Public spending on the road network

 

There are few signs of the spending cuts when you try to drive around the UK.  The other evening I found simultaneous  road works on the M1, M3, M4, M 40, A 404 (M) and A 322. There is  a large programme of bridge changes over railway lines being undertaken, along with substantial alterations to central reservations and motorway signs .

In many towns and cities there are continuous works to narrow lanes,to  put in larger pedestrian refuges, introduce new road  closures and cycleways. London itself is under continuous road works, with expensive new pavements, new higher kerbs, wider pavements, new central reservations, cycle lanes and pedestrianisation.

Some work is necessary maintenance and some work is improvement. It is however surprising that there is so much money for so much of this work at this juncture, when we have been told getting the deficit down is the number one priority, and when Councils tell us they are short of cash. The work is causing considerable congestion and disruption to England’s inadequate highways.

Are you finding the same thing in your area? Is anything being done to reduce congestion and pollution, by improving traffic flows, increasing capacity and safety of junctions and making life easier for all those who do have to rely on cars and lorries? If there is so much money to spend, could some of it be used to improve flows in ways which means the roads work better and more safely? Why do some transport planners want trains to go faster and faster, but cars to go slower and slower? Faster trains and slower cars both mean more fuel  burnt, the way they are doing it.

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53 Comments

  1. Julian
    Posted July 2, 2011 at 6:22 am | Permalink

    In and around Godalming (Surrey), where I live, the roads are in an appalling state. There are many potholes that appeared after the severe cold last winter. I’ve reported some and some of those have been patched (I don’t know if there is any connection). It’s bad enough in a car where you have to steer around them, but it must be terrible on a bike. I’ve started to teach my daughter to drive and one of the first lessons is spotting and avoiding potholes.

  2. Javelin
    Posted July 2, 2011 at 6:32 am | Permalink

    I haven’t found this off motorway. I would say potholes and roadmarkings in Surrey are poor. At most junctions road markings are barely visible. I’m not sure if this is a deliberate attempt to calm traffic or save money. I just hope the lawyers are sure the tax payers won’t pick up a bill if the Surrey highways agencies gets sued.

  3. lifelogic
    Posted July 2, 2011 at 7:21 am | Permalink

    All the work I see in towns is inspired by the anti car mentality, green religion which Cameron and the Tories seem to worship devoutly too. It consists of more and more red traffic lights, bus lanes, lots of signs for bikes, colourful tarmac, bike lanes (often very dangerously designed) and environmental areas to make you drive far further and increase congestion. And of course cameras to mug those who infringe the traps (designed to create such infringes).

    I always assume it is just a way of transferring tax payers funds to companies (perhaps run by friends of the authorities) it clearly does nothing positive for transport very much.

    As I have already shown buses and bikes when considered as a full system (suns nuclear fusion energy to people movement, average occupation depot to depot, indirect routes, frequent stopping and the rest) bikes and buses do not even save C02 over modern small cars. (Even if you accept the C02 “science” whole)

    I see the Edinburgh tram system is doing great work of transferring tax payer moneys to people and companies with no benefit and very great inconvenience to the cities public. Will it ever be finished?

    These people live in a dream world of a past era of windmills, trains and trams or must just be corrupt and pointless job creating perhaps a mix of all three.

    • lifelogic
      Posted July 2, 2011 at 7:30 am | Permalink

      Reported today: UK manufacturing grows at slowest rate in almost two years.

      Could it be due to the lack of bank lending, endless over regulation, over health and safety, over taxation, over government, lack of positive vision from Cameron and the prospect of Labour very soon perhaps?

      • Bazman
        Posted July 2, 2011 at 9:25 am | Permalink

        Name a specific health and safety law you think should be repealed. Health and safety is not a problem for desk jockeys. Try a day in the metal or building trades. The fun never stops.

        • lifelogic
          Posted July 3, 2011 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

          I have considerable experience in these trades and clearly health and safety is vital. But top down poor heath and safety regulations by government (often written by people with no experience of the job) usually achieves the exact opposite. Indeed it is often driven by a commercial interest and pressure groups to sell some new often pointless safety systems or training.

          Also it just pushes the work abroad.

          Top down soviet style command economies have the same defects they impoverish everyone. As we see with the EU and Cameron.

          • Bazman
            Posted July 4, 2011 at 7:04 am | Permalink

            Then you should easily be able to name one specific piece of H&S legislation that you find unnecessary, but I suspect you cannot and will waffle instead.

          • lifelogic
            Posted July 4, 2011 at 8:07 pm | Permalink

            Much of The Work at Height Regulations for one.

          • Bazman
            Posted July 5, 2011 at 7:14 pm | Permalink

            Working at height is hardly something to be taken lightly and do not quote Daily Mail nonsense about the banning of step ladders by councils. More to do with the stupidity of councils than working at height regulations. When was the last time you worked on a ladder? More to it than it looks. It don’t take much of a drop that for sure.

      • norman
        Posted July 2, 2011 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

        I can’t see what difference a prospective Labour government would make to investment policy – the government we have is a continuation of the last, and the next will be a continuation of this, with the odd minor tweak here and there.

        We live in a de-facto one party state (or two if you count the EU as a second party) with the odd outlier (like our host) crying in the wilderness.

        • Posted July 3, 2011 at 6:19 am | Permalink

          Yes, given the current set-up of the two and a half parties, voting for them changes almost nothing except the personnel and is pointless. As the US speaker once said “elections don’t matter very much”

          • lifelogic
            Posted July 3, 2011 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

            Indeed if elections did matter much they would change the system.

    • Bazman
      Posted July 3, 2011 at 9:49 am | Permalink

      Cuts to for single mothers and the money spent on something more useful like better road services?`

  4. Mike Stallard
    Posted July 2, 2011 at 7:21 am | Permalink

    The trouble with Wisbech where I live is that it is not connected up to the rest of the UK and it is no longer the seat of government. This means that the whole town is in decay. The fire station, the port area, the railway link, the college, the comprehensive school, the law courts, the police station and the local papers are all either in decay, gone or going soon.
    But the roads, such as they are, are being repaired by a Tory Council (at Cambridge) very efficiently.
    I say this to show the importance of being connected. When we were (by rail, port and river transport) Wisbech was, head for head, one of the richest places in the UK.

    • lifelogic
      Posted July 2, 2011 at 9:31 am | Permalink

      Was it rich because it was connected or (perhaps more likely) connected because it was rich?

    • Bazman
      Posted July 2, 2011 at 9:32 am | Permalink

      Wisbech is shall we say rural. If you take away the signs of modernity it looks like the 1930’s. Swore I saw a two headed dog once there. I was going quite fast on a motorbike so could be wrong.

  5. adam
    Posted July 2, 2011 at 7:48 am | Permalink

    European cities are creating environments openly hostile to cars. The methods vary, but the mission is clear — to make car use expensive and just plain miserable

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/27/science/earth/27traffic.html?_r=2&nl=todaysheadlines&emc=tha2

  6. alan jutson
    Posted July 2, 2011 at 7:57 am | Permalink

    John

    Here in Wokinghham as you will know, we still have loads of potholes to repair, the A329 at coppid beech roundabout towards Brackell has been dug up AGAIN, now for a couple of months, less than a year after the widening of it which took the best part of a year.

    More and more traffic light systems have been put in place, the last fiaso being on the series of mini roundabouts which feed the A329M, which feeds the M4 at Winnersh, not counted the individual sets of lights, but given there are a number of sets on 3 roundabouts both on the entrances to the roundabout, and on each exit from the roundabout, there must be at least 15.

    Recent laying of green tarmac for cycle lanes on the A329 (Winnersh side of town) is lifting again, this is now been relayed each year in part for the past couple of years.

    New road signs for schools erected at the begining of this year, same speed sign, same location, but with a different kiddies drawing (official) on them.

    Road is collapsing again on the entrance and exit of the bridge on the A321 over M4 going towards Hurst, this is now the third time. Also similar problem on the road from Sherlock Row to Bracknell over the M4

    Many speed humps installed at great cost a few years ago are now crumbling on the shoulders, which means many cars are ripping up the inside wall of their tyres (a place not many motorists check) speed humps also make it impossible to clear a road of snow with a snow plough properly, so they do not bother.

    Over the last decade Wokingham must have spent an absolute fortune on a whole series of traffic management, traffic obstruction systems, coloured tarmac (red, green, beige) as well as the normal grey, together with a whole series of new white lines, even now installed on some paths to seperate cyclists from pedestrians.

    The result: More and increased maintainance costs to repair more of these new installations year on year.

    What has not been done.
    Relocation of the station to avoid the traffic jams at the level crossing at shute end which then backs up into Town.
    A rephasing of the traffic lights at Winnersh cross roads, where Sainsbury’s built their supermarket a number of years ago,where traffic regularly backs up in both directions on the A329 because the entrances and exits were put in the wrong place (a roundabout would have been better at the time rather than a junction).

    A ring road (does not need to be dual) to either the north or south or Wokingham to avoid traffic entering the town when it needs to bypass to get to Brackell or Reading, compulsary purchase of properties for such was completed nearly 30 years ago for this very purpose, but the plans scrapped and properties resold back on the open market some years ago.
    Alternative a new feed onto the A329M from the north of the town A321 may help a little.

    With a huge rise in the number of residential properties in the area over the last 30 years, the infrastructure simply cannot cope with the increase in traffic. With more new housing schemes due to come on board shortly, we will soon have gridlock for parts of the day if nothing is done to improve traffic flow.

  7. Mick Anderson
    Posted July 2, 2011 at 8:17 am | Permalink

    I also live in SW Surrey. Julian might also have noticed how much money is spent on eternally lowering the speed limits, often with the signs not conforming to current legislation.

    The council decided that the road I live in was unsuitable for the 40mph limit that had been there for decades. It had to be reduced to 30mph, and obstructions put in. Very few people wanted it, just the usual occasional siren voice of “if it saves one life….”, although nobody was ever at risk.

    Anyway, they wasted spent the money making the changes last year, and have discovered how many people take no notice of the stupid new restrictions. So, they are now burning even more money moving the edges of their road-narrowing in by 8″ on either side, apparently at the behest of the Police.

    Now everybody drives in the middle of the road rather than swerving in and out of the obstructions – far less safe than before these idiots started meddling. Don’t start us on the crass stupidity of closing the old A3 when the tunnel opens shortly….

    I have had to claim for damage to my car due to their lack of repairs. You can’t see potholes when it’s raining as they’re covered over with water…. One claim accepted, one rejected (incorrect reason given), and the only appeals process is through the courts. The whole situation is dreadful, especially when you consider how much they have raised the Council Tax. The individuals responsible for the poor maintenance should be prosecuted for criminal negligence – and tax payers shouldn’t be funding their defence!

  8. Electro-Kevin
    Posted July 2, 2011 at 8:32 am | Permalink

    The A380 Newton Abbot has been dreadful for over a month now. I guess that once it’s improved flow will be better – hopefully they’ve built in some frost precaution too.

    Yes. It does seem popular for planners to demonise the motorist and drive them (us) off the roads. Our economy is set up so that free traffic flow is essential to success. They don’t seem to realise this.

    I think it’s partly to do with upper middle class attitudes and particularly those who aspire to be upper middle class. They’re an insecure bunch and love lecturing others, they’ve worked hard to get where they are and don’t like the competition either. So they’ve pulled the ladder up behind them on education and they would like to do it on freedom of movement as well.

    Environmentalism is their justification. Movement restricted by fuel duty and traffic cones. Communism imposed by size of wheelie bin.

    These people are the ones who have wrecked Britain. Not the bankers.

  9. Acorn
    Posted July 2, 2011 at 8:44 am | Permalink

    Please could we have a national slip road extension programme. Most of the delays I encounter, are on roads where turning traffic does not have enough slip lane to slowdown and turn from. The through lane gets blocked with the inevitable “brake wave” that causes standstill some distance back.

    Clearing central reservations now appears to need a complete lane closed either side, as a safety margin. Needs a better technical solution.

    Please can we have the system that separates traffic going in opposite directions with yellow lines and traffic going in the same direction with white lines.

    Are we replacing double lines, solid and hatched with strips of pink Tarmac? I must get a new Highway Code book, I am obviously out of date.

    • Caterpillar
      Posted July 2, 2011 at 9:49 am | Permalink

      I second this slip road extension point, off ramps appear too finitiely capicitied buffers in many places (though more peopple per vehicle could help, its probably never going to happen).

    • alan jutson
      Posted July 2, 2011 at 10:22 am | Permalink

      Acorn.

      Not seen pink tarmac yet, but we do have red, green, and beige in Wokingham.

      Red is a danger area, like a sharpe bend in the road.
      Beige is a possible danger area, like coming up to a junction.
      Green is for cyclists.

      This is no joke, John will confirm..

      At night, in the rain (the most dangerous period you would think) you cannot tell one colour from another, due to light reflecting on a wet road !!

      OOps almost forgot, we do have bright blue marking out disabled car park spaces.

      We also have official speed signs near to schools with kiddies drawings on them just in case you cannot read.

      Welcome to TOYTOWN.

      Agree wth your comments about slip lanes.

    • lifelogic
      Posted July 2, 2011 at 11:59 am | Permalink

      Quite a few two lane slip road have been made into one lane with white paint just to cause more congestion I assume. Why did they build two lanes in the first place one wonders?

  10. wab
    Posted July 2, 2011 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    The people who run the media (and not just the BBC) on the whole hate drivers (excepting themselves of course), and are using the excuse of climate change (in the past it would have been pollution) to justify hammering drivers. (What their anti-driver excuse will be when all cars are electric is anyone’s guess, but they will think of something.)

    Given that the media is overwhelmingly anti-car, there is no way a sensible transport policy will ever be achieved in Britain. And in my experience, almost all transport planners are also vociferously anti-car. The usual NGOs that the media fawn over, e.g. FoE, Greenpeace, RSPB, etc., are also anti-car. All in all, a large chunk of the ruling elite are anti-car.

    It is standard fare for the anti-car brigade to claim that there is no point adding more road capacity because it just “encourages” more traffic. Funnily enough, these very same people then bemoan the lack of capacity in the train network, without (apparently) realising that one can make exactly the same claim in this context. Oh, I forgot, trains are saintly and cars are evil.

    The big difference between the road network and the train network is that drivers pay way more in taxes than they get out (in spite of the sometimes spurious claims to the contrary by the anti-car brigade), whereas each and every train journey is subsidised to the tune of half by the taxpayer.

    Anything which needs a whacking great subsidy by the taxpayer can hardly claim to be “sustainable”, and therefore trains are not, in spite of the continual propaganda in the media that they are (the argument being that the direct energy use is small, but this ignores all the indirect energy use, which is what makes trains so expensive).

  11. Bazman
    Posted July 2, 2011 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    The delays on the A14 are costing this country a fortune, but the 1.3 billion A14 improvement project has been cancelled by the Conservatives so that’s saved a few quid. The Spittals interchange is something to behold and so is the number of delays caused by accidents. The traffic jams spread across the county even into my street. The A14 is in effect a motorway across Cambridgeshire but seen as a local road by the government. Genius.

  12. Posted July 2, 2011 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    “The other evening I found simultaneous road works on the M1, M3, M4, M 40, A 404 (M) and A 322.”

    Maybe you’ve done something to annoy Philip Hammond and he’s deliberately digging up the roads he know you want to use?

  13. Michael Read
    Posted July 2, 2011 at 10:11 am | Permalink

    Confirm. I live in Islington. The amount of work amazes me. It is just not ad hoc repairs. There are serious amounts of money being spent on the complete renewal of pavements and roads when the existing facilities were quite serviceable. Substituting mock York stone for smaller Euro paving is a favouritie … nice but not necessary.

    I just assumed that the council was carrying on because the money was being supplied by central government.

    • ReefKnot
      Posted July 3, 2011 at 6:27 pm | Permalink

      You meant to say “….because the money was being supplied by the Taxpayer”

  14. Caterpillar
    Posted July 2, 2011 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    1. On pot holes, I have been surprised how slow and people intensive the repair of these seems to be. And also that only a few places seem to be able to do the overnight repair, mostly it is undertaken with day time closures. (I once saw a stretch of road have its surface removed and be relaid overnight, ready for the next day’s traffic, with minimal people but some large plant … then again I was in Japan).
    2.On speed bumps and additional bends as traffic calming measures, it appears they are a traffic volatising (if that’s a word) – anyway speed and drivers become volatile. The only traffic calming measure that I have seen that seems to work well are textured road surfaces with shortening periodicity. The increasing rapidity rumble does seem to make many vehicles (saloons at least, the 4x4s don’t seem to notice) decelerate progressively rather than stamp on the breaks. I don’t know the total cost of these measures, but if traffic calming is needed go with these.
    3. 4x4s/SUVs do not get calmed. I was once tempted to buy one, but resisted, because of all the speed bumps – what feedback is going on here?
    4. Some years ago I lived in Oxford and witnessed its redesign of the road system by Oxford train station (bottom of Botley Road for anyone who knows Oxford). For a small time whilst this went on there was a pile of dirt that acted as a roundabout, with no lines, no signs and no lights – it is the only period of time that rush hour traffic ever flowed down the Botley Road. Once the lights, signs and markings were back in, the queues returned.
    5. Many people I see driving inconsistently (speed or position) seem to be either fiddling with a mobile (one PC on a corner with digital camera in hand could catch so many people if this were really taken seriously) or fiddling with cigarettes ( I do realise the latter may be a consequence of people leaving non-smoking work environments jumping in the car to go home and needing a cigarette on the way home, but gosh it has an effect – I wonder if this has gone up since the smoking bans?).
    6. And … white van behaviour still hasn’t changed, why is this?
    7. As Acorn mentioned with slip lanes being too small, roads also seem to block with queues into car parks. Can we just have more, easily accessible parking? (Where high streets have lost retailers, knock some down and put in some car parks!)
    8. One other moan, which was done in Plymouth, perhaps other places. There, there used to be pedestrian subways to walk underneath the roads, this kept pedestrains and cars flowing – both were happy. The subways were pretty safe and very popular when it rained, a positive externality. Nevertheless they were removed – I think there were two reasons, one was that cars shouldn’t force people below the surface (weird?) the second was that some subways were quite steeply sloped and therefore not always accessible to all (so they were made non-accessible to all – fair I guess?)

  15. Alan Wheatley
    Posted July 2, 2011 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    There is a widespread trend for county councils and unitary authorities to introduce 50MPH speed limits across their area where previously the National Speed Limit applied. I believe this is encouraged by the Department in London. The justification is to reduce collisions.

    There is no evidence that this indiscriminate change will reduce collisions. For instance, there is no data on the number of collisions where a vehicle travelling at between 50 and 60 MPH was the cause of or contributed to a collision.

    It is made clear in the Highway Code that the speed limit is NOT a target speed, and that road users should always drive at a safe speed. Road users can only do this by continuously forming a judgement based on the prevailing circumstances. Road user are expected to do this such that they will drive below the speed limit where this is appropriate, but by the same judgement road users can determine when it would be safe to drive above the speed limit. The lower the limit the more likely road user are to find that their speed is being unreasonably restricted, and so many ignore the limits as irrelevant. Thus, by the inappropriate use of speed limits, authorities are actually undermining the benefit that can bring.

    And there is a cost. It cost money to replace the National Speed Limit with a 50MPH limit: legislation has to be drawn up and processed; signs need to be changed and many repeater signs must be added. And there is the increased on-going cost of maintaining the large number of extra signs.

    More generally, there are too many signs beside the carriage way and on the road surface. For instance, I would abolish all the SLOW signs, as they fulfil no useful purpose, and thereby save a lot more money.

  16. forthurst
    Posted July 2, 2011 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

    It is hard to see how much of the frenetic activty on the urban transport systems and elsewhere is constrained either by a desire to save money, to reduce the overall ‘burden’ of CO2 production, or to prevent accidents. Are transport planners infected with false belief systems? Do they need guidance from above to assist them? Are councillors doing their jobs of supervision?

  17. Mike Fowle
    Posted July 2, 2011 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    I came back from holiday on 23rd May (including traversing the five miles plus of road works at Scotch Corner) to find road signs saying work starts here until December. This is on the junction between the A14 – the road from Felixstowe Docks – and the A12 – the route across Essex to London. All they are doing is widening some carriageways.

  18. Dan
    Posted July 2, 2011 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

    UK roads are in generally appalling condition with maintenance about a poor as I’ve ever seen it.

    The main routes are so inadequate that every journey outside local is a lottery regarding journey times. Alternative routes are greatly lacking (the A road system in the main hasn’t improved much since the 1960’s – if at all) Hedges have grown and restricted widths (whilst cars have got bigger) over the years, sightlines have been allowed to vanish under vegetation.

    People park dangerously and are simply left to do so. The builder who blocks the road all day long, but can’t park 25M round the corner out the way (but visits his van only for a smoke or a cuppa twice a day)

    Suspension systems and tyres are punished severely by almost every journey.

    We raise enormous revenue from road users, yet we continue to charge tolls (and increase them) at Dartford crossing and elsewhere long after that work has been paid for (which itself disregarded contributions from vehicle taxes).

    No priority is given to returning a road to service after an accident (once the injured have been removed to hospital). Surely making a case should come secondary to the needs of the keeping the nations transport system operating? At least lets get opinions and debate them, not sit idly by twiddling thumbs and wishing things were optherwise.

    Finally: Spending money on roads would only really cost the materials or equipment imported to do it, since the wages etc would generate tax and create employment for our underused construction industry. More Win-Win than lose- lose, don’t you think?

    • ReefKnot
      Posted July 3, 2011 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

      The Police are pretty good at closing motorways for hours after an accident. Pity we can’t arrest them for ” wasting the public’s time”.

      • lifelogic
        Posted July 4, 2011 at 5:48 am | Permalink

        Especially long closures where the accident involves a police car or emergency vehicle in my experience and little redirection – just get lost and find your own diversion is the usual approach!

  19. Derek Buxton
    Posted July 2, 2011 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

    It is of course the start of the holiday season, all planned roadworks commence at that time to cause maximum inconvenience. Even that less than well used A55 across Anglesey is being resurfaced over the ten miles from Menai westward. I also agree with the other comments about the car hating attitude of local councillors who serve their interests not the interest of the public who pay them.

  20. zorro
    Posted July 2, 2011 at 7:17 pm | Permalink

    We’ve looked at this subject before, but I wanted to draw attention to something I’d heard of through work but it is clear that it is becoming more of an issue….I think it is about cosy deals, contacts/CONtracts…whatever…. but it is detrimental to our country. The car driver is a convenient cash cow….higher insurance…..road tax….petrol……unless you are here illegally or with a European car and happily ignore the tax and bureaucracy. I am getting more and more hacked off particularly after having paid several hundred pounds to replace rear coil springs because of the multitude of potholes which are increasingly difficult to avoid.

    In Wokingham/Lower Earley, I am sick of waiting at useless, underused traffic lights when it could run like a roundabout. Yesterday in Slough off the M4 J6, the dual carriageway was down to one lane (three days now) with two men, one on each side doing very little. 90% of the time they are just standing around. Is it just unfortunate that I never see earnest activity? In the centre of Slough (the ‘Heart of Slough’ development is being built. It actually runs better with two lanes on the roundabout and no lights rather than three lanes and lights.

    As everyone else says, it is criminal the way money is being wasted on nonsense rather than repairing potholes and saving me money!! John, if I send you my bill please ask David Blair to stick it on his quarterly wisteria claim!

    Cheers
    zorro

  21. Mark
    Posted July 2, 2011 at 8:46 pm | Permalink

    I recently made a trip to the North West. I refused to consider the M1 to be a viable route while they install their cameras every 50 yards to monitor anyone who passes Luton (do we really need quite such saturation Orwellian coverage? Who watches them all?). As usual, the stretches where the police have their trainsets to play with were subjected to unnecessary variable speed limits (including the section of M6 heading North from Birmingham where the road surface is poor despite the spend on gantries to control the traffic – I avoided the M42 past the NEC to avoid yet more of that).

    The M40 junction with the A404 at High Wycombe continues to cause 10-15 mile jams because the road narrows to two lanes to pass under the roundabout which was expensively re-done about a year ago without attending to the obvious bottleneck. At least the slip lanes from the M40 to the M25 have been redrawn so as not to create a logjam (it was often quicker to go to then end of the M40 and come back to the M25 from Denham) – something achieved with a few licks of paint (and something I suggested to the DoT two years ago).

  22. Roger Pearse
    Posted July 2, 2011 at 9:06 pm | Permalink

    I’m in Suffolk. There was no work done at all after the dreadful winter of 2009 to patch the dilapidated roads. But I have seen, over the last few weeks, some definite signs of work to repair the roads in progress. I had put this down to Eric Pickles, to be honest, prodding the councils into doing the work they are supposed to do, but of course I could be wrong.

    The traffic harassment stuff — I can’t say that I have noticed either way. There are fewer gleeful announcements on local TV, tho.

    Just an opinion on the “war on the motorist” — it struck me the other day that what New Labour did was to embezzle the Road Fund. Instead of spending it on the purposes for which it is supposedly raised, they diverted it for other purposes. And then, to cover the fact that they had done so, as a diversion, they started the war on the motorist. And while we were all wondering why they were harassing us, and complaining about all the nonsense, none of us — certainly none of the journos — was asking what had become of all the money raised. The failure to spend the money on the roads became starkly obvious in 2009 and 2010, of course.

    Is this true? I don’t know.

    The worst roads I have ever seen were in Harlow in 2006-8. It was third-world, at major roundabouts, it really was. No money was spent all the time I was there.

    You know, John, if we want accountability to the people for money spent, we need more hypothecated taxes. Many, many more. At the moment no-one can follow where the money goes.

  23. rose
    Posted July 2, 2011 at 10:23 pm | Permalink

    We find a huge amount of work being done to the detriment of the city by “Parking Services” driving ugly and obstructive signposts into pavements in awkward places, and at very frequent intervals. Plus the hideous machines to go with them. The excuse is that motorists “don’t know” that they have to pay to park in the city centre, and therefore challenge their fines. So all this extra paraphernalia is suddenly being put in after “pay and display” has been up and running for several decades, to defeat the defence lawyers who must be making a lot of money. The visual effect in the Georgian conservation areas is horrible. It seems these people can do what they like without planning permission or local consultation.

  24. rose
    Posted July 2, 2011 at 10:26 pm | Permalink

    Meanwhile the pavements themselves are in an appalling state, mostly because lorries and vans are allowed to drive on to them, and the council rarely mends them.

  25. zorro
    Posted July 2, 2011 at 10:39 pm | Permalink
  26. Matt
    Posted July 2, 2011 at 10:45 pm | Permalink

    If transport planners were determined to force motorists off the roads then they are doing a pretty poor job. The total vehicle distance covered in the UK has been steadily rising for the last 5 decades. No amount of tinkering with junctions will alleviate the main issue that during peak times the demand for travel exceeds the available capacity. Government after government have failed to address this issue. This is despite transport being one of the few areas of national importance the government can actually control.
    You might also want to read the research that makes it very clear that roadworks are not a major cause of congestion.

  27. Posted July 3, 2011 at 6:31 am | Permalink

    During my infrequent trips to South Wales, I go over the second Severn crossing and then have my speed reduced to a monitored 50mph for about 12 miles for “safety reasons” (it actually says this). I can see no point in this and had assumed the restriction to be temporar and works related but it has been going on for a few years now.

    I think this is Welsh assembly competence* and thus little to do with the London parliament but if I still cared about my homeland, I might be tempted to do an FOI request looking at accidents and fatalities to see just how many lives and accidents this prevents. I would guess few if any, especially collisions because forcing everyone to drive at 50mph tends to bunch drivers together with one eye on their speedometers.

    (* I use the word to mean an area of responsibility for the assembly not that it is competent in any meaningful sense, Seriously, if you thought London MP’s were clueless, you should see these clowns; one is my former Geography teacher and from what I remember, I wouldn’t trust her to run an ice cream stall).

  28. Alison Granger
    Posted July 3, 2011 at 9:11 am | Permalink

    Come off it John, you know there is no effort to reduce the deficit. This governments aim is to inflate the currency and hope that eliminates the debt. They can’t really expect growth when they continue to waste billions a day on ridiculous public spending and illegal wars then increase tax at the same time. That’s been tried for most of the last century in Britain and has been the cause of our fall from world leadership to a small province of the Belgian Empire that has to ask permission to keep it’s own money. The definition of stupidity is to keep doing the same thing and expecting a different outcome.

  29. Bazman
    Posted July 3, 2011 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    One of my favourite waste of time and money is the installation of traffic lights at roundabouts. The whole point of a roundabout is so to not have traffic lights. One way systems are another, who comes up with these schemes?

    • alan jutson
      Posted July 3, 2011 at 9:45 pm | Permalink

      Bazman

      Your comment lights at roundabouts, defeating the object of a roundabout.

      Agree absolutely.

      The whole idea of a roundabout is to keep traffic moving, not to stop it and cause cars to wait, even when there is no other traffic.

      I really do think its all about power and control, of the people in charge of our highways who dream up more and more ways to control traffic, as if we were children.
      The problem is that all this extra equipment, coloured tarmac, white lines, speed humps, and increased signs, means that expenditure on maintainance rises year on year, so even less is actually spent on the road surface, which is the most critical part of the road.

      To give an example its like painting the bricks on your house, once painted they then need painting every 5-10 years otherwise tghe house looks crap.

      Leave the bricks alone and they last 100 years with little or no expense, they function and look better than painted ones.

  30. Stephen Gash
    Posted July 3, 2011 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

    Single lane roads bend around buildings and other perceived obstacles. When widened to dual carriageways the obstacles go, but the bends remain. When upgraded further to motorways the bends still remain.

    To travel 10 miles in parts of England motorists need to travel 20. Why not straighten roads?

    England has one of the most intensive road networks in the world let alone Europe. Scotland does not. Every pound spent on England’s roads generates Barnett consequentials for Scotland which lavishes its block grant on free Scottish higher education for EU students outside England. Yes, it does spend cash on its transport infrastructure like the Edinburgh tramway.

    England used to have a tram system much of which was run by private companies that were compelled to maintain roads between their tracks and 18″ either side. Trams were trashed for no good reason, merely fashion. Countries like Germany kept their trams and modernised them. By destroying the home market Britain destroyed an export market, as we exported trams across the world.

    British is, as we all know, a euphemism for being anti-English, but it is also one for stupidity.

  31. AJC
    Posted July 3, 2011 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

    Leeds is in the process of replacing some 82,000 street lights (a PFI scheme)!

    http://www.leeds.gov.uk/page.aspx?pageidentifier=4ed874d2-2cca-4c24-a085-9966085e849b

  32. Jockdownsouth
    Posted July 4, 2011 at 8:36 am | Permalink

    I live in West Sussex and have noticed that the roads in Surrey often have far more potholes than I see locally, so well done West Sussex County Council. On a recent trip to Buckinghamshire I was appalled at how bad their roads are. It is easy to report potholes using the Fixmystreet website, and their records can be used as evidence if councils try to reject a claim for damages on the grounds that they didn’t know about the problem –

    http://www.fixmystreet.com/

  33. stred
    Posted July 4, 2011 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    I stay in London with my better1/2 weekdays and the small road is thoroughly humped. We received a consultation from the LA asking whether we had noticed any improvement in road safety since the humps had arrived. As we had no way of knowing whether there had been any change in accident rates, I phoned the officer in charge to ask how we could answer. He volunteered the information that all London boroughs already have records of accidents before and after humping. He in fact lived just up the main road and had ‘put them in to stop himself taking a rat run on his way to work’. He seemed quite proud of this. As the road has a 90 deg bend and is narrow, it is almost impossible to drive at more than 20 anyway.

    When working as an architect, I used to design and draw housing estate roads myself and they seem to work well still. However in the late 80s a new breed of engineer came into the LA roads departments and things became more difficult. On my last job I tried on successive occasions to convince a highway engineer from Hong Kong that the vertical curve between two stretches of road in Kent could meet satisfactorily. The estate was almost flat. I was out by millimentres each time and asked him what the purpose of this super accuracy was. ‘Passenger comfort’ was the reply. So in his office this one was busy smoothing roads out to super standards, while on the other side of the office they were putting in maximum discomfort through humps.

    The type of hump that causes most danger seems to be the independent doubled type, put in to allow hearses to pass through the middle without bouncing the passenger out of the coffin. Drivers approach each other head on and swerve away just in time. I always assumed that these and all the disabled crossover work, at the same time putting in expensive finishes, is required and financed by central government. If LAs don’t waste money, they are in trouble.

  34. stred
    Posted July 4, 2011 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    Just tried to correct ‘received’ and ‘two’, but computer would not let me.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, He graduated from Magdalen College Oxford, has a DPhil and is a fellow of All Souls College. A businessman by background, he has been a director of NM Rothschild merchant bank and chairman of a quoted industrial PLC.

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