Personal travel

I was surprised by the way several contributors misread yesterday’s post. It was a piece about how technology and changing lifestyles might affect personal transport in the future. It was not  an attack upon personal choice or on the motorist. Use of a car is essential for most people today to get them to work or their children to school or to go to the shops. It is only in large cities like London where public transport offers a frequent and flexible service that more people find it practical to do without owning a car.

The government does need to do more to improve road safety and reduce congestion. I have sought to show how these twin aims can be mutually reinforcing and need not be in conflict in the way some suggest.

Short term and relatively cheap options include permitting and encouraging more off road parking, optimising phasing on traffic lights, creating segregated right hand turning lanes, and creating more pavements and cycleways away from main vehicle carriageways.

Dearer options include bypasses, more bridges over railway lines and rivers which act as barriers cutting road capacity especially into towns and cities.

The highways authorities need to offer safer and better solutions for school set down and pick up instead of encouraging parking on busy roads close to schools at peak times of day. They need to use more roundabouts  and fewer light sets. They should require replacement and new utility pipes and cables to be laid away from the main highway in accessible conduits to stop the need to dig up the road for naintenance and replacement.

The government is asking each Highways authority to identify and improve a local strategic road network. This is a good initiative with money for suitable improvement projects.


  1. Peter Wood
    December 29, 2017

    Dr. Redwood, your piece from yesterday was, by some, read as kite-flyer of possible future government policy ideas; this is the degree of distrust many conservative voters have for your party, please take note. Our current Conservative government simply isn’t conservative.

    1. APL
      December 29, 2017

      Peter Wood: “read as kite-flyer of possible future government policy ideas; ”


      After all, this is the Party that sold us Diesel engines and how ‘renewable’ they were. Yet barely twenty years later. Diesel engines are the spawn of the devil.

      The Tory party’s policy gymnastics has cost billions in R&D which may now turn out to have been utterly wasted,

      1. Hope
        December 29, 2017

        Stable door horse bolted comes to mind. Mass immigration policy, build new urban ghettos to accommodate and then think roads and infrastructure might nit cope! Idiots. Bearing in mind it was the Tories who changed planning legislation to make it stream lined, a presumption to grant all planning permissions etc.

        Osborne has made clear yourbparty publicly declared one thing and privately thought another. This means your party is untrustworthy, it discredits public policy announcements knowing your govt will act differently to what it claim! Get May out she is the head of the nasty intrusive statist party trying to control every aspect of our lives, monitor everything we do and now trying to determine what we should think! May needs to be ousted. The policy areas being under her control as HS and now Clarke’s pro EU PM.

      2. NickC
        December 29, 2017

        APL, You are right about the government diesel cars debacle. But just wait – the Electric Vehicle political spasm will be worse. EVs are not safe or pollution free, and will, roughly speaking, require a doubling of our electric energy production. Government politicians don’t understand any of that.

        1. APL
          December 29, 2017

          NickC: “EVs are not safe or pollution free, ”

          Worse 80% of the vehicle value will be tied up in the battery. When that dies, because it will, no resale value.

          Can you imagine a scenario where to extend the battery life of the product, a manufacturer reduced the speed of the product you’ve bought? No, that will never happen.

          1. getahead
            December 29, 2017

            Discharging and recharging a battery increases its life. I believe.

          2. APL
            December 30, 2017

            getahead: “I believe.”

            Carry on in your faith.

            I hope it sustains you in the hereafter, because it will do nothing for you in the world where the laws of physics apply.

      3. Christopher Harris
        December 29, 2017

        The tax changes to encourage the use of diesel engined cars was introduced by Gordon Brown to reduce the amount of CO2 emitted compared to petrol powered vehicles. The downsides of this type of engine, such as increased NOx emissions, were already known but ignored.

        1. APL
          December 29, 2017

          Christopher Harris: “The downsides of this type of engine, such as increased NOx emissions, were already known but ignored.”

          As anyone who had spent any time anywhere near a construction site would have known, dirty smelly and noisy. But nevertheless the R&D £s expended on diesel engine development over the last two decades must be huge.

          Ok, so it was Gormless Gordon that introduced the excise incentive, no surprise there.

          It feels more and more like the last chapter of Orwell’s Animal farm, we’ve all got our noses pressed against the window, it seems there is Labour and Conservative arguing inside the house, but increasingly they both look exactly like swine.

        2. APL
          December 29, 2017

          Christopher Harris: “The tax changes to encourage the use of diesel engined cars was introduced by Gordon Brown ”

          Given that diesel was encouraged Europe wide, it may not even have been Brown’s initiative. Probably handed down from on high by the EU.

    2. alan jutson
      December 29, 2017

      Peter I agree.

      But its not just the Conservative Party that many people distrust, its politicians and political parties throughout the World.

      For too long politicians have gained power by hoodwinking the people who voted for them, and their policies, with constant tax rises, excessive borrowing and the wastage on a grand scale of taxpayer money.
      Complicated, unworkable and expensive laws and regulations, and a justice and welfare benefit systems are often introduced that often defies logic or common sense.

      Unfortunately this general mistrust of the political class can tend to poison any opportunity for sensible debate, so when we are asked to offer our views on a particular topic or subject, we perhaps at times are not as constructive as we should be.

      1. NickC
        December 29, 2017

        Alan, Unfortunately true and sometimes apparently done inadvertently. Our kind host, JR, stated yesterday: “The average UK private car travels less than 8000 miles a year. This means it is only in use on the road for 11 days a year. For the remaining 354 days it is parked.”

        No, and no. That is entirely misleading. A roll-up figure has resulted in a false perspective. The car could be used for 320 days a year on a 25 mile round trip. That makes hiring much more problematic. So the whole case falls apart. Even if it were partly true, it doesn’t need government intervention – people will do it themselves.

    3. David Murfin
      December 29, 2017

      There is an excellent brief clip somewhere on Youtube of a Jacob Rees-Mogg speech pointing out that political parties need their proposed legislation to be underpinned by clearly presented principles so that they are not just managerial reactions to current circumstances.
      If we could be sure that the present government was working to a set of conservative principles, this comment and Mr Redwood’s follow-up to yesterday would not have been needed.

      1. getahead
        December 29, 2017

        Since Britain has been largely “governed” by the EU government by reaction has become the norm, epitomised by David PR Cameron who had no political principles whatsoever.
        That is why Nigel Farage is hated so much by the establishment. He actually believes in what he says.

  2. Duncan
    December 29, 2017

    Most who contribute on here are conscious of one simple fact and it is a fact. Over the last 25 years or so the State as become increasingly interventionist and is not too be trusted on any issue especially when it concern’s issues of private property, private space and the movement of people.

    We are conscious of the State’s painful desire to impose control, use liberal left propaganda against us and conspire to subvert the democratic wishes of the people as we have already seen before, during and after the EU-Ref

    We are conscious of the abuses covered up by the State and the nature of politics today

    We know, yes we know, that the nature of the State and the relationship between it and the individual is becoming ever more strained and therefore we are sensitive and aware that the State will seek any opportunity (yes, the State views certain events as opportunities to impose further controls or dilute our freedoms) to suck away at the private space

    The private is that place the State cannot touch and that ‘place’ becoming smaller every day

    You see John, this isn’t about the revolution of personal transport but about the parasitic nature of the vested interest that is the State.

    Personal transport is viewed by the State as an opportunity for further control of the person. Further monitoring is something the State hungers for.

    I am surprised that you’re surprised by our responses.

    We see the rise of Marxist politics again and all that this entails for our freedoms and our liberties. We see the rise of PC politics, and the attack on our liberties and the attack on speech. The State and its agents (BBC, CPS) have participated in such attacks

    And then we have May, a PM whose embrace of the liberal left agenda to silence people, to mould them and to destroy conventional society, is nothing short of a direct attack on what we are.

    I despise today’s politics. I can see where we are heading and it won’t be a pleasant place to live

    If you can’t see that then you’re blind to the silent majority

    1. getahead
      December 29, 2017

      Duncan, “I am surprised that you’re surprised by our responses.”
      Is John surprised? How do you know? Because he remains a Tory? I suspect that John knows these things. His way of combating them is by writing his own conservative, small ‘c’ articles.
      It is up to the electorate to vote in a real political party. be it called UKIP or UKIP by another name.

  3. jerry
    December 29, 2017

    “relatively cheap options include permitting and encouraging more off road parking [../etc/..]”

    Oh dear, if only you had not prefaced that comment with the three words “Short Term and….”, in other words, short term and thus a waste of tax receipt money but hay, it kicks the problem down the road (no pun intended) to the next government who then either wastes even more money kicking the same problem down the road again or bites the bullet and tell the voting population that we need to pay more tax [1] if we are to deal with such problems long term -and I suspect that people have woken up to the fact that you can’t run a country on the cheap like it has been (since the mid ’70s IMF crisis)!

    [1] now or in the future, having off-set payment by borrowing

    “The highways authorities need to offer safer and better solutions for school set down and pick up instead of encouraging parking on busy roads close to schools at peak times of day.”

    Why is it the highways authorities problem or fault, surely this is a problem caused by schools, LEA and the DfES, they should be the ones to pay to sort the problem out – assuming that the cheapest solution is not just a universal free school transport service for those children unable to walk to school.

    “They need to use more roundabouts and fewer light sets.”

    Plus a lot of new ‘accessible’ bridges and underpasses I assume, otherwise how are (disabled) pedestrians going to safely cross the road with a constant stream of traffic?!

    As for “accessible conduits”, perhaps you should catch Mr Corbyn’s eye when in the tea rooms, ask him to explain what inspection covers are for and why they are placed in pavements already, I understand he is somewhat of an self confessed expert on the subject… Anyway, utility companies do not dig up roads just to access, digging up even a grass verge costs lots of money, never mind digging up a road, they only dig anything up when all other options have failed and it is usually to repair damage, not routine servicing.

    1. getahead
      December 29, 2017

      jerry, “Anyway, utility companies do not dig up roads just to access”, someone suggested recently, perhaps it was John, that it was time to stop digging up roads and pavements, causing disruption and to instead install proper, accessible underground cable and drain transport conduits. Whilst some road and pavement area would be lost in existing routes, new developments should include this idea.

      1. jerry
        December 30, 2017

        @getahead; Yes he did suggest it, and the same answers applied then as now.

        You can’t just share ducting, separation rules rightly exist;

        What do you think will happen if a gas main shared a duct with a high voltage electricity cable and the latter caught fire (as can and does occasionally happen)….

        Is it wise to mix high voltage (above 240v) cables with low voltage (240v 3ph industrial and 1ph tapping for household supplies) and ultra low voltage (telecons) services. Do you realise the damage and danger that would exist if any of those services became interconnected due to fault or accident…

        Also you can’t stack one service upon another, how do you get to the lowest ones…

        What do you do about servicing property across the road, double everything up on each side of the road, thus doubling the cost or do you still have to dig the road up to access the pipes and cables that service the properties on the other side…

        Do you not think, if the idea was feasible, new roads and development areas would already use combined ducting, it would save the utilities companies a fortune!

  4. Lifelogic.
    December 29, 2017

    All sensible stuff but I am sure the “experts” will just muck about with coloured tarmac, more bus lanes and road blocking. Very few real improvements or real extra capacity is ever provided, despite the massive over taxation of motorists and their essential part in the economy. To improve productivity get average road speed up (many motorways can flow at less than 20mph peak times). We need sufficient well designed road capacity.

  5. Max Taylor
    December 29, 2017

    Self drive technology and hire rather than ownership are two very minor points in transforming transportation and mobility. For a technical revolution look no further than the electrically assisted bicycle.

    One of the barriers to the adoption of bicycles compared to some of our European neighbours apart form the weather is that the UK is simply too hilly. A trip to our local Doctor surgery is two and a half miles but includes riding up the locally named “heart attack hill”. Electrically assisted bicycles potentially remove that barrier making local journeys of five to seven miles easy and convenient, the technology is available and relatively cheap – certainly compared to electric cars.

    The problem then becomes one of safety with UK’s roads woefully inadequate in terms of cycling lanes

    Even if safe cycle routes were available the current planning systems pays no heed to transportation, in our local semi urban environment the closest sixth form college is 10 miles away with no direct bus route, hospital 14 miles distance, mainline station 10 miles including a £15 per day for car parking monopoly. The local authorities have approved over 5000 new homes with no additional school, medical or road improvements.

    It is the complete failure of strategy, vision and direction that central government need to address.

  6. agricola
    December 29, 2017

    Asking a highways authority to identify problems confines any response to their pet project. Ask the people who suffer the roads and you might get an idea of where the real problems lie.

    Yesterday I highlighted the mistakes in a current piece of road engineering in Worcester that is presumably in the hands of a highways authority. The problem they are trying to solve could be halved by putting a dual carriageway bridge across the river Severn just north of the town. All the appropriate dual carriageway link roads are already in place. This would be a bold visionary step in the right direction. One that has been obvious to anyone trying to get from one side of Worcester to the other for the past thirty years. However for the highways authority it has been a bridge too far.

  7. Alan
    December 29, 2017

    I was disappointed not to have the time to comment on yesterday’s piece. I thought it did well to raise interesting aspects about future transport policy. But people saw it as an attack on personal liberty.

    A demonstration that it is not always logic that drives policy, but peoples’ feelings and emotions. No harm in that, but we ought to appreciate that feelings and emotions can cost us a lot of money, that we do not have. People have to work hard to pay for them.

  8. Epikouros
    December 29, 2017

    When driverless vehicles are perfected and generally accepted then much of what you suggest should be done now will be unnecessary. How soon that will come about will depend on more on a cultural change than a technology one as we more or less have that already.

    1. jerry
      December 29, 2017

      @Epikouros; Driver-less cars will not catch on, autonomous cars probably will, but neither will cure any of the problems our host is talking about, congestion is about numbers on the roads, and that includes your beloved driver-less car – indeed not needing a driver might actually increase the number of vehicles on the roads, all with their conflicting movements, often the biggest causes of urban congestion there is at times that suit them. Good old urban planning is the key, not technology.

  9. Kenneth
    December 29, 2017

    When building a new highway or making substantial repairs would it not be better to dig a channel parallel to it for all underground services, and to have a big lid (manhole) at strategic points?

    Also, could road surfaces be prefabricated and slotted in rather than manufactured at site?

    Perhaps these things have already been considered?

  10. Bert Young
    December 29, 2017

    There are few who have the overview capability that John displays and it is no surprise there were several responders who misinterpreted the blog yesterday . Transport is a highly personal affair and the knock-on consequences have many different results .

  11. Christine
    December 29, 2017

    Why is it that London transport is subsidised by the UK taxpayer and residents there given a free bus pass at the age of 60? In the rest of the country, we now have to wait until we are 66/67 before getting a bus pass and public transport is much more expensive. Yet again more bias towards London at the expense of the rest of us.

    Why is it that children aged 14 upwards are classed as adults on public transport?

    Why is it that people used to live near where they worked but successive Governments have encouraged jobs to move to the cities (i.e. Power House of the North) meaning people have to travel every day?

    Is it any wonder we continue to use our cars.

    1. jerry
      December 29, 2017

      @Christine; Most of your questions have the same basic answer I suspect, because in the UK we have a “Deregulated for profit” PT motive, not a system tailored towards ‘regulated’ public needs.

      It upset the Govt at the time but the GLC and Ken Livingstone’s idea of a flat fair, tax payer subsidised, PT system was years before its time. Unless you need to use a car why would you not use either bus or LT regulated trains at 10p a journey?

  12. fedupsoutherner
    December 29, 2017

    I’ve just come from the Land Rover showroom in Ayr after having my car serviced in a brand new state of the art building put up especially to show off the new models of Discovery and Range Rover. The attention I received was second to none. I am very friendly with one of the salesmen there and he said that the latest legislation from the government has put the knockers on the car industry. He has never known it be so difficult to drum up sales of diesel cars. The public don’t know which way to jump. They are reluctant to change to another diesel even though they are happy with their current model but are concerned about high taxes that will be put on them in the near future. Electric versions are not available yet and any hybrid model does not bode well. For an initial 36 miles of motoring on the batteries any distances after this only achieve around 36 miles to the gallon due to the heavy batteries and the amount of power used to recharge the batteries. Totally bonkers. Our car industry was thriving but thanks to government intervention it is a lame duck now. Has anyone thought of the number of jobs that will go linked to the petroleum industry? Will we seriously have a grid that can cope? I doubt it.

  13. Peter Sullivan
    December 29, 2017

    JR: “The government is asking each Highways authority to identify and improve a local strategic road network.”

    That would be great. But if the laughable work of many regional Highways authorities, as evidenced by the appalling standard of their maintenance and repairs, is anything to go by, then I don’t hold out much hope for a successful outcome. There simply doesn’t seem to be the will, intelligence and skills available.

    If anyone disagrees, I’ll give them a guided tour of my own county and others, to prove my point.

  14. HJ
    January 3, 2018

    John Redwood: “Use of a car is essential for most people today to get them to work or their children to school or to go to the shops.”

    Most car journeys are of distances of less than three miles. These distances don’t generally require a car – they could be cycled or walked, were there safe facilities. You only have to look at the Netherlands where commuting distances are the same as or longer than here, yet people are far more likely not to use motorised transport.

    The fact is that because our roads and towns are designed for car use with little consideration given to other road users, then people will use cars because they feel they have to. We could, of course, change this.

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