fixed price contract, remember) by a budget that has depreciated 10-20% since the contracts were signed.

c) Add a change in the Scottish government since the contract was signed, a change in the British government -- in both cases, kicking out the party who signed the contract and replacing them in power with hostile rivals -- and then add an austerity program on top. Season with lawsuits and stir.

Speaking as an Edinburgh native who's been to cities with tram networks similar to the Edinburgh Trams, I'd love to see the complete Phase 3 network running. Alas, getting even as far as Phase 1A is proving to be no fun at all ...

166:

It strikes me that the current snowpocalypse in central SCotland will provide useful information regarding the flexibility and resilience of just in time systems, especially those related to food delivery. And the dangers of budget squeezes in the face of an unpredictable future...

167:

Charlie @ 165
As I thought, but even worse .....

168:

Update:
Trains are running from Edinburgh & Glasgow, with reduced frequencies (mostly - not via Shotts, whihch isn't suprising, given the open climb on that route) ...
Meanwhile, the M8, the main Ed-Glas road is still shut.
Oops.

169:

"Why not build them underground? You'd also have a lot less worries about weatherization that way."

I was talking to an architect the other day about building parking for cars. $10K per car on the ground. $20K per car if you go up. $30K per car if you go down. And this is in a moderately sized US urban area where you also own the dirt with nothing in the way.

Building high speed rail under existing "things" has got to have at a minimum similar or more likely much higher ratio in major urban areas.

Here in our area of about 1.5 mil people withing a 45 minute drive there was a drive to implement a light rail system about 10 years ago. Maybe not a bad idea but the problem was the chartered group that was formed became fixed on the idea of "rail" instead of the idea of moving people better. Part of the plan to to use existing right of ways to "save" money on land costs. Over time this moved the requirements from light rail to heavy raid due to a lot of issue. Then heavy rail introduced another huge set of issues related to track placement, turning radius, grades, etc... Which changes a lot of the station / stops from high priced bus stops into huge rail stations. And this also led to issues of huge cuts into the earth to have stations meet the tracks at grade which introduced huge ADA handicapped access issues and as Charlie related earlier huge increases in budgets for relocation of KNOWN underground utilities, much less the allowance for the unknown ones.

Anyway, what started out as a $150mil plan to move people around better turned into a $750mil and growing rail system that got killed due to the ever expanding budget. Of course the killing came after spending something like $50 mil on land costs, business relocation, platform designs, etc... So now we have a local transportation authority with lots of empty buildings, a non trivial amount of land, some really nice designs for stops, etc... and no real plan to what to do next. Oh, yeah there's that prototype rail car they also own.

This stuff always costs way more than the initial supports claim. Way more. Not that it may not be a good thing but when will reality ever set in.

170:

One thing I'm reminded of: the British Standard for diesel fuel specifies the maximum temperature at which wax will precipitate out, and clog the fuel filters.

For the summer grade, up until October, this temperature is -5C.

Winter grade fuel has the maximum set at -15C.

In continental Europe, there's a different standard, with a low winter temperature.

Monday night the temperature in North Lincolnshire was down at those levels, and the bus system on Tuesday morning collapsed.


You can reduce this critical temperature by adding kerosene to diesel fuel, but in the UK it's illegal/impractical because of excise duty regulations. Farmers can do it, because agricultural machinery can run on untaxed diesel. There are ways of recording this use and paying the duty--it's part of the hassle around recycling waste cooking oil--but kerosene will leave detectable marker dyes in the fuel system, and HMRC regularly checks for this form of tax evasion.

100% biodiesel, apparently, is a summer-grade fuel. Urban buses will often use it, but it needs to be blended with mineral diesel in winter. And that will cut into any temperature margin.


171:

Consider #157 withdrawn then as it relates to your knowledge Thomas.

172:

@ 160
"This stuff always costs way more than the initial supports claim. Way more. Not that it may not be a good thing but when will reality ever set in."
NOT EVEN WRONG

Seriously...
Croydon Tramlink was built in time, fractionally over-budget (inflation) and was a roaring success from day one.
Ditto Manchester's expanding tram system.
Etc ad nauseam, as they say.
It doesn't have to be that way.
BUT you need professional engineers and planners, and they must be able to, and allowed to get a grip.

And... "moving people better" ... We've already had this discussion, and the answer is a rail-borne system of some sort.
Nothing else works.
Just because your (wherever you are in the USA) so-called planners got screwed, doesn't mean that everyone else's proven solutions are wrong.

It's like "monorails" - the idea pops up every 20 years or so (right back to about 1820, believe it or not!) but, except in very special circumstances [1] they just don't work. Why do you think "conventional" rail works so well - it isn't "vested interests" you know, there are good engineering reasons for their success.

@ 170
Also, if you haven't changed your diesel fuel-filter recently, they can wax up.
Giving symptoms similar to carburettor-icing on a petrol-driven vehicle, if you are lucky. If unlucky, then no go at all ....

[1] A single route, no branchings, ONE depot, with very carefully-controlled entry and exit to that depot, and NO PASSENGERS around, there, either.
The Wuppertal Shwebebahn fulfills those requirements.
So will a single, simple out-and-back "airport loop". Otherwise, just forget it.

173:

One issue that was bound to cause Edinburgh headaches was that there are something like 22 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the city, and more than 10% of it is Grade One or Grade Two listed. And the Old Town and New Town are dense. In and of itself, that puts huge constraints on where and how you can run transit routes through the city centre -- and if you don't run them into the city centre, what's the point of having them?

(The city centre is the UK's #2 tourist destination after central London, and has both the main line railway stations and the bus station; failure to run the trams right into the centre to hook up with those other transport terminals would obviate 90% of the system's utility.)

174:

Thought on the subject of monrail track switching reliability and speed.

Can anyone come up with a monorail that has a usage pattern like the "North Clyde Electrics" around Hyndland and Partick stations? The tracks in this area consist of a single line in each direction between those 2 stations, with a split onto one of 2 routes just West of Hyndland, and just East of Partick. During peak hours Monday to Friday, this section of track carries about 20 services per hour each way, roughly half of them coming off each of the 2 routes into the section in turn, and roughly half taking each of the 2 routes out of the section in turn. This means that one leading and one trailing turnout is being switched about once every 3 minutes so you'd need a fast and near as d@rnit 100% reliable switching system to make it work.

175:

The Edinburgh tram route is not going anywhere near the main railway station in Edinburgh. I think that decision was made to avoid causing even more traffic jams across the junction at the foot of the Bridges i.e. the picture at the top of this posting, coincidentally. It's always busy during the day and having a long three-car tram cross that junction at 20mph maximum speed was going to delay even more vehicles turning to go up the Bridges. It's an A-road, the main route south from the city centre so it's always going to be carrying a lot of cars, trucks, buses, cyclists etc.

Thee's only going to be one tram stop planned in Princes Street, about halfway down it as the three-car tramsets are so long (60 seats and 180 people standing) there isn't space in the street for more than one stop. Buses have two or three stops interleaved along Princes St. but some of them will have to be removed to make space for the tramstop.

176:

Or rather it's going ALMOST to Waverley, then switches through the New Town to go past the ... Bus station.
I didn't realise - what idiot thouhght of that one?
I suppose that a stop by Haymarket is a relief, under the circumstances!

@ 174
No
What's more, it could not be done.
Never mind a "monorail" through-and-terminus main station, like London Bridge, or Waverley or Machester London Road (called "Piccadilly" these days) or Amiens Street (Dublin)

177:

As I explained they couldn't take the tram line up to the north end of the Bridges because of the devastating impact it would have on the A-road traffic crossing at that junction. There's also a major reconstruction of the St. James Centre planned in the next decade or so that could have shut the tramline for years just after it opened if it ran directly up the hill from Leith Walk.

The trams are too long to put a tramstop close to Waverley station as it would block the road junction on the west side of the station and the Gardens so the planned stop is much further along Princes Street from the station. It might actually be easier for a lot of people to get a bus from the station to the tram stop.

As for Haymarket station, my flat overlooks the deserted worksite for the tramline. I've not seen anything happening there for a couple of weeks now, from before the snowfall. The fallback plan that no-one in power seems to be working on is that the line will eventually operate from Haymarket to the airport and later when more funds are available (if ever) the rest of the line into the city centre and down through Leith to the deseeted yuppie wastelands of Ocean Terminal will be implemented.

178:

#175 thro 177 - So, in plain English, the whole point of letting the Scots Parliament get to Waverley and Turnhouse by public transport without changing en route jus isn't going to happen! ;-)

179:

Your blog, your beliefs...

But be careful, there's another game-changer out there ready to pounce...

http://www.bbc.co.uk/sn/tvradio/programmes/horizon/dimming_trans.shtml

That's right, global dimming...

180:

"And... "moving people better" ... We've already had this discussion, and the answer is a rail-borne system of some sort. Nothing else works."

Yes, I'm USA based so that bias is present.

Sorry but I meant to include a note that some politicians visited Portland's dedicated bus way system and wanted to push for that but the "rail is the way to go" crowd was not to be swayed. As some of us said they wanted to build a railroad more than they wanted to solve a problem in moving people. A system like Portland's really simplifies a lot of issues with right of way and vehicle costs. And yes it also introduces more but most of the overruns here were due to issues of passenger tracks next to freight and grade and turning radius issues with heavy steel wheels.

As to the cost overrun issues, that is also almost a given over here in the USA. Maybe in Europe you do some projects like this on budget but over here since these are SO political over promising and under funding seems a basic requirement.

As to the comment:
"NOT EVEN WRONG"
not sure I get the idiom or what.

181:

David L @ 180
The "cost-over-run for a PUBLIC project" meme is prevalent here.
But it isn't true, or not nearly all the time.
Usually, ther closer the engineers are to the controls, the less likely it is to be over budget.
The moment you let the politicians and LAWYERS near it - once you'e made the correct decision in the first place of course, then the more likely you are to have expensive screw-ups.
In the UK IT projects are notorious for this.

"not even wrong" is a quote from, I think, Enrico Fermi ....

182:

Actually it was Pauli who said it first.
To expand upon the iT project thing, as far as I know it was basically setting out to do the very very difficult, and they kept changing the spec, so naturally everything got more expensive, plust the IT companies saw the opportunity for making large amounts of cash and took it.

183:

As I recall a part of the cost overrun for the Portland Westside light rail was that they insisted on using a boring machine for drilling the tunnels through the hills and had serious problems with the machine. Of course the choice of route, and choice of a tunnel rather than surface for that route were political, and probably one cause of the lower ridership than originally projected. Ain't politics grand?

184:

It looks realllllllllllly cold there! I live in Edinburg, Tx...not quite the same weather :/

185:

Checked.

186:

The prevailing climate theory predicts that the Arctic will be most affected by global warming. The prediction has been confirmed by the observations. The effect of GW on the Arctic is that there is now more open water. Without sea ice acting as an insulator, the heat contained in the water is transferred to the atmosphere above it. High pressure that used to be centered over the pole is now offset so that it now is centered over Greenland and is being called the "Greenland High" or "Greenland Block". This high deflects the jet stream southward creating huge dips that allow polar air to come streaming south. This new jet stream pattern also blocks tropical air from coming north.

The North Atlantic Drift is still in operation but the air it is encountering is very cold. Air associated with the Drift is forced high over the cold, heavy arctic air and precipitation results. This happens in the British Isles but commonly results in rain but because there is much more cold polar air the precipitation falls as snow.

This weather (snow) pattern occurred last year as well yet the global mean temperature is still at its highest recorded level despite a cooling El Nina setting in. We could be in for a persistent change of weather for years to come due to GW creating more open water in the arctic. If it this pattern persists for 30 years or so then we will have measurable climate change. That is to say, climate change due to global warming.

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This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on December 2, 2010 11:45 AM.

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