Wednesday, March 7

Time for a change

On March 25 we'll be moving our clocks forward one hour to British Summer Time (BST). The UK has been doing this every year since 1916. BST was also in force permanently during the Second World War from February 1940 until October 1945, with double summer time used between 1941-1947 (1946 was an exception).

In 1996 all clocks in Europe changed to summer time on the same date for the first time. In 2002, the UK also agreed to permanently link its clock changing dates with Europe. However, in more recent times, regular calls have been made for the UK to remain permanently on BST rather than turn its clocks back every October. Such a move would put the UK on the same time zone used by the rest of Western Europe (with the exception of Portugal).

I can see plenty of logic for doing this. Paris, which is roughly due south of London, is always an hour ahead of the UK. It seems crazy to have cities at a similar longitude on different time zones. It's amazing what a difference that hour can make in winter. I recall the shock I received last winter when I opened my Parisian hotel curtains about 8am only to discover it was still pitch black outside.

As was the case last year, a private member's bill has been tabled in Parliament seeking a permanent time zone change. However, as in previous years, this bill is unlikely to succeed. The UK did trial a time zone change to Central Europe Time from February 1968 until October 1971. However, politicians lost their nerve and ended the trial once newspapers began printing headlines about Scotish children killed while walking to school in the morning darkness.

While young deaths were a tragedy, researchers found during the trial period that evening road accidents fell by a far greater rate than morning accidents rose. Currently, at least 450 people are left dead or injured on Britain's roads as a result of early darkness returning in the winter months. Surely, the perfect reason for enduring signal failures on the tube every evening.

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