The government at last wants to find some more road space

Welcome to the real world! The government at last admits it cannot switch enough from road to rail because the railways are full, and accepts that congestion is both expensive and environmentally damaging.

As an emergency measure they are suggesting allowing people to use the hard shoulder of the motorways at busy times of day. It seems to help around the M42, so why not? It’s all you can do quickly after ten years of neglect of transport infrastructure expansion for both rail and road.

On Monday after my surgery it took me three hours to drive into London – even longer than walking and using the train – because the M4 east bound was closed at junction 5, the A 40 eastbound was closed at the Polish War Memorial, and the Cromwell Road was closed! I remember sitting on a Bill Committee to legislate so the highway authorities sought to keep the roads open and traffic flowing – clearly we were wasting our time.


  1. Rose
    July 16, 2008

    I would much prefer to raise the standard of our railways to that of more advanced countries. It really is very unpleasant travelling by train now and it is not surprising so many peope prefer to sit in traffic jams or fly. It didn’t used to be so fifty years ago, but rather than improving the comfort and efficiency of trains, as other countries have, our own standards have plummeted.

  2. a-tracy
    July 16, 2008

    As long as the hard shoulder running has active traffic management systems and spacious emergency refuges between each junction, hard shoulder use can assist constant traffic flow, as long as the 50 mph speed limit is lifted immediately that the road runs clear as it’s very frustrating to be sat following one another in the inside lanes with the overtaking lanes clear.

    Many inexperienced drivers cause as many problems hogging the middle lane, the active traffic management systems should send them reminders of motorway rules and if they are frequent offenders insist they undertake pass plus lessons on motorway driving.

  3. Simon_C
    July 16, 2008

    I seem to remember that 15 years or so ago, the priority in the event of an acedent was to get the road open now.

    These days, it seems that the priority is to take as much evidence as they can to make a prosecution before thinking about opening the road.

  4. David morris
    July 16, 2008


    spot on. Travel any early morning and you are almost certain to find one of these middle lane hoggers on an otherwise completely empty stretch of motorway. Clearly this is their driving style on busy roads where such driving is very dangerous, especially around junctions where most accidents occur.

    These are the muppets who should be fined £60 rather than somebody driving in correct lane but marginally over limit.

  5. Neil Craig
    July 16, 2008

    As you have said before the railways wouldn't be full if we had much lighter trains. In theory if trains weighed as much as buses & had as good braking systems they could travel at least equally closely.

    Add in a fully automated rail system (infinitely easier than automated car driving) & rail could be the default transport system of the future.

  6. adam
    July 16, 2008

    Using hard shoulders sounds ridiculous. It exemplifies a government where everything is spin and manipulation.

    China has maglevs zooming around. I dont suppose Britain could have a maglev system.

  7. mikestallard
    July 16, 2008

    I went into London by train recently. I was very impressed – and even got a free cup of coffee! I thought (honestly) that I was sitting in First Class when I wasn't. My daughter came down from York to Peterborough and found the same thing.
    As a proud member of Wisbech Model Railway Club, I can assure readers that running automated train systems is very easy indeed.
    The problem is fitting up all those rails everywhere in NIMBYland.
    It was the Fat Controller (aka John Prescott) who stimied all the growth which privatisation brought. A couple of nasty train crashes provided the excuse.
    Why do the government need to be involved in railways anyway?
    As a keen player of Railroad Tycoon, I can assure you that government interference is very off putting when you are trying to make your fortune.

  8. Matthew Reynolds
    July 16, 2008

    Why not offer public subsidy for the railways in exchange for greater private investment in expnaded capacity ? If coupled with a restoration of the track & train link , the end of excess regulation and greater choice & competition then you could be onto something ! With the roads just offer private firms the chance to build the roads with a government grant paid if they complete it ahead of plan ? They could fund repairs via tolls & be allowed bigger profits ( and thus higher tolls ) if the road was finished before schedule. That I think would generate greater road & rail capacity if there where incentives for long-term private investment .
    This would give taxpayers good value as public money would be not just a dead weight subsidy but a generator of private investment . Investment could be set at what ever level was required to furnish us with a road & rail system needed for a dynamic 21st Century economy – given how it has risen under Labour I think if used to raise private investment in road & rail I doubt that we would need too much extra cash ! The key is to spend the money wisely rather than stupidly like Labour !

  9. adam
    July 16, 2008

    i heard on the news in the last sentance of the report "motorists might have to pay through road charging"

    ahhh! might this be an explanation. Now i understand the sudden interest, road pricing being cloaked behind a congestion gimmick. Plus they can meet the green credentials by not building new roads.

    Maybe i am just cynical.

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