The Discourses of Snow Disruption to Business

Roby, Helen (2016). The Discourses of Snow Disruption to Business. In: UTSG Annual conference, Bristol, 6th-8th January 2016, 6-8 Jan 2016, Bristol.


When we have snow or flooding the press is full of reports about travel disruption and the costs of this disruption to the economy, but is this really the case? This paper will present findings from a set of semi-structured interviews with businesses as part of an EPSRC funded project which explored the concept of disruption. The paper will focus on the different discourses that have developed around weather disruption to transport, particularly snow. The discourses focus on three sets of messages; the media message, the organisational message to their staff and the internal management message.
The organisations interviewed were a mixture of large businesses and Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), working in a variety of areas including the manufacturing of cars, defence equipment and food, supermarkets and the call centre function of an energy supplier. For all of these businesses maintaining operations on the face of it is critical to their business. However, two important things became clear from these interviews, firstly that in the opinion of the businesses, major disruptions to transport from weather were rare, and secondly, that when such disruption did occur the effect on business was minimal. This is in contrast to the discourse that is seen in the media that portrays such disruptions as frequent and costly. Through exploring the different discourses, this paper will discuss why the impacts are considered minimal and the implications this has for transport policy.

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