Wednesday, 17 October 2007

What do we know? We just live here.

Shortly before I was fired for spending too much time reading political blogs instead of working, I commuted one of the most stressful motorways in the North. A stretch joining the M62 took 30 minutes to travel 300 yards. Alistair Darling thought he'd ease our troubles by making one lane on the junction a car sharing lane at the bargain price of £4 million. He thinks merging three lanes of traffic into two will ease congestion.

For whom? Users of the M62 coming from Manchester because the people of Bradford will no longer be able to get to the M62. Instead they will go join the other queue to get to Leeds, the one that goes past all those schools etc.

Apparently the councils objections were overturned and according to local MP Phillip Davies, "I am afraid that these things are not debated in parliament; they are just done", "The Highways Agency are given permission by the Secretary of State for Transport - the only thing we can do is hold the Minister to account in parliament". So that's alright then.

So, remind me, and perhaps I'm showing my ignorance here but, why do we pay these people? Is the House of Commons just the most expensive town clock in history? Sure, one would hope our MP's had better things to do than discuss a piffling £4 million road "improvement" but turning motorway junctions into car sharing lanes? Our council didn't get a say. Our MP did not get a say. So who did?

And then there's the other question. Why does it cost £4 million? Give me a couple of months, a vat of white paint and a digital camera and I'll do it for a million quid.

The thinking is that this will encourage car pooling. I can't speak for others but the whole reason I bothered to learn to drive was so that I did not have to share my morning commute with the rest of the great unwashed. I do not want to know who scored what in whatever final and alas, I don't care what happened to Maddy. There. I said it. I can't even hide from it in the pages of the Daily Telegraph now that is a spun rag comic.

On the one day I did volunteer for car sharing I had two noisy women gabbing in the back for a whole hour on the basis I would qualify for a parking spot at work. I made every effort to convince them my driving standards were not worth the risk again. As it happens, the only reason there were no parking spaces at work was because of council limits imposed at the inception of the business park. Go figure.

North Senior asked me to look at some papers outlining how high occupancy lanes have a deleterious effect on traffic flows and speeds. I am not going to read them. You don't have to be a traffic planner to know that three lanes into two causes congestion, creates longer tailbacks and damages the environment having more cars idling for longer. Anyone who has been on the M1 just south of Watford knows this. But those inside the M25 wouldn't have a clue. And that's why we're getting one anyway.

If they really were sincere about taking cars off the road they would be offering tax incentives to companies who facilitated home working. When I think of all the jobs I've resigned from because of dreadful commutes, I cannot think of one that could not have been done more effectively form my desk here at home. Or at least could have done if BT could give me a stable connection to the internet.

Perhaps the fines they collect from high occupancy lanes could be directed at improving our broadband infrastructure which is badly falling behind other economies of Europe in order to facilitate it?