Thursday, 2 December 2010

An Education Minister of Very Little Brain

"I am a Bear of Very Little Brain, and long words bother me."(AA Milne, Winnie the Pooh)

Education minister questions need for school closure

Jersey's education minister has questioned why schools had to close in the wintry weather. Deputy James Reed said it was ironic the government was deciding on a transport policy at the same time schools were shutting early. He urged the transport minister to look into why more provision is not available for school transport. The minister said it was a poor indictment of Jersey if everything closes every time it snows.(1)

The Education minister may not understand this, but if the bus company, Connex, decides conditions are too hazardous for buses on roads, they will not run the school bus service. As quite a significant proportion of children now catch the bus - the St Lawrence bus often has pupils standing on its journey - if the buses don't run, the only way children can get home, especially to outlying districts, is if either parents pick them up - more cars on the road - or they walk home. Now the reason why they catch the bus in the first place, and don't walk, is that they don't actually live that close to the school, a fact which may have escaped the Minister.

If we lived in Canada, for example, where there is thick snow, and it remains thick, cars and buses would be using snow chains. But these - for buses - are heavy, take time to put on, and damage the road surface if the snow melts. In Canada, snow stays, so they get around in it. Here, it comes and goes. That goes for snow chains on other vehicles as well:

Theoretically snow chains on summer tyres can be used as an alternative to winter tyres where the entire road is heavily covered with snow and no damage to the road is caused by the snow chain. (2)

The AA site -which covers European driving in snow - also notes that "snow chains may not be used in slushy/icy conditions" - in other words, like those prevailing for part of yesterday in Jersey. It also notes that:

In any country snow chains may only be used where there's sufficient snow covering to avoid any possibility of damage to the road surface. A fine may be imposed if damage is caused. (3)

and the eHow site also notes:

You may only fit your vehicle with snow chains if the road is snowed under, regardless of the time of the year. It may sound like a statement of the obvious, but remember that it means you must remove the chains once you reach a road whose surface has been cleared. The reason is that snow chains damage the asphalt.

But of course, this doesn't stop the Daily mail from asking "Why we are the laughing stock of the world", and noting that:

"Each October in Switzerland, everyone replaces summer tyres with thick-tread winter ones or covers them in chains."

And every year, some one - with cotton wool for brains - will still be asking: why do the schools close so early.

"If the person you are talking to doesn't appear to be listening, be patient. It may simply be that he has a small piece of fluff in his ear."
(A.A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh)



Anonymous said...

I was in Canada a few years ago and observed how efficient the school buses were during the heavy snow. One was also responsible to clear the snow from the pavement outside ones home. The council had crews going around later in the morning clearing any pavements and a bill was sent to those who had not cleared the snow in time. The sense of community was amazing. Many neighbors joined together and cleared the snow for the elderly and infirm before going to work.

Anonymous said...

A minister of very little brain but an intellectual giant in St Ouen I hear.

TonyTheProf said...

Daniel Wimberley said:

The issue is not snow chains. The issue is that it is TTS's DUTY in my book to keep the main roads functioning. That means the bus network should also be able to function. That means people can get to work and to school and even to their day out with friends.

It is crazy that there should be this question every time it snows. If you compare the lost economic activity due to people being unable to get to work with the cost of gritting the roads, it is no contest.

Of course for "handbag economists" we may not be "able to afford it". But for those of us who live in the real world we are able to do the sums and we realize that under our existing economic framework it pays to keep those roads gritted. And whatever the framework it is difficult to avoid thinking that in the finance Industry clients will hardly take kindly to being kept wafting for a day, "because it is snowing here"

A perfect case study to show that public expenditure supports the economy, rather than, as the Chamber of Commerce and the Small Society would have us believe, acts as a brake on the economy.