Productivity is primarily a public sector problem

Over Labour’s long years in power from 1997 to 2010 the public sector received plenty of spending to help it on its way. This was all called investment, and some of the money did indeed go into investment. Despite this there was no productivity growth at all in this large part of the UK economy. The government needs to turn its prime attention to boosting public sector productivity. It needs to work with its own staff – and the employees of the all the Councils and quangos – to help them work smarter and achieve more for less cost. That is what productivity is all about. That is what the UK manufacturing sector has been doing well year after year.

The problem with the lack of public sector productivity gains is not just that it reduces the performance of the whole by depressing the average, but the poor performance of the public sector in crucial areas like transport does damage to the private sector as it tries to become more productive.

The national and local highways authorities do not make getting to your destination in your vehicle their priority. Councils seem to take a delight in shutting the roads to vehicles as often as possible. They persist in allowing the placement of pipes and cables under main roads, so every repair or improvement requires digging up the road. Many Councils seek to take roadspace away from general vehicles for priority routes for buses or cycles, instead of supplying additional safe capacity for special users. Roads are closed for long periods after an accident or incident, and long after anyone injured has rightly been given priority and rescued. Councils phase lights badly, holding up traffic on the main routes in favour of minor routes or pedestrian crossing when there is no-one wishing to use the green phase and no sensor to realise this. Councils put in far too many sets of traffic lights, deliberately creating traffic jam traps that never flow.

Meanwhile the nationalised railway, Network Rail, gobbles huge sums of money and delivers very little new or better. Large sums go on changing from diesel to electric, when what is needed is more capacity and more reliable and intelligent signals. The nationalised railway impedes development of its substantial property estate, demands ransom payments from Councils and others that wish to bridge the railway line or make other improvements near rail routes, fails to think about total journey times and the difficulty of getting to many stations and parking there, and leaves parts of its estate in poor condition.

The government’s productivity drive should have short and long term programmes to deal with these major blockages to our economy. For our local roads we need

1, Roundabouts to replace traffic lights at difficult junctions
2. More traffic sensors on traffic lights
3. More left and right turning lanes at junctions to improve flows
4. More bypasses
5.Fewer permissions for road closures
6.All replacement pipes and cables to be placed under pavements or verges with easier repair access
7.More bridges over railway lines and rivers, as a shortage of bridge capacity is often the single main cause of peak congestion into and out of main towns and cities
8. Cycle routes provided safely away from main A roads

What we need for our nationalised railway will the subject of a future post.

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121 Comments

  1. Dame Rita Webb
    Posted July 11, 2015 at 5:48 am | Permalink

    How about taxing out all these East European lorries off the road? I got stuck behind one recently from a German haulier using a truck with a Ukrainian plate as a sort of flag of convenience. In this case the EU could not stick their nose in. Either tax them when they arrive at a British port or allow British truckers to compete with them i.e. reduce the tax on diesel so that it costs the same as it does in Poland at around 1.05 euro a litre. Its not as though Poland is Europe’s answer to Saudi Arabia to explain the differential in fuel costs for truckers.

    • Hope
      Posted July 11, 2015 at 7:41 am | Permalink

      JR, get real. Osborne is dissolving England under the guise of devolution. He is implementing Prescott’s regionalisation for the EU which the public rejected. Again, implementing Labour policies on behalf of the EU. Osborne even implemented Miliband’s norm Dom policy!

      Local authorities act as fiefdoms for small cliques of councillors which have named whipped votingwithout any accountability and no real scrutiny about ethics or corruption. We need larger unitary authorities that cost less and are forced to b e more accountable. Your proposals will remain a pipe dream.

      Mayors being promoted by Osborne will not help the public one jot, just increase cost and fulfil a mad Eau plan.

    • Jerry
      Posted July 12, 2015 at 8:23 am | Permalink

      @DRW; What do you propose the authorities do about those UK trucks who upon returning from France etc. have main tanks and belly-tanks full of cheap Derv?

      • Bob
        Posted July 12, 2015 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

        @Jerry

        “What do you propose the authorities do about those UK trucks who upon returning from France etc. have main tanks and belly-tanks full of cheap Derv?”

        It wouldn’t be necessary if our fuel duty matched continental levels.

        • Jerry
          Posted July 13, 2015 at 5:54 am | Permalink

          @Bob; Oh right, so it’s OK to be all “continental” when it suits but not if it means upsetting the UK’s traditional ways, and surely high(er) vehicle fuel prices are our way, after all unlike in so many parts of the continent we have no direct road charging and the such like bar a few tolls (that some political groups are campaigning to have removed).

          • Bob
            Posted July 13, 2015 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

            No Jerry, it’s not being all “continental” it’s called not handicapping your domestic hauliers.

            Please explain how you think our hauliers can compete with those from the continent who don’t pay our duty or taxes while our hauliers have to pay UK taxes and foreign road tolls.

          • Jerry
            Posted July 14, 2015 at 7:06 am | Permalink

            @Bob; Then we need to be a little more European don’t we, or put the “Closed for business” signs up at channel ports, stop the world UKIP members want to get off…

            Road hauliers have been calling for their own lower rated (blue) Derv and VED for a long time, far longer than UKIP have been around or jumping on others bandwagons.

            You still have not explained just what you would do about those UK trucks returning to the UK with tank full of cheaper French Derv, I assume you think that it is OK for such UK hauliers to work those lorries in the UK cheaper for the next week or what ever than their UK competitors can? I have no problem if you want UK Customs & Excise to dip all lorry tanks upon entry to the UK, just pointing out that it will not just be the foreign lorries who either get turned back or have to pay a surcharge!

          • Bob
            Posted July 16, 2015 at 2:45 am | Permalink

            @Jerry

            “I have no problem if you want UK Customs & Excise to dip all lorry tanks upon entry to the UK”

            It wouldn’t be necessary if we reduced our duty to eliminate the fuel price differential, but if you are suggesting dipping fuel tanks as a solution then I think you might run into some objections from Brussels as it would contravene the concept of the customs union.

          • Jerry
            Posted July 16, 2015 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

            @Bob: As I said, road hauliers have been campaigning for such a reduction long before UKIP was ever around, stop jumping on other peoples bandwagons as if you have just invented a new cause to protest about.

          • Edward2
            Posted July 16, 2015 at 10:44 pm | Permalink

            Come on Bob. Jerry has spoken
            Do as you are told.

          • Bob
            Posted July 17, 2015 at 10:59 am | Permalink

            @Jerry
            Why do you keep suggesting this is related to ukip?
            More “straw men” tactics because you have nothing relevant to say?

  2. agricola
    Posted July 11, 2015 at 6:36 am | Permalink

    All you say is absolutely true, but remember that within the public sector there is a lack of the same driving force that exists in the private sector to make a profit. In fact the profit motive is possibly a dirty word in some public quarters where what they do is considered above considerations of being efficient or making a profit. This lack of profit motive requires something else to drive the public sector to greater productivity. Remember that profit in the public sector may not be cash in someone’s balance sheet, but it is a reduction in tax for Joe Public.

    My contention is that any driving force must come from within. With existing management this is not likely to happen until they are re-educated and given the same motivations and incentives that exist within the UK/Japanese car plants. If it entails promoting open minded people in their twenties over existing management dead wood, so be it.

    Any management re-think should also involve everyone from the bottom up, because they know where all the inefficiencies are. Nothing short of a revolution will achieve what you argue for and most of us desire.

    Start small, lets say for arguments sake with the road and public works management in a city like Worcester. Pilot the revolution there and then when perfected roll it out across the country. Iain Duncan Smith has set a good example for this with welfare. Now lets have a crack at sorting out house building which is currently going nowhere I suggest.

    • David Price
      Posted July 12, 2015 at 6:22 am | Permalink

      The private sector has two driving forces, make a profit and not go bust, the carrot and the stick. Both encourage a focus on customer service, productivity and success and both are missing in the public sector.

      Simply offering to pay more money is not going to work – MOD bonuses, reduction in GP clinic hours after a significant increase for example. You must also have competition and the threat of the organisation being closed down with loss of employment – why should the taxpayer have to pay more simply to have the person do their job properly?

      The problem is to meaningfully measure valuable performance and success in a public sector context but you definitely need both the carrot and the stick

  3. alan jutson
    Posted July 11, 2015 at 6:42 am | Permalink

    Dame Rita

    Just back from France and diesel over there for the ordinary motorist 1.149- 1.179 Euro’s per litre, aware it is less in other EU areas, that is more than 30% less than the UK, no wonder they all fill up before they come over here.

    • Dame Rita Webb
      Posted July 11, 2015 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

      Remember if the tax on fuel is supposed to limit the UKs “greenhouse gas” emissions even a pee pee e graduate should be able to realise this. The UKs total population in size is just over what the Chinese government assumes for a margin of error when it tots up its population in a census. So even if we were all driving Trabants, our total emissions would literally be a fart in the global wind. For some reason looking at a petrol price website today we now have the most expensive diesel in Europe, (nothing to do with Brussels mind thats decided by a Tory chancellor in London).

      • alan jutson
        Posted July 12, 2015 at 9:29 am | Permalink

        Dame Rita

        Nothing to do with green house emissions, its all about tax revenue.

        Just look at the new budget for example on VED.

        Many manufacturers, manufactured cars to meet the zero tax band with fuel efficient models.
        Now the Chancellor decides they must pay, because he is not getting in enough tax.

        Just shows what all this green tax is all about, nothing to do with stopping so called climate change and saving the planet, its just an excuse for raising more money from tax.

        • fedupsoutherner
          Posted July 12, 2015 at 10:29 am | Permalink

          Totally agree with your sentiments Alan. How on earth is a tax on virtually anything that emits emissions of some kind or another going to reduce anything? What makes us think we are more powerful than nature? The weather will do what the weather always has done – shine, rain, blow, ice etc. London may have had a nice summer but Scotland has been dire. Yet all we hear is global warming this and that. The Telegraph is saying today that in 15 years we will enter a mini ice age. If this is true it puts paid to all the warming theories. What the hell will we do for heating though if by 2030 we have to abandon gas boilers and coal when all we have left is solar and wind?? We may all freeze to death! Why don’t we just get on with living and coping with changes in weather and stop fleecing the public by taxing them for choosing to drive the car they desire?

  4. alan jutson
    Posted July 11, 2015 at 6:54 am | Permalink

    We have said all of these things for years John.
    Chicanes which direct traffic into a head on position.
    Speed humps which wreck tyres and suspension.
    Traffic lights now on roundabouts.
    Thousands of miles of roads coned off at a time and no one working.
    Roads narrowed for cycle lanes.
    Lack of parking.
    Speed /box junction camera’s to raise money for minor indiscretions.

    So I support your argument all the way, but nothing ever happens, the so called good and great planners of our highways, be it national or local, always get their way.

    Just look at what is happening on a local basis, in an area near you with the so called relief road proposals.

    A simple rule that 24/7 working should be enforced by contract on all major “A” roads and motorways would be a start.

    Reply I am making some progress. The Station Road has now opened and it is better than before, and the Shinfield by pass is in build. The Arborfield by pass has been agreed.

    • Tad Davison
      Posted July 11, 2015 at 6:59 pm | Permalink

      You’re so right Alan.

      At the exit into Cambridge from the M11, there’s a big traffic island. There never used to be a problem with traffic until they put traffic lights on it. Now, it’s a nightmare.

      They waste money with these ill-conceived schemes like it was going out of fashion, and just make it worse. I might have my say on this on the radio next week if I can cajole the presenter into including it as a topic for debate.

      Tad

    • Bob
      Posted July 12, 2015 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

      On Fri 29/6 I was caught in a 2½ delay during the evening rush hour on the southbound M40 in Warwickshire.

      The reason: Two lanes closed to facilitate mowing the verge and pruning some of the trees.

      Obviously it couldn’t have waited until after rush hour, or the weekend!

      • Bob
        Posted July 12, 2015 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

        *26/6

      • Jerry
        Posted July 13, 2015 at 6:03 am | Permalink

        @Bob; “Obviously it couldn’t have waited until after rush hour, or the weekend!”

        It’s called doing things the cheapest possible way [1], weekend work will be at least “time and a half”, why should the tax payers money be wasted, also (especially at this time of year) please feel free to define when the “rush hour” starts and ends, over night work will probably cost three times as much once the cost of lighting etc is costed in.

        [1] in the so called tax and spend socialist 1970s such work probably would have been carried out at weekends

        • Bob
          Posted July 13, 2015 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

          ” weekend work will be at least “time and a half””

          No Jerry, you just ensure that your employment contracts specify that there is no premium for weekends and the employees work on a duty rosta.

          • Jerry
            Posted July 14, 2015 at 7:11 am | Permalink

            @Bob; Stop living in a dream world of the 1840s, unless of course you plan to get eastern European migrants to do the work for less than the going rate…

            Also I do not believe that anyone can be made to work Sundays, which leave only Saturdays that can be as busy as a weekday.

          • Ted Monbiot
            Posted July 14, 2015 at 7:43 am | Permalink

            You are wrong Jerry.
            Employers can offer jobs with rota hours based on a requirement to work flexible nights and weekends and bank holidays.
            It is up to people to decide if they accept these terms and the pay offered.
            Many employees like these shift patterns.
            Customers expect to be looked after 24 hours a day.
            Airports, factories, hotels, supermarkets, hgv drivers emergency services etc etc.

          • Jerry
            Posted July 14, 2015 at 7:42 pm | Permalink

            @Ted Monbiot; Sorry but you have not countered anything I said. No one can be forced to work Sundays, no one can be forced to take such employment that would make them work Sundays. Also a LOT of highway (and other transport) maintenance work is already done over-night, but that was not the point of debate I was responding to, weekend and Sunday working was.

            “It is up to people to decide if they accept these terms and the pay offered.”

            Which is basically what I said but apparently I am wrong so does that make you wrong too Ted?…

          • Ted Mombiot
            Posted July 15, 2015 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

            Pedantic Jerry.
            “Forced” well no of course we cannot be “forced”.
            Do you mean by gunpoint or violence or threats?
            If you define “forced” as you do the of course the answer is no we cannot be forced.
            But try getting a job with a major supermarket or at an airport or an exhibition centre or a job with the emergency services etc and see if you get offered employment after you tell them you will only work 9 to 5 Monday to Friday and you reuse to work weekends shifts or Sundays.

          • Jerry
            Posted July 16, 2015 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

            @Ted Mombiot; Not “pedantic” Ted, just the real word as it is in 2015, not 1815…

            Those who do not want to work such hours will simply not apply, if they are forced (by the DWP, for example, which they can be) they will simply make sure that they either fail the interview or get themselves sacked as quickly as they can if made to take the job. There is no reason why 16-25 year old’s can not spend all day in a farmers field bent over cutting cabbages but how many of the UK youth choose to do so, hence why we now have so many young eastern Europeans coming and doing such work.

          • Ted Mombiot
            Posted July 16, 2015 at 10:53 pm | Permalink

            Its not me that resides in a Victorian fantasy world Jerry
            Continuing with your pedantic nonsense I see, now waffling on about cabbages.
            You forget that with both partners in a modern household working, doing shift work in todays 24/7 society can be very useful and well paid.
            There are no shortages of applicants.

            I’m sure you would be quick to complain if the service you needed outside Monday to Friday 9 to 5 was unavailable.

    • Jamie
      Posted July 14, 2015 at 9:24 pm | Permalink

      jr- nice of you to take credit for something you had no part in at all!

  5. JJE
    Posted July 11, 2015 at 6:57 am | Permalink

    So what ever happened to the third bridge over the Thames in Reading. Are Oxfordshire successfully resisting that for another fifty years?

    Reply They are still against.Oxfordshire are also responsible for putting a traffic light controlled junction at the end of Henley bridge which is the main cause of the jams and created the torture of partial road closure following floods on the north approach to Sonning Bridge for months earlier this year.

    • JJE
      Posted July 11, 2015 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

      Perhaps the key is to hope that our current PM from an Oxfordshire constituency is replaced by Mrs. May who lives in Sonning?

      • Jerry
        Posted July 13, 2015 at 6:06 am | Permalink

        @JJE; Well that solution might well sort out your local roads but will it sort out the Country?!…

  6. Ian wragg
    Posted July 11, 2015 at 7:34 am | Permalink

    I travel and drive overseas extensively. Most countries put traffic lights on flashing overnight or quiet periods some have timers to tell you how long till they change. In one country I worked in all utilities were warned of road works and told to do any necessary work. Failure to would incur a hefty fine if the road was dug up again within 2 years. Not in this country though.

    • Jerry
      Posted July 12, 2015 at 8:30 am | Permalink

      @Ian wragg; “I worked in all utilities were warned of road works and told to do any necessary work.”

      How do you plan reactive maintenance, the UK’s biggest problem due to our (generally) much older buried infrastructure…

  7. Richard1
    Posted July 11, 2015 at 7:35 am | Permalink

    Interesting piece. I have never bought this argument that ‘we’ are all less productive than other economies. Plenty of UK businesses and sectors are highly competitive and have been striving for higher productivity. As we saw with the tube strike in London the other day, plenty of parts of the public sector seem to feel no onus at all to do more for less / provide an excellent service. There is far too much bleating about cuts whenever the slightest attempt is made to improve public sector productivity.

    We should not overlook home grown problems on the Conservative side. 7 years into Mr Johnsons mayoralty London traffic is an appalling mess and surely a huge cost for the London economy and many UK businesses. There is now a ridiculous cycle highway under construction right under the nose of Parliament on the Embankment. traffic there is now therefore even worse than it used to me. If Labour select a sensible candidate like Tessa Jowell and if she makes sorting out London traffic a priority I don’t think the Conservatives will get a look in in the mayoral election. Productivity is a key issue there.

  8. stred
    Posted July 11, 2015 at 7:59 am | Permalink

    Last weekend I had the opportunity to witness the way in which the Highways Agency and police handle their expensively equipped ‘smart’ 4 lane motorways. The hard shoulder has been taken away for four lanes and instead we have to watch instructions on gantries which also have hidden speed cameras and fine us if we do not follow the ever changing speed limits. I have had to suddenly brake from 70 t0 40 in the past, rather than be fined. Fortunately no rear shunt happened. The reasons may be an object in the road, a bit of fog or anything they think is a risk. Often, having traveled 10 miles the reason has disappeared or is too small to be seen. The stretch of the M25 that we use is controlled by a (policeman? ed) in the Godstone control centre. I suspect that it is one that has not ever driven a vehicle (etc ed).

    Well , this is how they handle a blocked ex-hard shoulder. Firstly, the speed limit is reduced to 40 and the number of lanes reduced to three, then two. A Highways car pulls in front and stops the whole motorway before the blockage. In our case it was a car and lorry which, despite all the instructions, had had a bump. Next a police car goes the other way down the motorway to the next junction and returns up the ex hard shoulder after about 10 minutes. They then put out cones to make the car safe, taking two lanes and leaving two for the queue of traffic which by now is about 15 miles long. Time taken is about 25 minutes.The queue then lasts for a few hours.

    Yesterday, again there was a long queue and a one hour delay while they dealt with a lorry. When we arrived at the scene the lorry had gone but the gantries still instructed us to stay in lane and keep to the outside two. However, as the inside two were where the motorway splits and we had to turn left, we joined the other undertakers who had realized that the instructions would have lead us towards ‘operation stack’ where the plods have shut the whole motorway and created a camp for starving lorry drivers.

    Having invested all this money in taking away the hard shoulder, we are now experiencing worse delays than before.

  9. JimS
    Posted July 11, 2015 at 8:44 am | Permalink

    In the outskirts of Birmingham there was a single track bridge crossing a minor river. At each end of the bridge was a traffic light controlling the flow. This arrangement lasted some 60 years.

    The bridge was replaced by a twin track bridge, the traffic lights were no longer needed, the traffic flowed freely.

    The council then installed chicanes at either side of the bridge. The result is that traffic flow is worse than before because now two queues build up on either side of the bridge, rather than the previous one, and because they are set back from the bridge access to side roads is now often blocked.

    The management of local authority road departments should be given to consulting engineers that get paid on the basis of improved traffic flow. The current regimes seem to have exactly the opposite intention.

    Recently my local authority extended the pavements opposite some of the bus stops. The result is that a) traffic can’t pass if a vehicle is parked on the opposite side of the road b) buses frequently hit these ‘boarders’ c) the road user of choice, the cyclist, has to veer out into the road to pass them.

    • Tad Davison
      Posted July 11, 2015 at 7:06 pm | Permalink

      Exactly the same in a place near me Jim, Stow-cum-quy.

      They closed off half of the road in three places, and now instead of flowing freely, the traffic is held up, and for no good reason. If per chance there was a problem with speeding motorists in that location, then let the bluebags deal with them, and let’s get the errant motorists off the road, and not inconvenience the innocent ones.

      Tad

  10. CHRISTOPHER HOUSTON
    Posted July 11, 2015 at 8:46 am | Permalink

    Like in great grandma’s days where she had an array of tins marked “rent”, gas, “electricity” “food” Central Government continues to send Local Authorities similarly marked wads of money for specific purposes.If the money is not used in full then the LA gets less next time. So they use the lot for wasteful renewal. Example, a Council roof was renovated costing thousands. Two years later the whole building knocked down because Central Government had sent a tin of money for a joint council/clinic building. The fault lies with the Central Government whatever the hue. Such bad behaviour and diversion of potential productive resources has gone on for decades.

    There was the famous Housing Market Renewal Initiative and other schemes which in too many cases pulled out kitchens and house electrical wiring etc etc after two years and renewed them from the Central Government “spend it or lose it” tins.

    Billions were wasted.

    If Central Government has money to legitimately use for specific purposes then why does it send it in tins to Local Authorities of all colours who with the best will in the world are quite incapable of using it productively as they are by definition LOCAL and not in lockstep with the national big picture?

    So Government expects Northern Powerhouses to achieve greater productivity. Why? By giving big tins of cash instead of small tins?

  11. Brian Tomkinson
    Posted July 11, 2015 at 8:48 am | Permalink

    In my experience roundabouts have been replaced by traffic lights or had lights added to them. Dual carriageways have been reduced to single lane. Everything it seems has been done to slow traffic and cause congestion. Congestioncharging, having first created it, was once in vogue. Why not have left turning at junctions if road is clear as they do in USA for turning right?
    My local council has decided to waste £2m of our money on replacing all of our general waste bins with new ones half the size. They will collect at the same frequency as present. How about that for the cluelessness of local authorities?

  12. Bert Young
    Posted July 11, 2015 at 8:48 am | Permalink

    The heading for Dr. JR’s future post on ” What we need for our nationalised railway ” is very interesting . The plethora of companies presently involved I consider confusing and costly . I await the blog to see if it recommends “rationalisation as well as nationalisation ” .

    Meanwhile I’m off for two weeks !

  13. Tad Davison
    Posted July 11, 2015 at 9:09 am | Permalink

    ‘Many Councils seek to take roadspace away from general vehicles for priority routes for buses or cycles, instead of supplying additional safe capacity for special users.’

    I should coco! Some Westminster bubble politicians ought break free occasionally and try living in Cambridge! There are confrontations with cyclists every single day of the week.

    Cyclists were provided with a dedicated cycle bridge right next to a road over-bridge with restricted width, yet they still use the road and hold up the traffic.

    On an inner ring road traffic island, lovely grass verges were cut back, and cars were forced into one single lane instead of two, to make room for a cycle lane around the perimeter, yet cyclists STILL use the road!

    In one location, the road available to cars has been reduced on one side of the road to accommodate a cycle lane, causing what was once a free-flowing road to become narrower and more difficult to navigate. On the opposite side of the road, there is a twelve-foot wide cycle way literally just the other side of the kerb stone, but guess what – again, the cyclists STILL use the road, and that holds up the traffic, including buses that have to work to a timetable!

    And I wish I had a camera to hand on the numerous occasions when a certain former Cambridge MP cycled past my home texting at the same time, and not paying attention to the road.

    Cyclists do have a legal right to use the road, but they contribute little or nothing to the road fund, and are a cursed nuisance in a lot of cases, yet councils fall over themselves to provide facilities for them. George Osborne was right when he says the money motorists pay should be used for the purpose of road improvements. Far too many local councils are anti-motorist, and one even admitted as much on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire a while ago.

    That cannot be right! We want change! We’ve had this for too long. There are places in this fair county and beyond, that we totally avoid at certain times because of gridlock. We must be twenty years behind the curve on road building, especially if we are to take-in ever increasing numbers of immigrants now running at over 300,000 per annum.

    And buses carrying maybe six passengers, have priority over cars where dedicated bus lanes have been created, thus turning a traffic-jam free dual carriageway, into a clogged single carriageway.

    This Keystone Cops approach to road capacity provision in the name of the ‘green cycling revolution’ has got to be corrected.

    Tad Davison

    Cambridge

    • Mark
      Posted July 11, 2015 at 11:11 pm | Permalink

      I suspect there were many more cycles when I lived in Cambridge: they were the means of transport for the workers at Pye etc. I seem to recall a figure of 120,000 cycles in the town. Yet the traffic problems were far less severe. There was little in the way of cycleways, and much less obstruction of general traffic for bus lanes, one way systems, etc. There were no park-and-rides either, so all car traffic had to park in the city centre.

      • Tad Davison
        Posted July 12, 2015 at 8:16 am | Permalink

        Before my time Mark, we came to live in Cambridge on the day of the 1992 General Election, and a lot has changed on our roads even in that time. There are more cars, and maybe less bikes than in your time in this city, but we now have an unwanted ingredient thrown into the mix – anti-social behaviour, and a disregard for any other road used by a significant number of cyclists. And even as the actions of the former MP shows, they couldn’t care less about the rules of the road.

        The way is to segregate bikes and other road traffic, but even when the motorist or rate-payer pays for dedicated cycle ways, they still won’t use them. But they complain bitterly when they get knocked off because of their own stupidity.

        Speaking of which, the same former MP wanted to get the law changed so that whenever a cyclist was involved in an accident with a motorist, there would be an automatic presumption of guilt on the part of the latter!

        And as one local radio presenter eloquently put it, ‘…….and these people walk amongst us?’

        Tad

  14. ChrisS
    Posted July 11, 2015 at 9:11 am | Permalink

    Item 4 on your list :

    One of the simplest and cheapest changes to the urban road network would be to allow left turns on red at traffic light junctions.

    This works well in other countries like the USA and would cost almost nothing to introduce here.

    Another US measure I would introduce would be variable speed limits outside schools. 20mph during critical times of day when pupils are coming and going and 30 or 40mph as appropriate during the rest of the time and during School holidays. In the US the reduced limits are signified by flashing yellow lights.

    • Tad Davison
      Posted July 11, 2015 at 6:51 pm | Permalink

      ‘One of the simplest and cheapest changes to the urban road network would be to allow left turns on red at traffic light junctions.’

      Chris, I can think of numerous places where that would improve matters, but these days, the minds of the traffic planners don’t think that way. They seem to want to inhibit the motorist wherever possible, and kill the cash cow in the process. We want goods and people to flow freely to help the economy, but I wonder when was the last time they saw volume goods being delivered to a distribution centre by bike?

      Tad

      • David Price
        Posted July 12, 2015 at 7:44 am | Permalink

        The employment and pay of the planners and many if not all the public sector is not connected in any way with the economy. Their prosperity is not linked to that of the private sector so they have no inducement to help the economy. We want goods to flow freely but obviously they don’t.

        Perhaps the route to appropriate attitude adjustment is to link their remuneration to ours – they get less when we do, they get laid off with minimal compensation when we do and they get rewarded when we do. Perhaps when they get fined for late appointments, delays in service, traffic delays and blocked off roads they will change their tune.

  15. English Pensioner
    Posted July 11, 2015 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    Our council has recently “improved” our high street, but in doing so has slowed down the traffic. They have painted cycle lanes, some no longer than a couple of bicycles, restricting the road width to that a small car. This means that buses and lorries have no choice but to use the cycle lanes. The council’s aim seems to slow the traffic rather than keep things moving. Meanwhile my impression is that the local shops are doing less business, probably due to the high priced parking, so it’s hard to see exactly what the council is trying to do.

    • ian weragg
      Posted July 11, 2015 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

      All local authorities are signed up to Agenda 21 which basically is to close high streets and de-industrialise the country.
      Read up on it sometime it’s fascinating.
      Together with Gideons rush to balkanise us at the EU behest, nothing short of civil disobedience is going to stem the stupidity of our rulers.
      The make the Greeks look sane.

      • turbo terrier
        Posted July 11, 2015 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

        Ian.

        You are so right on Agenda 21 but fascinating no not really.

        I find it horrific and terrifying.

        The problem is 80% at least of the country have never heard of it and very few if any politicians ever mention it.

        As for the media forget it.

        Sooner or later it will have to be properly addressed.

      • fedupsoutherner
        Posted July 12, 2015 at 10:33 am | Permalink

        You’re not wrong there!

  16. nigel
    Posted July 11, 2015 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    You mention quangos. I am still waiting for the promised bonfire of them.

    • fed
      Posted July 12, 2015 at 11:24 am | Permalink

      Yes, Nigel, that would be a good way to keep warm in the coming ice age.

  17. zorro
    Posted July 11, 2015 at 9:32 am | Permalink

    On roads and transport,you are quite correct, but this persistent bureaucratic inefficiency is all pervasive within the Civil Service…. Particularly in IT which is always so far behind. Massive amounts continue to be spent on central contracts and new innovations are not being taken advantage of quickly enough. A combination of overblown ‘security’ requirements and inbuilt sclerosis seems to stop progress and productivity being achieved….

    zorro

  18. Alan Wheatley
    Posted July 11, 2015 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    Agreed.

  19. CHRISTOPHER HOUSTON
    Posted July 11, 2015 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    It would be a productive use of UK money if central Government were to desist from giving money for traffic facility renewal to Local Authorities. One Head of a Local Authority told a select gathering once with almost a wink “it creates jobs locally “. Yes, in context of the precise interaction/conversation, an admission of a waste of money on a grand scale.

    Next time Central Government money is sent in tins to Local Authorities marked “use it or lose it next time ” why not put in the tin…to save time and resources and increase productivity …a selection of Honours..egs, OBEs, CBEs, Knighthoods to be handed out to friends and relations? With a very special Victoria Cross medal for the Head of the Local Authority who assists ( not physically of course ) in the rebuilding of a town centre three times in 25 years. A hero.

  20. bigneil
    Posted July 11, 2015 at 9:57 am | Permalink

    More bypasses – The trouble with this is that the bypass is built – then firms want to build at the side of them, which means access roads being built. Access roads mean other traffic has to slow as many big lorries have to leave/enter the bypass. More and more access roads are built as more firms want to locate there – someone then demands the speed limit is reduced because of all the increased traffic- and the bypass just becomes an extension of the town it was supposed to help. I have seen this happen on one about 15 mile from me, right from it first opening years ago – to a now much slower, several miles long, industrial estate. Then – a bypass is needed to bypass the bypass.
    As for rail travel – I fear that with immigration going the way it is, the next thing will be hundreds of people sat on the tops of carriages, as we are forced to accept their ways. Only thing is – I think Health and Safety would insist on seat belts for those atop the HS2.

    • Jerry
      Posted July 12, 2015 at 8:51 am | Permalink

      @bigneil; “More and more access roads are built as more firms want to locate there”

      Other countries (within the EU) manage to plan for this, the bypass/duel-carriageway feeding retail and or industrial developments has a service road each side that feeds the development area, thus only one junction required. Perhaps we need to do things “their way” rather than always trying carry on with the failed UK ways?…

  21. Matt
    Posted July 11, 2015 at 10:22 am | Permalink

    Are not many of these productivity-damaging measures driven by the green agenda?
    Electric trains, wilfully congested roads to drive us onto public transport etc.
    Your piece suggests it’s mismanagement, but surely a lot of it is deliberate.

  22. Robert McKeever
    Posted July 11, 2015 at 10:44 am | Permalink

    I am all for improving productivity in the public sector, but your comment on how well manufacturing dies in this respect is quite wrong. We lag behind many European countries in private sector productivity and we rely on a large supply of cheap labour to compensate. Much of that cheap labour is made up of EU immigrants. Unless we tackle this problem quickly and effectively, the UK will continue to slide down the productivity league.

    Reply The Nissan car plant accounting for a large share of our vehicle output is the most productive EU plant I believe.

    • fedupsoutherner
      Posted July 12, 2015 at 10:35 am | Permalink

      Quite right John. It is the most productive in Europe. Saw it on the BBC the other night so it must be true!

      • Jerry
        Posted July 13, 2015 at 6:25 am | Permalink

        The most productive or not, the thing that really matters is were the output goes, if some or all of that market dries up then the factory becomes unprofitable.

        Please do remember the complex ownership of Nissan, it is not the same company who made that original investment in 1984, moving production to say France (using spare capacity and skilled workforce) might well sit happily in the whole scheme of things…

        Reply They will only do that if our costs become too high or there is some other major problem. They are not going to close their most efficient factory with good access to the Uk market just because we change our relationship with the EU! They didn’t leave when we refused to join the Euro as many said car plants would.

        • Jerry
          Posted July 13, 2015 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

          @JR reply; Such companies will do what THEY want, what makes sense for them (both geo economic-political), what ever I, you or anyone else here in the UK thinks and hopes.

        • Jerry
          Posted July 13, 2015 at 4:58 pm | Permalink

          In case my comments come over as “europhile”, can I just repeat, as things stand (even more so after the last 472 hrs re Greece/Euro) I want a Brexit but I do not want the UK to sleep walk into it on well meaning assumptions. Greece has been hung out to dry to protect the Euro, it is just possible that upon a Brexit the UK will also be hung out to dry to protect the EU project from further desertions – there are plenty of other markets for Germany, French and other northern EU-centric countries to sell their goods and services, there is plenty of skilled spare manufacturing capacity in France not to mention the EU member countries to the east and south with space for new factories and cheap(er) labour. The UK can’t afford to take our current markets for granted as we did in the 1950s and ’60s, “of course they will still want to trade with us” (buy our goods) – err, no they did not!

          I will look forward to reading that long term economic plan for a post Brexit UK…

          • Ted Monbiot
            Posted July 14, 2015 at 7:31 am | Permalink

            Your scenario is that German and French and other EU companies would refuse to sell their goods and services to us here in the UK in retaliation for us leaving the EU
            As you say yourself this is “just possible”
            But only just.
            As far as the car industry is concerned I could see Jaguar Land Rover, Toyota and Nissan etc rubbing their hands in glee at the resulting reduced competition and increased demand for their products.

            Would the EU legislate to force companies in the EU not to sell to us? No.
            Would that be legally possible? No.
            I do not think your fantasy scenario is realistic Jerry.

          • Jerry
            Posted July 14, 2015 at 8:01 pm | Permalink

            @Ted Monbiot; “[post a Brexit, companies] rubbing their hands in glee at the resulting reduced competition and increased demand for their products.”

            Assuming that they do not decide to move fully in to the EU, assuming they do not move lock, stock and smoking press-tool to a BRIC nations. Globalisation, don’t we just love it, after all why manufacture in the UK when the majority of your customers are in any country other than the UK…

            “Would the EU legislate to force companies in the EU not to sell to us? No.”

            They will do what they wish, who knows what that is, after all the Europhobes were certain that there would have been a Grexit by now, 5 years ago Iran had EU sanctions applied against it, 5 years ago who would have considered that Russia would now have EU sanctions – eurocrats have only one mission, protect the EU, make their dream work by hook or by crook.

            “Would that be legally possible? No.”

            When has that stopped the EU, under UN and WTO rules there is nothing to stop any EU member county from entering a trading agreement with another country but just try it and the eurocrats will be after that member country.

          • Ted Mombiot
            Posted July 16, 2015 at 11:10 am | Permalink

            On of the more ridiculous replies I have seen from you Jerry and I have seen quite a few recently.
            There is no possibility of the EU forcing BMW or Renault or Ford for example,from selling their cars wherever they want to.
            None at all.
            Unless the EU morphs into a USSR/Cuban enclosed loony Marxist siege economy.

            Yes every major company in the UK could move away to another far away country in Brazil Russia India and China.
            Are they likely to do that no they are not.

          • libertarian
            Posted July 18, 2015 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

            Jerry

            I tried to stay out of this one, I’m beginning to feel sorry for you getting a kicking from all and sundry. However as I keep trying to tell you things have changed, its the 21st century. Small is the new way forward. Re – Shoring is a huge movement now ( bringing back to the UK small manufacturing plants that until a few years ago were in Asia) Meanwhile exports from UK SME’s are rising at a phenomenal rate ( 90% plus NOT to EU ).

            The Nissan Plant in Sunderland makes the Juke entirely for the UK market so there would be no commercial reason to move it anywhere else. The only other vehicles manufactured there are unbelievably for the Japanese market.

            The UK is Germany’s biggest European market for cars. they aint going to stop selling to us and if they did we’d just buy Jag’s & Range Rovers

            Please please Jerry stay away from business topics you are so far out of touch you should set up home on Pluto

  23. Gary
    Posted July 11, 2015 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    not according to the ONS. It’s not just govt that’s unproductive.


    David Cameron has presided over an economy with the weakest productivity record of any government since the second world war, the Office for National Statistics said as it revealed output per worker fell again in the final three months of 2014.

    The ONS figures show that with workers producing less than they did in 2007, Britain’s productivity gap with its major economic rivals, such as the US, Germany and France, has widened. The UK has the second worst productivity record of the G7 leading Western industrial nations.Weak productivity has been the flipside to strong employment growth, since the increase in the number of people working has not been matched by the hourly output of goods and services they have produced.”

    http://www.theguardian.com/business/2015/apr/01/uk-productivity-growth-is-weakest-since-wwii-says-ons

    • forthurst
      Posted July 11, 2015 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

      There are not likely to be significant productivity increases without full employment forcing employers to invest more, train more and recruit less; nor does the obligation to recruit unsuitable candidates for the purposes of quota filling improve matters. We will never have full employment whilst we are in the EU with mandatory free movement and with no effort to contain third world immigration because the potential availability of additional labour to supplement the workforce which either imports itself or is imported becomes infinite for all intents and purposes.

    • acorn
      Posted July 11, 2015 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

      Gary, have a look at http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/dcp171778_403189.pdf (It’s a government link JR). The picture is a bit grim and a lot of it was self-inflicted by Mr Osborne.

      The time series data, particularly Figs 5 to 8, show the major damage Osborne austerity did to the UK economy with his 2010 budget. He killed the recovery that Mr Darling had started by running an 11% budget deficit; Mr Darling would have started getting his money back three years earlier than Osborne.

      Alas, neo-liberal conservatives, still think the government has to tax people and sell Gilts, before it has any money to spend. And, still can’t get their heads around the fact that the, so called, “national debt”, is in fact the private sector’s national savings.

      But we should be thankful that we are not in the Eurozone, where the Troika has managed to do, and continues to do, economic damage to a factor of Osborne squared. The UN should introduce a global requirement that to be considered a sovereign nation state under its charter, you have to have your own floating currency. Currency unions should be band.

      Still, large parts of the planet have learnt from the EU disaster. The ASEAN states have said they are not going to have a common currency. The BRICS states are agreeing to settle trades in local currencies in a scheme designed by the Russians and the Chinese.

      The Boiling Frog syndrome is alive and well in the EU. I thought Greece was the first glimmer of hope. It looks like Grexit was just a dream.

      Reply The main chart you refer us to shows good growth in output per person in the UK after 2010 save in mining,quarrying, and energy. In other words the North Sea decline and the electricity policies hit output but the rest worked quite well.

  24. NickM
    Posted July 11, 2015 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

    Having worked for a private company working for an arm of the UK state, and despite being cynical about state spending, I was nevertheless shocked at the waste, the internal politicking and the excessive managerialism of our state customer.

    It was both unbelievable and demoralising. Sense went out of the door. I was told to my face that the paperwork was more important than the product. The whole project should have taken no more than 2 years, but went on for almost 5 years. Our engineers were routinely ignored and instructed not to raise important issues.

    If this is typical throughout government then the taxpayer is getting about 50p worth out of every £1 spent and the wrong things are being bought/done. It primarily seemed to infest the (excessive) management layers; the people (in the state industry) who actually had to produce the products appeared to be both capable and long-suffering.

    • Monty
      Posted July 11, 2015 at 7:31 pm | Permalink

      I think you have touched on an important point regarding over-staffing at managerial levels. It isn’t just that the public sector is delivering below par, it is doing so with over-inflated overheads. Too many over-paid sinecures within the local authorities.

  25. Margaret Brandreth-J
    Posted July 11, 2015 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

    The roads are always closed at the busiest times.As our small village of Ramsbottom flourishes and attracts business from far and wide the road capacity is poor. We have a steam train to the centre with all its historical features . This is part of the attraction apart from the busy bars and restaurants.It would be better to close the roads at night and carry on with the work under floodlight..We have been featured in films as the setting is unique and I would not like it to lose its charm by making the roads anything but traditional, but access to these tourist attractions and buzzing villages should not be hindered by the surrounding out of village roads packed with traffic lights for the never ending repair work.

    • Jerry
      Posted July 12, 2015 at 8:59 am | Permalink

      @MB-J; “It would be better to close the roads at night and carry on with the work under floodlight.”

      At twice the cost! Also this would only work well away from residential areas, the noise from pneumatic drill or mechanical plant machines will travel even further at night than they do during the day. Even normal group conversations in a residential street are enough to disturb sleep, especially at this time of year.

      • Edward2
        Posted July 12, 2015 at 10:02 am | Permalink

        Margaret was talking specifically about her local village not as you have wrongly interpreted the whole of the UK.

        The noisy initial digging could be done early evening and the remaining less noisy work done overnight.

        • Edward2
          Posted July 12, 2015 at 11:39 am | Permalink

          And you say Jerry that the costs of out of normal hours would be high.
          But if you account differently, the costs of traffic congestion and reduced economic activity in that village because of the daytime disruption could be even higher.

        • Jerry
          Posted July 12, 2015 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

          @Edward2, “Margaret was talking specifically about her local village not as you have wrongly interpreted the whole of the UK.

          So MB-J wants her village dug up only at night, how does that make what I said irrelevant (the work would still cost more, and still cause unacceptable noise, and I gave a reason why)?

          “The noisy initial digging could be done early evening and the remaining less noisy work done overnight.”

          Once the digging closes or restricts the road that is that, work might as well carry on until finished!

          Is this going to be the short argument or are you aiming for the full Monty Python version Edward?…

          • Edward2
            Posted July 12, 2015 at 9:34 pm | Permalink

            You failed to read the initial post before you jumped in with your inevitable contrary comment Jerry.
            You miss the point about the costs to those running businesses in the village.
            When works only happen during working hours it takes longer and disrupts your trade.

            Margaret makes a very good point that working outside normal hours will finish the works quicker and reduce disruption to businesses as well as local residents.

          • Edward2
            Posted July 13, 2015 at 7:23 am | Permalink

            Again you have failed to read the original post properly in your rush to contrary post Jerry.
            Margaret was talking about surrounding roads and traffic lights disrupting visitors and their valuable income.

          • Jerry
            Posted July 13, 2015 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

            @Edward2; I not only read MB-J comment but more importantly understood the implications, unlike you and your silly ultra-capitalist dogma constantly looking for an argument.

          • Edward2
            Posted July 13, 2015 at 10:33 pm | Permalink

            I forgot to add that as you consider you are always right and refuse to consider you just might be completely wrong any comments daring to point this out are in your words just picking an argument.
            As is common with you Jerry you resort to personal attacks and give anyone who challenges you cheap labels rather than ever answering the actual questions put to you.
            You rdcently said you belonged to a debating society at school.
            The one I went to would have asked you to leave.

          • Jerry
            Posted July 14, 2015 at 7:58 am | Permalink

            @Edward2; Then it wasn’t a debating society!..

            You seem to be objecting that others exchange, even argue, their case or cause against your own!

          • Edward2
            Posted July 14, 2015 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

            I just feel you read every post on here and then try to deliberately take the opposite view.
            I f wonder if you are doing it for the fun of it, rather than because you actually hold those particular views.
            I notice how at times, you post a different view to the one you held just a day or two previously.
            Presumably just so you can argue the opposite view to someone.
            Its all a bit tiresome Jerry.

          • Jerry
            Posted July 15, 2015 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

            @Edward2; No problems, I just feel you read my every post on here and then try to deliberately take the opposite view. Its all a bit tiresome for me…. hmm, goodness knows what our host and moderator thinks.

            Whilst I try to argue a point of fact, a point of history or even conjecture, you Edward just seem to argue. 🙁

          • Edward2
            Posted July 15, 2015 at 9:32 pm | Permalink

            I haven’t noticed much in the way of facts from you Jerry just dozens of always contrary posts of everyone elses posts.
            Debater?
            More like this sites heckler.
            Come on Jerry give me a smiley face.

  26. lifelogic
    Posted July 11, 2015 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

    Indeed and so much of what the state sector does misdirects or holds back the productive sector. HS2, the free crap, over complex taxation, restrictive regulations, planning etc. Looking at the budget in more detail ii was totally misguided. Hugely tax increasing and misguided in economic terms. Alastair Heath has it spot on as usual.

  27. The Prangwizard
    Posted July 11, 2015 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

    The small town near where I live (Faringdon, Oxfordshire) has at least two separate locations where a bus stop is just a few yards ahead of a pedestrian refuge in the middle of the road; that is the rear of the bus is past the island but by less than a car’s length. I haven’t noticed this before but it may be commonplace elsewhere. This gives rise to the requirement for all vehicles to stay behind the bus until it moves off again, as the only way to get past the stationary bus would be to go round the island refuge, that is to the right of it.

    I can understand people will wish to cross roads more often near bus stops but I hope these particular designs have not been created deliberately given the effects, as it is not a busy area and the stops and the refuges could have been placed further apart. However, I suspect they have. I’ve mislaid my Highway code; as far as I know it’s not illegal to pass a stationary bus but I imagine it is to go to the right of a pedestrian island.

  28. Iain Gill
    Posted July 11, 2015 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

    You missed a few:

    Stop traffic lights holding up long lines of cars to allow buses through on Sundays when the relevant buses are not even running.

    • Jerry
      Posted July 12, 2015 at 9:12 am | Permalink

      @Iain Gill; Surely there is no need to even have such phasing planned into traffic light controlling software these days, just equip all buses (and perhaps other “entitled” vehicles) with a device to trigger such phasing, this could be further refined so that all emergency vehicles have a similar trigger that puts all lights to red plus a flashing amber on the lanes effected by approaching emergency vehicles?

  29. MikeP
    Posted July 11, 2015 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

    John I have raised similar challenges directly with Wokingham Council several times over their Strategic Plan and much of what I raised (with little if any peer review) was deemed “unsound”, which I concluded meant they brushed it aside. Like my assertion that every “4-bedroom Executive detached house” will need at least two parking spaces and bring two more cars onto our already congested roads. As a result the huge Montague Park development got the go-ahead but detailed planning for the southern relief road that will border it, and connect to it, won’t start (I was told) until 2018/19 at the earliest. Why? Because the developers who have to chip in for the road presumably have to sell ALL the houses to generate enough cash to help build the road and railway over-bridge. And this when so-called “starter homes” cost almost double what young couples in the area can afford. The whole house-building and local road network programme is a joke – nationally and locally. I just wish I’d bought shares in the company that makes plastic cones !

  30. Philip Richens
    Posted July 11, 2015 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

    Another very welcome analysis, thank you. My very minor complaint is that cycle routes should not only be provided away from main A roads, but also away from routes that have been intended for use by pedestrians, specifically urban pavements and rural footpaths.

    To find good reasons for this concern re urban pavements, please see the web-site of “Living Streets”. Regarding cycling on rural footpaths, walkers there receive very little protection when cyclists behave carelessly or abusively towards them. This has meant that many people, certainly to my knowledge in my area, will no longer risk a walk on effected countryside footpaths.

    • Mark
      Posted July 11, 2015 at 11:38 pm | Permalink

      Near me is a canal towpath that is used by pedestrians and cyclists. The latter are quite intolerant of the former, expecting them to move out of the way, ringing their bells furiously. Cyclists took down the sign at a low bridge over the canal, asking them to dismount (the towpath narrows under the bridge, and bends into it from both sides so you can’t see oncoming people or cyclists until you are under the bridge). They just assume right of way at full tilt. Recently, a pedestrian was quite seriously injured by one of these carefree cyclists, and one collided with a dog injuring it so seriously it had to be put down.

  31. Martyn G
    Posted July 11, 2015 at 8:33 pm | Permalink

    I have previously mentioned the traffic lights in Wallingford, clearly deliberately designed to cause endless traffic blocks but have come across another lulu concerning the EA and the Fisheries Agency (FA).
    The Ea have set in hand and resourced a 2015 dredging plan for the Thames. It tugs positioned barges and plant to start work, but have been stopped dead in their tracks by the FA ruling that the fish cannot be disturbed. So we have the ludicrous situation whereby the FA, who are responsible only for the fish IN the water are overruling the EA who are responsible for the safe navigation, maintenance and use of the water that the fish live in! How daft is that and as yet I believe the 2 agencies have yet to agree on a solution. Meanwhile, time drifts by, the river is very low in places and the boating customers who pay to use the river are going aground in all sorts of places where dredging was supposed to have been done. You couldn’t make it up!

  32. stred
    Posted July 11, 2015 at 9:12 pm | Permalink

    As a keen cyclist, who used to cycle 60 and once 130 miles in a day, I would much have preferred a cycle lane through the city roads above the dual carriageway on upper Thames. Much more scenic and interesting and better exercise. Why insist on cycling along in a dedicated lane alongside queueing traffic? Boris has lost the plot.

  33. Ken Moore
    Posted July 11, 2015 at 11:55 pm | Permalink

    Part of the nasty’ punishment culture’ that has flourished fuelled by Osbornes dash for Ponzi GDP growth through borrowed money. We are going backwards in so many ways.

    Wait a month for a doctors appointment in London – just be grateful for what your given!. There are hundreds of thousands of new people enrolling every year so we don’t have as much time for you anymore it’s a global village okay ?.
    No complaints about this please as that is a bit racist and without all the foreign born doctors and nurses where would OUR NHS be!.
    Absolutely NO criticism of OUR NHS allowed – how dare you even think about attacking OUR NHS!.
    Anyway why are you sick anyway – have you been smoking or not eating your 5 a day ?.

    Want to park in a convenient place. Forget it the few parking bays will all be yellow lined and patrolled by zealous parking enforcers.
    The few remaining spaces will be mostly be empty and reserved because of a politically correct driven belief that there are more genuinely disabled people who cannot walk more than a few steps than ever before.. Yes the sainted motability drivers with their nearly new cars are welcome to park anytime but you with your able body and lethal exhaust emissions can take a running jump!.

    Fill your tank?.Pay the highest price in Europe and think about how selfish you are for emitting all that CO2.
    Enjoy an open road?. No chance watch out for the speed cameras as you roll along in your lethal weapon. And the chicanes because you cannot be trusted anymore to drive at an appropriate speed all by yourself. Did you have a glass of wine with your meal at lunchtime tut tut tut tut…

    Take the train?. Sit back and be grateful despite the fact the cost is twice the petrol cost of an equivalent journey. There are plenty of others who would take your seat..if you were lucky enough to get one. Complain if you like but frankly we all get paid either way as the service is full up .

    Oh and don’t allude to the fact that the transport system is overloaded around the London area as this almost certainly means you are a racist/bigot who cannot appreciate that ‘cultural diversity’ is more important than your discomfort at being treated like a battery hen.

    • Jerry
      Posted July 12, 2015 at 9:20 am | Permalink

      @Ken Moore; “Wait a month for a [NHS] doctors appointment”

      …most likely during the normal working day, meaning a loss of productivity…

      …and then (if some have their way) get finned because you forgot about it or because you were -err- to ill to attend! This for a service people have already paid for via their NI and other taxes.

  34. Jerry
    Posted July 12, 2015 at 8:14 am | Permalink

    @JR; “1, Roundabouts to replace traffic lights at difficult junctions”

    Please define “difficult”. Drivers around here can spend longer queuing at some roundabouts than they spend stationary at the traffic-light junction crossing the same main “A” trunk road, with far less risk of accidents too. Elsewhere, some roundabouts have become so unmanageable in their traffic flows that traffic lights have had to be installed. Roundabouts also take up a lot of land if they are going to be engineered properly!

    @JR: “4. More bypasses”

    Indeed, and talking of productivity, along with more properly engineered ring-roads and one-way systems, not to mention a total rethink on almost all area-wide 20 mph speed limits that have been imposed in some towns and cities. Here I’m not talking about those 20 mph speed limits within 200 yards of a school or in cul-de-sac’s etc.

    @JR: “6.All replacement pipes and cables to be placed under pavements or verges with easier repair access”

    Probably physically and technically impossible! Also it will mean either pavement closures, with associated dangers of more people having to criss-cross busy roads (with obvious accessibility issues for those with mobility problems etc, not to mention home and retail premises) or a need to have temporary pavement areas encroach road space anyway.

    @JR; “8. Cycle routes provided safely away from main A roads”

    Paid for out of general taxation or perhaps some sort of cycle tax, perhaps as surcharge upon statutory third party insurance? Along with a statutory requirement to display, clearly upon the rear of the cycle, some form of “cycle index plate” – managed and regulated by the DVLA. The biggest danger to pedestrians is now not the motor vehicle but the arrogant cyclist who (with good reason) believes they are immune from the law due to the lack of traceability.

    @JR: “What we need for our nationalised railway will the subject of a future post.”

    What “nationalised railway”, the government you were a part of effectively privatised it back in 1994, other than some parts that could not be sensibly auctioned off (and the need to have a carry of last resort), even track and station infrastructure was privatised, much only reverting to a state owned company after Failtrac… sorry, Railtrack was declared insolvent after a series of high profile rail crashes due to their private sector management failings.

    If the government are going to try and spin that the railways need to be “privatised” (again) then I hope the Tories do a better job this time around, what is best for the industry and the passengers, not what is best for the exchequer – by way of income from franchise bidding wars. We need a 1923 style grouping, not a rerun of the botched 1994 denationalisation policy.

    Reply New cables and pipes under pavements could include lockable entry covers for quick and easy repairs rather than having to dig everything up.
    The main part of the railway is track,signals and stations which are all owned by the state.
    Some of the light controlled junctions are already roundabouts as well.

    • Jerry
      Posted July 12, 2015 at 10:46 am | Permalink

      @JR reply; How would “lockable” entry covers help with say a burst water pipe, leaking sewer, damaged gas pipe, and unless these access points lead in effect to large culverts big enough to allow a human to both access and work (safely) within [1] how would it help with cables that need to be repaired or have an extra tapping taken of or laid into a property. Thus might come as a shock but for most utility companies digging up the road or pavement is a last resort.

      Also do we not already in effect have those access points (perhaps not lockable but that could be changed quite easily and cheaply), in old less politically correct days they were called “manholes”, later “inspection covers”, you know, those generally black cast-iron or steel covers found in both pavements and roads. 🙂

      As for the railways, indeed the tracks etc. are the main and largest parts of the railway network but that is not were the problems are. It is the needless competition between TOCs, meaning duplicate train services going in the same direction, if not to the destinations, needing routing paths – network capacity in other words. I’m not necessarily advocating a return to BR, a recreated pre Transport Act 1947 railway system would do!

      [1] I know that some larger cities do have such culverts and chambers for cable runs, they are very expensive to install so need very good justification, otherwise their cost just becomes another financial burden upon the private and business customers of the utility (whose customers in the end have to pay via inflated tariffs) that is higher than the economic cost of the disruption otherwise caused from digging up the street for access

      Reply Some large installations would allow human access and be in large concrete tunnels under pavements, but most would be like cable and pipe runs in modern commercial buildings under floors with easily removed sections of floor to give you access. Commercial buildings have long given up chasing pipes and cables into plaster and breezeblock walls with all the delay and mess it creates when you need to repair or replace. Not all new ideas are bad!

      • Edward2
        Posted July 12, 2015 at 11:43 am | Permalink

        So its now back to the 1940s for the railway industry added to your wish to go back the the 1960s for UK automotive manufacturing and engineering.
        Stop the world I want to get off says Jerry!

        • Jerry
          Posted July 13, 2015 at 6:50 am | Permalink

          @Edward2; Still trying to pick silly arguments then Ed.

          “So its now back to the 1940s for the railway industry”

          The 1930s actually, a very significant decade in the history of railways, as you would know if you knew anything at all about UK the railway industry (and what the UK would still have had Labour not won the 1945 GE).

          Better to go back to something with a proven track record and worked than stay wedded to political dogma that has been off the rails for the last 20 years. Puns intended.

          “added to your wish to go back the the 1960s for UK automotive manufacturing and engineering.”

          Actually the 1950s, and again if you understood anything about the motor industry and the UK economic history you would understand why. No one is suggesting that we go back to Austin A30’s or Morris Minors etc, as good as those cars were for the technology available back then – but at least one could repair them without needing both first a computer and electronics degree.

          “Stop the world I want to get off says Jerry!”

          But ultra-capitalists like you want to return to the 1840s, or at least some such socail, economic and employment model of, stop the world indeed says Edward

          • Edward2
            Posted July 13, 2015 at 11:58 am | Permalink

            You are funny Jerry!
            Do you actually believe the stuff you post or is it just a deliberate wind up?

          • Jerry
            Posted July 14, 2015 at 8:01 am | Permalink

            @Edward; Once again you put all your own dirty pots and pans on display by comments like that…

            Otherwise please, using historical facts, tell me where I am so wrong.

          • Edward2
            Posted July 14, 2015 at 7:05 pm | Permalink

            Your post has been demolished by Mr Redwood and still you carry on unaware how wrong you are.

          • Jerry
            Posted July 15, 2015 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

            @Edwrd2; In your, totally knowledgeable, opinion.

          • Jerry
            Posted July 15, 2015 at 6:04 pm | Permalink

            @Jerry; Opps… 😳

            @Edwrd2; In your, totally unknowledgeable, opinion.

          • Edward2
            Posted July 15, 2015 at 9:34 pm | Permalink

            Freudian slip Jerry?

      • Jerry
        Posted July 12, 2015 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

        @JR reply; All good and dandy for new builds and total rebuilds, as for street level and below, something to remember when the government announces those completely new roads and New Towns. Even then not all services could be in such culverts – for example would we really wish to mix say a gas main with high or even low voltage distribution ring mains (as measured etc. by the power companies, not common parlance), there is enough danger from gas leaking into other services through the soil without doing natures work for her. What about mixing IT and telecoms services (in other words ultra low voltages) with even 240v, never mind anything higher.

        I can just see the lost productivity if perfectly serviceable and existing arrangements were dug up to install what would in effect be a (set of) service-streets below a working living, street level – even if tunnel could be bored as like cross-rail.

        • Edward2
          Posted July 12, 2015 at 9:37 pm | Permalink

          If you paid more attention Jerry you would notice that the reply concerned new projects.
          No one was talking about digging up exising cables in the road.

          • Jerry
            Posted July 13, 2015 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

            @Edward2; “If you paid more attention Jerry you would notice that the reply concerned new projects. No one was talking about digging up exising cables in the road.”

            Wrong again Ed, originally JR said [my emphasis];

            6.All replacement pipes and cables to be placed under pavements or verges with easier repair access

            Also if you had actually bothered to read and more importantly understands what I’ve said you will see that whilst I’ve agreed with our host on new build, a lot of what I said was still relevant even then, as not all services would be safe or wise to share be in such culverts, or perhaps even their own dedicated culvert. Do try and keep up.

          • Edward2
            Posted July 13, 2015 at 10:36 pm | Permalink

            I rarely read such rambling nonsense.
            You keep changing your argument.
            I’m amazed you dont get giddy.

          • Jerry
            Posted July 14, 2015 at 8:06 am | Permalink

            @Edward2; What ever. Anyone reading my exchange with our host will soon see which one out of the three of us (JR, myself and you) keeps typing rambling nonsense whilst changing your our arguments.

          • Edward2
            Posted July 14, 2015 at 7:07 pm | Permalink

            Well we appear to be getting somewhere then Jerry.
            Self evaluation is the road to betterment.

  35. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted July 12, 2015 at 6:57 pm | Permalink

    The problem with traffic lights is that the signals are set with safety and modal shift in mind rather than to maximise capacity and minimise delay.

    The favourite method is to let each each approach get green in turn so that each approach gets green during one stage of the cycle and red during the other three stages (four if there is an all pedestrian stage). You will be glad to know that Glasgow, Leeds and other cities use this method to cause unnecessary delays to commuting traffic so that people commute by public transport.

    If the signals are set with only two stages to the cycle, the normally small volume of right turners has to accept gaps in opposing traffic or clear the junction during the inter-green period. That yields (much) more capacity but is less safe.

    • Jerry
      Posted July 13, 2015 at 7:04 am | Permalink

      Lindsay McDougall; “If the signals are set with only two stages to the cycle, the normally small volume of right turners has to accept gaps in opposing traffic or clear the junction during the inter-green period.”

      Which means an extended inter period, so no gains are made! There also needs to be road space for stopped, right turning, vehicles. Also if the junction can not be marked out so that vehicles pass nearside to nearside there has to be four stage phasing, otherwise the right turn junction is likely to either become grid-locked due to conflicting routes as drivers moving into the (non-boxed) area between the stop lines, or only one or two right turn vehicles get to make their turns.

  36. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted July 12, 2015 at 7:10 pm | Permalink

    ‘Productivity is primarily a public sector problem’ and public expenditure is entirely a public sector problem. This suggests an approach to public sector payroll costs, which is to apply a cap to the rate of growth of real (inflation adjusted) total public sector payroll costs. The approach must take into account future pensions payments and ‘seniority’ pay increases which depend on years served and not on merit, particularly as our courts have seen fit to insist on the validity of the relevant clauses in trade union agreements.

  37. Its Jerry Again
    Posted July 13, 2015 at 10:39 pm | Permalink

    I would just like to say the sooner all you posters realise whatever I say is right the better it will be for everyone.

    • Jerry
      Posted July 14, 2015 at 8:14 am | Permalink

      @Its Jerry Again; “I would just like to say the sooner all you posters realise whatever I say is right the better it will be for everyone.”

      ITTA – with apologise to Tommy Handley and the ITMA team.

      Seriously Mr Redwood, does allowing such comment from obvious ‘fake accounts’ add anything to your diary or debates, adding nothing but thinly disguised personal abuse?

    • Hefner
      Posted July 14, 2015 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

      Yes, and that holds for all other posters too, … unfortunately.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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