Tag Archive | "new roads"

Highway To Hell

Jam today; more jam tomorrow. Not a statement that says everything is going to be OK but rather one that foretells forebodingly of our future as motorists. Unlike the Jetsons our future driving lives will not be spent whizzing about in space-age airborne vehicles but sweltering in our cars as we wait to move forwards by ten metres.

Those of you who are French and have long memories might remember a traffic jam outside of Paris in 1980. A combination of bad weather and thousands of drivers returning from holidays in the South resulted in a snarl-up around one hundred miles long. In the wait that followed many roadside snails died and a pall of garlic hung in the air.

Elsewhere, a scant three years ago on China’s Highway 110, a massive set of road works reduced the road capacity which eventually became overwhelmed by assorted vehicles until the queue stretched for over sixty miles (pictured). Some unlucky souls where blocked in for twelve days. Seems incredible but it is true.

Both of these countries are big and have huge road networks yet still these things happened. The British Isles are not big but they are crowded. They have a road network which, thanks to poor management and massive underinvestment by successive governments, is now not fit for purpose.

Things, to paraphrase D:ream, can only get worse. The Department for Transport have produced a report called ‘Roads of the 21st Century’. This apparently is meant to see into the future and what it sees is not good. For the next couple of years they reckon that traffic levels will remain fairly constant. However, with the predicted economic recovery after that they calculate that the number of cars on the road will steadily rise by nineteen percent by year 2025.

In a further fifteen years they have estimated that figure will rise to forty three percent. That is, give or take, around fifteen million more cars. That, incidentally, is just their middling estimate. Their worse case scenario is, erm, much worse. This inevitably will lead to greater congestion and more misery for motorists.

The Report believes that fuel-efficient cars will bring down the price of motoring (pause while we all stop laughing because here in the real world they will counter this with higher taxation) and the population will rise by an additional 10 million by 2040 – hence more cars on the road.

Of course, this is based on economic recovery and there are no guarantees of that despite the recent hopeful noises, but at least it has spurred the government into the investment of £28billion’s worth of road projects. We’ve mentioned this before on Motor Blogger. It is very laudable but is only a drop in the ocean if the report’s figures are to be believed. We’ll have to wait and see. In the meantime keep emergency food, drink, blankets and a portaloo in the car just in case.

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Opinion – Taking A Fly Swat To Godzilla

In an announcement from the Transport Secretary, the government is going to cough up £165 million to help deal with traffic bottlenecks at various locations around the country. Sixty two schemes in total form the second wave of the so-called Local Pinch Point Fund. This money is to be augmented with local contributions.

Anyone who has any knowledge at all about road building and maintenance costs will know that this is a drop in the ocean. To put it into perspective, in 2011 the BBC reported that one single mile of motorway costs £30 million to build. The quoted £165m would therefore only be enough to deliver the equivalent of just five and half miles of road. It’s peanuts.

The work will include upgrading key roads, bridges and traffic hotspots. The aim is make life easier for the thousands of motorists and business who use local roads daily. Very laudable but it doesn’t really address the whole issue of our third world roads and the many unattended potholes that litter them.

With the usual breathtaking audacity of government guesswork they reckon that the schemes ‘had the potential’ to ‘help’ create more than 100,000 jobs and a similar number of ‘new homes’. Eh? These are the sort of numbers that are usually trotted out to give credence and justification to expenditure. They rarely ever come to anything.

In the South East, twelve schemes have been given a £42m green light and will include a ‘hamburger’ style roundabout with a carriageway through its centre which will alleviate the problems at the dreaded Milton Interchange on the A34 in Oxfordshire. Actually, that is a good idea.

The money is, it has to be said, being spread very thinly. That’s a lot of schemes and some of them seem to be a little under-funded. In the manner of these things it could just possibly result in an overspend. It would be wrong for Motor Blogger to carp too much; after all, at least some money is being spent to make our roads better.

Some of the bottlenecks mentioned have been in need of sorting out for years, so it’s a good thing. The snag is that it is not nearly enough. More money needs to be spent on making road surfaces better and thus safer and less money needs to be spent on massive vanity projects like the £33 billion (and the rest) HS2 rail link which has already cost the tax-payer £50m in bad management before even a blade of grass is has been cut.

We want money spent on our roads but £165m is like watching Godzilla rising from the sea and expecting to beat him back with a fly swat. The issue is much bigger than just some local bottlenecks problems.

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