Our roads are choked with traffic. Every day it's the same story, queues of traffic trying to get into, out of, or around our towns and cites. How can we solve the problem? These days the only solution on offer is Public Transport. Good old PT is being lobbied from all corners, or so it seems. PT has it's place, but it isn't the Utopia that some would have us believe.
Here's why I think that PT isn't necessarily the way to go.
Like a great many people these days I use my car to get to work. I like my car. I can leave home whenever I like, and I can leave work whenever I like. I can listen to the radio on the way to work, maybe a talkshow, maybe the news, maybe some music, maybe nothing. I can control the temperature in the car, I can have the windows down, or I can have them up.
This is the problem with Public Transport. Control of my environment, my own personal space, is lost to others. I have little or no control over the temperature. If I want to listen to music I have to wear headphones (indeed it is only right that I should wear headphones). I can't come and go when I please.
Until Public Transport is able to pick me up from my front door and get me to work in the same time as I can drive it, I'm not going to use Public Transport and that's it. It's that simple. I'm not alone on this either. In a few months time perhaps, the Government will decide that it's time we gave PT a real chance. To pay for this chance, they'll probably hit the motorist in the pocket, as, let's face it, they're an easy target.
By taking money out of the pockets of the motorist, the politicans are alienating those of us exercising our right to choose how we travel. Unwittingly perhaps, they are losing votes - in order to ensure that the motorist is not the butt of the government's unjust policies, we, the voters, must let our elected representatives know that unless significant changes are made, they can count on losing our votes at the next election.
In the UK, it is no secret that the Government would like to decrease the number of cars on the roads, thereby reducing congestion, and have more people use PT.
The problem at the moment is that the PT infrastructure is so bad, nobody really wants to use it. It is also considerably more expensive than taking a car on the same journey in a lot of cases. The PT lobby complain that until people use PT, it will remain expensive. Well, I'm sorry, but that's not our problem. Until PT is made cheap, reliable and efficient, people are not going to use it. Classic chicken and egg I'm afraid.
Until some serious investment is made in Public Transport, the majority of motorists will not switch over - it just doesn't make sense for them to do that, however ecologically sound the idea might be.
Possibly a better solution would be for the PT lobby to accept that many people do not wish to use public transport anyway, and the sooner the Government realise this the better. I suggest a greater investment in roads, rather than public transport. The car is probably the most flexible form of transport for most people so these should be catered for, rather than trying to stop people from using them.
Some people seem to campaign endlessly to reduce the number of cars travelling through their town or village. In most cases I'd agree with them - the drivers probably don't want to go through their town or village anyway, so why make them? Some towns and villages have had bypasses built, taking through traffic away from the town. This is an excellent idea. More of these need to be built - though of course there are those that campaign against the construction of these, a la Newbury, Berkshire - though this is now complete.
Anyone who has had the displeasure of driving into Newbury at rush hour would instantly be in agreement that the town need a bypass - desparately. Virtually all roads into Newbury are congested, and sometimes this congestion backs up to the M4, four miles north of the town. When the bypass is completed and opened to traffic, I expect that the area will become a lot less polluted than it is at the moment.
Another area for improvement is Birmingham. In recent years, Brummie has become the location of choice for large events. This, coupled with the size of Birmingham anyway, and given that it is located at the cross of the M5, M6 and M40 motorways means that the amount of traffic converging on the city is phenomenal.
I feel that the solution to the problem is a direct, non-stop link route from the M40 to the M6 (north of Birmingham) and from the M5 to the M6. These new motorways would not have any exits or on ramps from Birmingham at all, thus relieving through traffic of the congestion that builds up at rush hour. Indeed the M5/M6 interchange, or spaghetti junction, is congested almost 24 hours a day. This is largely caused by two three lane motorways merging, but only having three lanes to merge into - this isn't right! The M6 needs to be widened to six lanes for at least three miles after the junction.
The new Labour Government very nearly made us pay for parking at work - if your employer provides a free parking space. Thankfully this has now been shelved, but expect it to rear it's head again in the near future. What would have happened of course is that people would not have accepted the 'free' parking space from their employer and simply found somewhere else to park - for a great many people outside London that means parking in residential areas in which parking is uncontrolled. That's not going to solve any problems at all now is it?
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Vendemen - 26 January 1998