Transport Common Sense

BBC NEWS | England | 5.5bn transport plan unveiled [related talking point] – this of course includes the much needed £2bn road improvement package targetted at five major routes up and down the country, including the M6 from Birmingham to Manchester. While this is a splendid idea and a jolly good slap in the face for the government and that idiot Alistair Darling who’ve had to cave in after 5 years of persecuting motorists, no amount of money thrown at the roads is going to work on its own. It needs to be coupled with:

  • Massive improvements in the rail network: This is an obvious one, but seems to have somehow eluded the logic of most politicians over the past 20 years. The railways need to become cheaper, faster and more reliable. Only once this has happened will people start to get out of their cars, simply taxing motorists to death will not work, ever.
  • A driving re-training programme: Much of the danger and congestion on the roads today is caused by dangerous and ignorant drivers who consider the highway code and traffic laws to be a set a quaint suggestions that only learners have to obey in order to pass their tests. Speeding, about which the police and the government are obsessed, only plays a comparatively small part. The highway code needs to be brought up to date (as it still lives in the 50s and has no concept of things like three lane roundabouts) and then once that’s done it needs to be made law, and enforced rigorously. I reckon 40% of drivers would then be considered unroadworthy and could have their licenses revoked. Name one other scheme that would cut traffic levels by 40% in one go.
  • Teleworking: I know that I am privileged for having been able to work from home over the past two years. I understand the concerns of company management over staff working from home, not everyone is as disciplined as me and of course there will be people who take the piss and skive off. However, these are obviously the people that you don’t allow to work from home. But that doesn’t mean that nobody can, it’s just a case of carefully picking the staff to afford the privilege to.
  • A change in working practises: However, radical corporate attitude change doesn’t stop with teleworking. This obsession with “nine to five” has to go. There should be no such thing as “rush hour”, especially not in our 24 hour soceity. The problem with the roads is that they’re not overburdened per se, it’s that they’re overburdened twice a day for a few hours. Employees should be allowed far greated flexi-time, and indeed if I could change the world I’d create three “commuter shifts”, forcing a third of the workforce to work from 7.00am to 3.00pm, another third to work from 9.00am to 5.00pm as normal and the final third to work from 11.00am to 7.00pm. This would spread the rush hour demand over a much longer period, easing congestion at “peak times”. It seems perfectly simple to me.

It doesn’t stop with roads. It doesn’t even stop with rail. It stops with common sense.