Stuck in the congestion slow lane

Spend a little money on education to save a lot of money on road building programmes

Spend a little money on education to save a lot of money on road building programmes

There are two things that are guaranteed to raise my blood pressure: reality television programmes and traffic congestion. And before you ask, yes my idea of hell is having to watch those fly on the wall motorway traffic police programmes.

Moving swiftly on, I just caught sight – on the television, of course – of a government announcement detailing a £30 billion investment in future transport projects. Presumably these will be the usual minor extensions to existing trunk roads, and not the bypasses and new roads the country really needs.

Granted, we’re now constantly reminded that the country is officially skint, which means we should be grateful for even the smallest of improvements. Only you and I both know that the money won’t last long. Years ago I remember reading a report that detailed the cost per mile to construct a motorway.

The figure was staggering – millions, if I can recall. It was so far off from any original estimates that it made a mockery of the ‘official’ cost of whatever shiny new road it was supposed to be. Oh, and it was years late into the bargain.

Why am I mentioning this? Well, along with the country being officially poor, the prospect of the state rolling out a slew of new road projects does make me fear for my pension. Unless everyone involved can break the habit of a lifetime and get these projects finished on time and on budget, irrespective of political allegiances, it really will be a case of having learnt nothing from the past few decades.

And this concern was brought into sharp focus the other day when trundling along one of my least favourite motorways. Picture the scene: a bright, sunny Saturday morning and there’s a procession of cars in the middle lane. There’s the odd BMW and Audi motoring along in the outside lane and, wait for it, nothing in the inside lane. That’s right, zero.

Before you walk over to the home entertainment system because you think this record is broken again, consider this: because no one had the common sense to move into the correct lane, traffic soon backed up in the middle lane and the outer lane became the default place if you wanted to make any progress. I swear I saw tumbleweed in the inside lane.

So before anyone suggests plunging the country into deeper debt or, perish the thought, pushing through a network of private motorways, spending a fraction of the cash on better driver education would be a good thing.

Yes I know this chestnut older than the dinosaurs but this simple act would restore some order to the roads and reduce the need to dig them up and add even more lanes that will be ignored or underused.

And while we’re at it, making better use of those expensive-looking and very big electronic signs would be appreciated. Their currently inactivity suggests that someone has pulled the plug to save some money. If that’s the case, why not have a network of megaphone-wielding personnel telling people to move left after overtaking. It would solve the unemployment problem overnight.

By Iain Dooley

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