One of the biggest barriers to improved performance by all of us is the inability to get around the UK by road or rail. Thursday was a great example. Trying to get from central London to the busy Thames Valley, you had to run the gauntlet of the tube strike, the intrusive roadworks to replace general road with cycle lanes in central London, the strike on Great Western railway and a blocked M 25. If you wanted to go to Kent there was Operation Stack to contend with, closing one of the main motorways.
If I ever get a clear run from home to my London office it takes just under one hour. I allow twice that for the typical daytime or evening journey. If I go door to door by walking and train it takes more than two and a quarter hours if all works well. The usual impediments to traffic means a car journey typically takes more than 100 minutes.
My inconvenience is not important, but it illustrates the frustration and difficulty all workers face as they seek to do their jobs. I deliberately take on far fewer meetings, events and speeches than I would like to do if they entail travel, as experience has taught me that advertised times for the journey rarely work out. A typical speech and questions outside London lasting 45 minutes to one hour takes 5 hours for the home counties and more than 7 hours for further away when you add in the two way travel time.
Electricians, plumbers, delivery drivers, professional service advisers making home visits and many others who rely on vans, cars and lorries to get to work have to book in fewer income earning calls to allow for their wasted time in traffic jams. To many self employed time is money – you have to spend more time in the jam and less time in productive remunerated activity. To employers employee time is money – if your employees have to spend time in traffic jams when out and about trying to their jobs, you have to employ more people and spend more to achieve the same end results.
The UK suffered a 13 year hiatus in new road construction from 1997. The Coalition government tried to stimulate new by passes and extra capacity on main routes, but it is all taking time to work up viable schemes, consult on them, get planning permission and let the contracts. Roads account for 85% of the travel but have not enjoyed their fair share of the transport budget. It is time to welcome the Chancellor’s idea that VED revenue ought to spent on roads.