Britain Tallies Up Cost Of Huge Snowstorm

Britain's capital cleared the soggy remnants of a paralyzing snowstorm as businesses on Tuesday counted the multibillion-dollar cost.

An estimated 6 million people skipped work Monday when the largest snowstorm to hit London in 18 years stopped bus and subway services, grounded airliners and hobbled businesses.

The Federation of Small Businesses said the cost to Britain's economy through lost productivity could be as high as 3 billion pounds ($4.3 billion).

Transportation officials, business leaders and local authorities accused one another of failing to prepare for the long-predicted storm that crippled Britain's transport network by dropping more than four inches of snow in London overnight Sunday, and another four inches Monday.

"We can't change nature and if nature does this to us we have a problem," said John Ransford, chief executive of Britain's Local Government Association, which represents the small district and town councils largely responsible for keeping roads and sidewalks clear.

London Mayor Boris Johnson said many of the city's authorities simply didn't have enough snow plows to deal with the downfall. In the borough of Hammersmith and Fulham, the local authority said it had no plows and only two machines to salt roads.

Lawmakers who sit on London's assembly said they have called transport officials to a meeting at the capital's City Hall next week to explain whether more could have been done to prevent disruption.

(AP)
(An underground train arrives in a snowed-up station in London, Monday, Feb. 2, 2009.)

"One of the world's biggest economies should not be grinding to a halt," said Stephen Alambritis of the Federation of Small Businesses.

Most airports, bus routes and subway lines in London were working as normal on Tuesday, but more than 1,000 British schools remained closed and thousands of workers were staying home for a second day.

The Association of British Insurers said that car accidents on Britain's icy highways surged on Monday, with claims for damage running 30 percent higher than usual.

Johnson, who commutes by bicycle, said even he'd suffered a wobble on the glassy stretches of roads around the capital.

In the southwestern city of Bristol, zookeepers said a group of lion-tailed macaque monkeys were spotted making and eating snowballs. Police in Wales scolded children after officers fielded double the usual number of complaint calls - most from adults complaining about young people hurling snowballs.

David Frost, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, said few people raised in the freezing British winters of the 1960s and 1970s could understand the failure to prepare, despite days of warning that heavy snow was likely.

(AP)
(The London Eye is seen behind footprints on a snow-covered field in central London, Sunday, Feb. 1, 2009.)

"It was hardly a surprise when we pulled back the curtains yesterday morning," Frost told The Associated Press. "But, I think that there is a complacency because we're told that we'll have steadily rising temperatures as a result of climate change."

"Those in authority need to be more open to the fact that we'll still get heavy snow falls, too," he said.

Many Londoners noted that bus services had continued through World War II and paused only for about an hour during the city's 2005 terrorist attack, when four suicide bombers killed 52 commuters on the transit network.

Some suggested that British workers had set a poor example for the nation's children. Young Britons may become adults who think that "when things get difficult you should just stay at home and have fun," said Margaret Morrissey, of the parenting lobby group Parents Outloud.