Snow patrol apps and other cool ideas to avoid snow chaos

Snow season is upon us, and that can only mean one thing in the UK: travel chaos, right?

We're seldom sufficiently prepared in the UK because, we're often told, it simply doesn't snow enough. But grinding to a halt due to dropping temperatures seems to now be an annual event in the UK.

So, what lessons can we learn from snowy nations around the world that might help us cope better?


Trains in the UK are unreliable enough at the best of times, but when it snows, cancellations anger thousands of commuters. We’re not alone in this - the French regional network has been known to shut down entirely with even the smallest bit of snow.

Countries such as Sweden have a fix for this though: they heat the railway tracks so the snow melts right off them. Parts of the UK railway network does this too, but it’s not been rolled nationwide yet.

Snow on the train tracks in London
Snow may look pretty, but it can cause untold amounts of disruption.


A snowplough in Canada
This is a snowplough clearing the streets of Quebec city - big beasts, aren't they?

In Canada, annual snowfall can be over 200cm in some areas. So, as you might expect, the snow removal operation is very finely tuned. Snowploughs and gritters patrol streets two or three times over some days with great precision, but for roads with more housing, parked cars can get in the plough’s path.

In the 21st century however, this is no problem. Some cities such as Montreal provide apps that show you where the ploughs are patrolling in real-time, as well as giving suggestions as to where you could move your car. Nifty.


Snow chains on a car tyre
Snow chains are not only necessary safety equipment in Germany, they make pretty patterns, too.

One main source of havoc in snowy weather is accidents on the roads. This is why in Germany (and some other countries) it is actually compulsory to use winter tyres in the snow, or snow chains where tyres aren’t available.

You could even be fined and have your insurance affected if you don’t comply with these regulations, so it’s worth bearing in mind if you ever visit in the winter months.


A geysir erupting in Iceland
Hot springs and geysers such as this one are where Iceland gets the hot water to heat their pavements.

Iceland has a novel and environmentally friendly solution to the almost constant snow they get at certain times of the year, and that’s using water from their geothermal springs to heat the pavements.

Granted, the UK doesn’t have volcanoes with hot springs to use as heaters, but maybe there’s something in the idea?


An airport runway in snow and fog
Pilots can land in bad weather thanks to GPS - it's moving around on the ground that's the issue.

No one likes to have their holiday delayed, and at this time of year when it’s not drones that are causing mayhem for aeroplane pilots, it’s snow.

To avoid grounding planes some US airports such as in Des Moines, Iowa, heat the tarmac to prevent snow from sticking. Authorities at Heathrow airport in London have spent £36 million since 2010 on snow-clearing kit to prevent massive financial losses that snow can bring, and they have even employed weather experts from the Met Office. Perhaps other UK airports could follow suit in future.

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