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Dave Woodhall on how a city with fully developed emergency plans to deal with a terrorist attack can't handle a drop of snow.

How was it for you? What's your tale of bravery above and beyond the call of duty? Three hours to travel seven miles on a bus? Six hours to get ten miles by car? Or maybe you walked, hiking a couple of miles through the snow and ice.

Sorry for the obvious sarcasm, but it's all a bit ridiculous. We had a bit of snow. It had been announced in advance. Everyone knew it was coming. Wednesday night's Birmingham Mail stated that they hoped the city would cope. Well not only did the city fail to cope, it surrendered.

Let's be honest; this wasn't some sort of freak Arctic blast. It wasn't even the combination of circumstances such as the one that caused such chaos in 2004. In the early hours of Thursday morning we had three or four inches of snow. Maybe another inch later on Thursday. There was a decent thaw overnight, then a couple more inches on Friday afternoon.

At no time was there more than about four inches of snow on the ground anywhere in the city. And Birmingham couldn't handle it.

I can remember going back no more than, say, 25 years, when this sort of weather happened two or three times every winter. I can remember temperatures of minus twenty in 1982, a foot of snow in late February 1985 and the whiteout of December 1990, when we had almost 24 hours solid blizzard.

Back then, in those primitive, near-prehistoric times before the internet and satellite weather forecasts were available to all, we coped. We set out for work a bit earlier, got there a bit later and left an hour earlier than usual. The trains were delayed, a few buses were cancelled, but things were otherwise smoothly running.

Now, with a couple of decades of improved technology, we didn't have a clue. Schools were closed for days, in some cases before so much as a flake of snow had fallen. Traffic was at a standstill. And most ridiculous of all, the buses were cancelled.

At about ten o'clock on Friday night I went for a walk along a main road. There was a bit of slush in the gutters, but most of the road was perfectly clear. Traffic was moving freely, albeit a bit slower than it would have normally. And not one bus could be seen.

Why could every other type of vehicle drive down an A road in safety, but not one of West Midlands' Transport's fine, sleek new fleet? I'd be very interested to hear Phil ‘We make millions a year but we can't be bothered giving you ten pence change' Bateman's answer to that one.

You can't turn on the news lately without politicians and senior police officers talking about the threat of terrorism. Terrorists are apparently the biggest threat to disruption of our daily lives. If there are any terrorist cells in Birmingham, they needn't bother with bombs; they should just phone the Mail and tell them it's going to snow. That's guaranteed to disrupt everyone.

God help the city if we ever have a real problem.


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