Wednesday, February 15, 2006
Still Stuck In The Cones
When Labour came to power, they had a great idea for cutting Britain's chronic traffic congestion without actually building any more roads. In 1997 Two-Jags Prezza famously promised to get us all to switch onto public transport: "I will have failed in this if in five years’ time there are not many more people using public transport and far fewer journeys by car. It’s a tall order, but I urge you to hold me to it”. And he accompanied his promise with a total moratorium on road building, since obviously new roads were no longer needed.
Unfortunately, his "plan" turned out to be yet another warm gobful of New Labour Piffle, and the Fatuous Liar later denied ever having promised it at all. No surprise that once Prez was eventually moved out the way, his successor was forced to execute a spectacular U-turn on road building with a new £7bn-plus programme.
None of which stopped the subsequent stream of similarly vacuous "initiatives" and general blurtings, all supposedly to reduce traffic congestion without building more roads. Which brings us to the latest plan just announced by Alistair Darling- a plan so formless that even the Department for Transport admits 'that the Government would be able to claim that it had beaten the target even if congestion worsened'.
The fact is that since Prezza's Promise to cut it, road traffic is up by another 11% and congestion is even worse. And despite spending almost £2bn pa of our money the Highways Agency seems incapable of improving the situation.
The HA is yet another of government's particularly hopeless bits. You will be well aware of its activities in coning off large sections of motorway during busy periods. But you may be unaware of its star appearances in numerous damning audit reports. Here are a few snippets from last year's Public Accounts Committee Report:
"...too risk averse in testing out and adopting measures used abroad to tackle congestion, falling behind... Greater leadership and innovation required... managed trials poorly, contributing to inconclusive results....unable to prove individual business cases for many of the traffic management measures...failed to give motorists the information they need... has given insufficient attention to changing driver behaviour. Message signs not up-to-date...technology strategy not well integrated...not targeted... failing to install appropriate technology...needs to improve its intelligence about planned events.."
Advice to travellors remains the same: pack a blanket, Thermos and sandwiches, and if at all possible use a private toll road.
Posted by Mike D at 4:19 pm