The Met Office says it’s too early to panic about winter, and it is doing more to help local authorities keep disruption to a minimum

Is it time to get the sledges and studded tyres in stock?

The Met Office has poured scorn on early headlines claiming Britain will face a harsh winter, saying such scare-mongering forecasts have not come from them.

The Met clarified that it isn’t saying harsh winters conditions won’t affect the UK this winter, only that they ‘cannot be identified at the moment’.

The impact of the last harsh winter on retail has been the subject of some discussion, not least in the bike trade, but the latest report from the respected bike trade organisations COLIPI and COLIPED said “high stocks and poor weather in Q1 2011 were the principle cause" for "disappointing" sales expectations for 2011.

According to some respected retail sources, snow leads one in four shoppers online – in which case having an online presence may be ever more important to bike retailers.

While another harsh winter is currently a possibility, rather than a definite outcome, the Met Office has been more closely with local authorities this year in a bid to reduce disruption from winter weather.

To this end the Met Office has launched the OpenRoad online forecast package. It was made operational this month and will include route-based forecasts using Met Office data. According to the Office, the package provides clear and concise forecast information to help local authorities decide where to dedicate their ice and snow handling vehicles.

John Harrison, Road and Rail Business Manager for the Met Office, said: "In any winter, we can expect hazards such as snow and ice to occur. It is vital that service providers have plans in place to react to our one to five-day forecasts and warnings of such hazards and apply precautionary treatment to limit the impact on the travelling public. The Met Office delivers a range of weather services for the road industry. These provide good advice, and are a vital component of winter maintenance planning and operations."

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