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Brits are bravely battling the worst snow since…
…er, last year. And the previous year saw the country grind to a standstill because of snow, too. In Scotland, the transport secretary fell on his cold-weather sword when the Scottish media piled on the pressure.
So far, Philip Hammond, the Westminster transport secretary, has retained the confidence of the PM. But this could change when the current flurry of news stories about Brits potentially missing Christmas get-togethers becomes a reality on 25th December.
Of course, Hammond is not a weather god, he can’t prevent the snow and it’s true that much of Europe - even in cities used to snowfall - is also paralysed.
But Hammond isn’t playing well to the media. He is not a happy snow-bunny and is coming across as increasingly grumpy in the TV interviews he’s being forced to do.
In one interview the other day he said the UK would have to evaluate whether to spend more money on “winter resilience” but that if such a course was necessary cuts would have to come from elsewhere.
Can I make a suggestion where these cuts could come from? How about scrapping the £300m to be gifted to rich car buyers, plumping for electric cars? After all, electric cars aren’t terribly good in cold weather. Turn on the heater and they massively reduce their range.
If somebody can splash £28,000 on an electric car it’s clear they’re loaded so why give them £5000 sweeteners to buy yet another car?
Of course, the reason the Government is giving wealthy middle class motorists such fat grants is because it promised car manufacturers it would subsidise electric car uptake. Nissan wouldn’t have placed production of the LEAF electric car in Sunderland if the UK government hadn’t made this promise.
But here’s a compromise. How about the £5000 grants only go to those car buyers who can show the electric car they’re buying will be their only car?
Naturally, this would lead to almost zero take-up. Those buying e-cars will be buying them as city runarounds and would recoil in horror at having to rely solely on an electric car, for long journeys as well as short. ‘Range anxiety’ exists, hence the need to offer subsidies. Subsidised e-cars will soon add to city congestion, curing nothing except shifting emissions elsewhere.
My beef isn’t with electric cars per se. I quite like them really, but they’re no panacea and yet they are portrayed as such. They are slightly greener than oil-dependent cars but coal-powered cars still take up same space as standard cars and putting more of them on the streets will do bugger all for congestion. For cities, we need more bikes, not more cars.
In the US, the buyer of the first Nissan LEAF traded in his electric bike for the electric car. This is a bad sign.
Subsidising motorists to add to congestion is not bright. Sadly, throwing £300m at rich motorists after abolishing Cycling England to save £200,000 a year, is not something that will bring down Hammond.
So, let’s hope snowfall - and missed Christmases - does the job instead. Hammond is a car-centric transport secretary (he’s no convert to trains, despite his HS2 announcements) and he needs to go, to be replaced with somebody who actually wants the job and who can see beyond a windscreen view of the world.