Cold comfort

BRITONS normally spend the last week before Christmas scouring the high street for whichever electrical item happens to be the year's "must-have" present. Over the next few days, however, they are less likely to be after a flash television or a super-fast computer than that more basic requirement: a shovel.

It underlines how underprepared the country remains for snow and extremely harsh weather. Although travellers, including many from Yorkshire, faced a miserable wait at London's major airports, operator BAA is only one of many large businesses to be caught out cold by the drop in temperatures.

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The airline industry must, however, be more open and realistic about what kind of service it can provide in such extraordinary circumstances, because pictures of thousands of disgruntled passengers sleeping on waiting room benches harms Britain's image around the world.

There are signs that local authorities, particularly in this region, are finally beginning to realise just how heavily major roads need to be gritted in order to keep the country moving, but Philip Hammond, the Transport Secretary, must do more to ensure Britain's entire transport network can cope with the snow. His position should not be in question, but it is simply time Mr Hammond showed he is worth his salt.