Better transport

The government’s quest for a higher productivity economy needs to stop at the railway and the roads budget. Getting around the country is difficult, with too much traffic congestion and delay, and with too few rail seats and fast trains on commuter lines at busy times of day.  We have too little road space for vehicles, and too little use is made of the substantial track space we do have available for the railway.

Tackling the trains requires three main changes. The first is new signalling on board each train, so a train can go closer to the train ahead safely, knowing the position and speed of the trains on the line. Currently we only get around 27 trains an hour on UK track, with less on some mixed railways. It should be possible to get that up to 40 with more precise signalling. The second change reinforces this. Let’s have lighter trains with better braking and faster acceleration, to take advantage of new signal types and to use the track more effectively. The third thing we need is more bypass capacity at places along the main tracks, to allow mixing slower and faster trains more readily, with easier overtaking.

These methods of increasing capacity and improving speed and efficiency will be considerably cheaper than building complete  new track, or electrifying existing track.

Road capacity also needs increasing to cut congestion and improve safety. Congestion and accidents occur most frequently at poorly designed junctions. The government is producing a pinch points fund which could help pay for improvements on main highways that could tackle these twin problems.  Roundabouts often flow better than light controlled junctions. Light controlled junctions flow better if there is a segregated right turning lane. Junctions are safer if there are other ways for pedestrians and cyclists to cross the road without using the main vehicle carriageway, which can also allow faster crossing times for pedestrians and cyclists without the need to wait for a change of lights.

Many places need new bridges to get traffic across railway lines and rivers. Level crossings are dangerous and need to be replaced by highway bridges or underpasses. The congestion in many towns and cities can be traced to a mixture of junctions and a lack of ways of getting over the railway or river.

Being stuck in traffic jams is wasting hours of time for delivery drivers, service providers who travel to their customer homes, builders getting themselves and materials to site and office workers trying to get to their office. The UK will be much more productive when we do some serious jam busting, and put in enough seats on busy rail lines.


  1. Lifelogic
    November 30, 2016

    Indeed as you say all sort of improvements could be made all over the place to the road and rail systems. Just simpler and quicker ticketing for trains would save far more time alone than the absurdly expensive HS2 vanity project.

    Trains, trams, buses are over subsidised and under taxed, relative to cars and trucks, why? There are the endless claims made by government that trains, trams and buses need huge subsidy as these are “green” and cause less congestion. In fact per useful passenger mile, door to door, and including ticketing, staff and end connections and transmission losses trains energy use is rarely less than sending a small efficient car, directly door to door. Sometimes even with one with just one passenger.

    London to Manchester in a full car can cost less than £10 per head, whereas a single train ticket is £166 plus the end connections on top. This despite the huge fiscal and subsidy bias in favour of trains.

    Better roads should be the main priority, that is where most of the demand is. The demand, without this large fiscal bias and subsidy bias, would be for even more for road space.

    1. Lifelogic
      November 30, 2016

      I see we have a very anti-business secretary, Grieg Clark said yesterday:- “There is no conflict between good corporate governance and profitability”.

      Well this depends on how you define “good corporate governance”.

      There is however a massive conflict between profitability and governments trying to micro manage business, tie it up with red tape, restrictive planning, preventing easy hire and fire, forcing them to report gender pay gaps, pay ratios, workers on boards, forcing compulsory pensions on them, quarterly reporting, expensive energy and an absurdly complex tax system onto them.

      Plus they suffer the endless risk and cost of litigation from employees.

      The Theresa May & Grieg Clark agenda is hugely damaging to industry, productivity, the economy and new jobs. Government and T May/Grieg Clark types are the problem not the solution.

      1. Lifelogic
        November 30, 2016

        The government desperately need to overturn the absurd UBER types of ruling on self employment/employment. The GIG economy and the flexibility and efficiency it clearly produces needs to be welcomed, not killed by government and judges.

  2. Ian Wragg
    November 30, 2016

    The easiest way to reduce congestion is to stop importing half a million immigrants annually.

  3. Dame Rita Webb
    November 30, 2016

    Many people here have written here before about increased demand East European citizens place on the NHS, schools etc. However the strain lorries from the East put on our motorways is overlooked.

    Its not just in the UK either. Anybody who wants to drive as fast as they can on certain parts of Germany’s autobahns should think again. the A2 to Berlin or “Warsaw Avenue” as its known in the trade is real treat with its constant congestion and road works (particularly around Hannover). Perhaps Mrs May might find some support from Mrs Merkel on charging East European truckers for the inconvenience they cause and to give their respective domestic hauliers some redress against their fuel cost (72p a litre in Poland) and wage advantages too?

  4. Nig l
    November 30, 2016

    I am not certain what you mean ‘should stop at’. I have worked with hundreds of SMEs and the key issue was poor management. Not in terms of their efforts or narrow knowledge of what their business made or sold, but managing finance and people to maximise efficiency or effective marketing.

    Typically they are reluctant to put cost in, say in the form of an FD, needed to handle expansion and certainly many opt for life style because of the vast amount if red tape they have to deal with. The requirements put on them by Government in dealing with their staff are a nightmare and contribute greatly to their reluctance to employ more people necessary for expansion.

    In the past HMG have financed the promotion of benchmarking and quality management systems, like ISO or IIP but now, as ever doing things in the cheap, they rely on volunteer mentoring or Banks, whose real objective is to promote their own products.

    In Warwick and Durham for instance you have two excellent business schools. Instead of blaming Banks for not financing growth or in this instance transport, albeit it is a real issue, HMG should, in conjunction with the above schools produce a well funded medium to long term programme aimed at driving up management standards and making it a requirement that if SMEs want public sector contracts they have to demonstrate excellence thought the attainment of ISO and IIP.

    Finally I believe in Germany to start a company you have to have had some time in business school. Again HMG should be seeking to investigate that and looking to bring in something similar in the U.K.

    As long as I can remember politicians have bemoaned our lack of productivity relying on the earnings from the City and devaluing the pound to stay afloat and competitive, it is about time that changed, but I am not holding my breath!

  5. JJE
    November 30, 2016

    I take it the third bridge over the Thames at Reading is still not happening? That is the root cause of much of the congestion I have to live with.
    Next is the local gridlock every time the M4 is shut for many hours after an incident.

    1. Lifelogic
      November 30, 2016

      The most congested roads in Europe and probably the one where the motorists are most taxed. Much of the congestion is actually caused by deliberate road vandalism by the government. Bus lanes, bike lanes, anti car traffic lights (the work better when off), environmental areas (that make you drive further) and huge islands in the middle of the roads. Even bus stop built into the road so the bus hold up all the traffic at each stop.

      1. bigneil
        November 30, 2016

        “Even bus stop built into the road so the bus hold up all the traffic at each stop.”
        Near me they have done that on some roads – -effectively blocking half the road when a bus stops, But, to ensure even more problems, the old style “lay-by” bus stops where the bus pulls out of the traffic flow have been altered – -so the bus stops in the road – and blocks one side of the road.
        If this is supposed to make people think that they may as well be on the bus – -IT DOESN’T WORK. The car driver just hates the idiots who came up with the idea, even more.

      2. Jerry
        November 30, 2016

        @LL; “huge islands in the middle of the roads.”

        Surely the very definition of a Roundabout!…

        1. Know-dice
          December 1, 2016

          Not around here Jerry.

          The Council is enlarging all traffic island to make room for cyclists…

          So, where you would previously have a roundabout with two lanes for cars, you now have only 1.5 lanes…

          1. rose
            December 1, 2016

            These alterations are dangerous for bicyclists. Where once you had two lanes, with the bikes in the left lane, you now only have one with nowhere for the bikes. The ornamental islands – they are not used for pedestrian crossings – create further danger for bicyclists, as do the buildouts for bus stops, and the bottlenecks. Time and again bicyclists are expected to throw themselves in front of EU sized lorries as they cannot escape to the pavement for the parked cars.

          2. Jerry
            December 1, 2016

            @Know-dice; Err…?! I’m talking about the wasted bit in the middle, often quite a large amount of land with some roundabouts – but I suppose it does give space for Local councils to sell advertising, called sponsorship signs, that then distract road users.

          3. Jerry
            December 2, 2016

            @rose; “Time and again bicyclists are expected to throw themselves in front of EU sized lorries as they cannot escape to the pavement for the parked cars.”

            Don’t bicycles have brakes any more?! Why not stop and GIVE WAY. Cyclists should not be using the pavement unless it has been designated as a cycle path and if it has then surely they should have already been using it, having accessed it via the provided places and away from permitted on-street parking or other hazards…

            The only thing that makes a cyclist (and thus others, usually pedestrians) unsafe is the cyclists own attitude, road skills, and actions.

            Oh and what is a “EU sized lorry”, did you mean weight, the maximum size did not change, just the permitted axle weights, all well within the limitations of the brakes etc as the vehicles were designed for such a axle load.

          4. rose
            December 2, 2016


            I wasn’t suggesting bicycling on the pavement, just escaping to it when driven off the road. I.e. walking, and pushing the bike. Don’t always think the worst of people you don’t know.

            You can’t stop and give way when confronted by a buildout or bottleneck. You can only pull out in front of the heavy traffic behind you or escape on to the pavement.

            “The only thing that makes a cyclist (and thus others, usually pedestrians) unsafe is the cyclists own attitude, road skills, and actions.”

            I’m afraid this attitude is long out of date. Look at the statistics for who is getting killed and maimed now. Quite a lot of considerate and law abiding women who endure life-changing injuries, not because of their attitude, but because of the lack of room for bikes on the roads and the failure of some motorists to be careful and considerate. This care by motorists for bicyclists varies greatly from country to country. We are somewhere in the middle. Texting and telephoning while driving is also taking its toll.

      3. alan jutson
        November 30, 2016


        Do not forget chicanes, road hump obstructions with crumbling edges which cause havoc with tyres, 4 way light systems where you wait forever, road work cones when no one working, delays in up to date messages on electronic information boards.

        Road works which only operate 6-7 hours a day instead of 24/7.
        Rolling road resurfacing like the methods they use on the continent.

        Now we have so called smart motorways which have no safety hard running shoulder available if you breakdown (an major accident waiting to happen)

        White lines which cover a whole lane, making it out of use even, when it is still present and has been paid for.

    2. Lifelogic
      November 30, 2016

      They seem rather keener on “lagoons” in Wales, garden foot bridges, HS2, Hinkley C and other such expensive & economically damaging ideas.

    3. hefner
      November 30, 2016

      And wait for it: the M4 around Reading will be transformed in a “Smart motorway” soon (2017? 2018?).
      The M3 from Bagshot to the M25 has now been in such a process for more than two years and these eight miles are usually the bottleneck in any travel between Reading and the M25 south.
      But Balfour Beatty is doing nicely out of it. Thank you for asking.

      1. Bob
        November 30, 2016

        removing hard shoulders is not smart.

  6. Christopher Hudson
    November 30, 2016

    Yeh we’re a small island with a high population and rising, most of it concentrated to the South east corner. Comparing our productivity with that of France is not really comparing apples with apples.

  7. Roy Grainger
    November 30, 2016

    My local council regards cyclists as the most important road users and only they are given new infrastructure, whereas car owners are bad people who must be punished.

    1. Lifelogic
      November 30, 2016

      That is the agenda. Needless to say the bikes pay nothing and ignore the traffic lights etc. while the cars sit at red lights and pay for it all. Cycling in cities can also be about 30 times more dangerous per mile travelled than driving too, so why exactly do they want to encourage it so much?

      Oh and a full modern car is far more energy efficient than a bikes are too. This as steak chips and a glass of wine are really not a very efficient fueling system.

      Looking at the whole of the process, sunshine to grass, to cow, to butcher, to packaging, to plane, to supermarket to freezer, to fridge to grill, to mouth to muscle with endless waste at each stage. But governments “experts” seem to think it is. Perhaps they have Oxford PPE, or climate alarmism degrees rather than decent Physics, Chemistry, Maths or Engineering ones.

  8. Ventura.
    November 30, 2016

    Alas the ‘Great’ Western electrification is going to bring us much heavier trains than are needed. They will be bi-modal (electro-diesels) which will be carrying dead weight at all times. This is to cope with the ballsed up partial electrification of the route the West country is going to get.

    This modernisation could have been done better and quicker for a fraction of the price.

    It is utter madness to be going electric when the policy is to close down power stations while fuel gets cheaper.

    The first thing the passengers are going to notice is how slow and how small the trains are.

  9. Richard1
    November 30, 2016

    This is all true although broadband should also be a focus. Splitting Openreach from BT won’t do the trick, what we need is competition in supply of broadband infrastructure.

    1. scottspeig
      November 30, 2016

      How do you produce that without a lot of waste and conflicts?

      I’m curious as I’ve not heard of a sensible way to split the infrastructure up for any of the main services (Rail, Road, Electricity or Water)

      1. Richard1
        November 30, 2016

        At the moment 100% of the governments considerable subsidies for broadband infrastructure go to Openreach. It would make sense 1) to allow other suppliers to bid and 2) to incentivise optimisation of the existing network, e.g. By installing fibre to the nearest hubs, rather than just laying large stretches of new cable.

      2. Original Richard
        November 30, 2016

        “How do you produce that without a lot of waste and conflicts?”

        Could not 4G or 5G or wireless internet networks be properly funded and promoted to provide a real competitor to BT’s Openreach landlines ?

        Especially in rural parts of the UK.

  10. Lifelogic
    November 30, 2016

    Indeed but being concentrated should mean better communications on the roads not worse. Which engineering problem is easier, A. connecting up by roads one million people scattered over millions of square miles or B connecting up one million people in 5 square miles? Far far less road building is needed for the latter.

    You need more bridges, underpasses and far fewer blockages and anti-car measures. Double decker roads in some places and more parking spaces (so people do not have to pointlessly go round in circles looking for spaces). We can build upwards and we can dig down.

    The problem has been the green religion and the “if we build more roads they will fill up again” which has been used by government as an excuse to do nothing of any substance. It is nonsense people do not want to sit in a car all day they just want to get from A to B quickly and efficiently. Driverless car and taxis will be here sooner than people think, they will be more convenience, efficient and far cheaper than trains. But more road space and far better road management is clearly needed.

  11. Lifelogic
    November 30, 2016

    For higher productivity we need to build more roads and bridges but above all kill the government’s (and the appalling T May/Grieg Clark anti-business agenda) stone dead.

    Kill HS2 and Hinkley and spend the money on something sensible like tax cuts and better roads. Relay planning, go for cheap energy, simplify and cut taxes, fire the 50% of the state sector that does nothing useful and leave businesses well alone.

    1. fedupsoutherner
      November 30, 2016


      Right again Lifelogic. We don’t need HS2 nearly as much as we need better roads, more roads and definitely less people (immigrants). Worthing in Sussex will soon be grid locked the way things are going. Thousands of homes are being built but no improvements to the roads. Hospital beds are closing like they are going out of fashion.

      Trains???? It would be nice if there was a decent train service now. My husband has just had to fly back down to Worthing from Scotland and catch a train from Gatwick. They got to Haywards Heath only to be told the driver hadn’t turned up. They then had to go to Brighton only to be told there was no driver for the next leg to Worthing. After waiting for an age one finally turned up and my husband arrived exhausted. People were saying that they have to pay their yearly fares which are in excess of £5000 for some only to get this poor service. Some say they never see their children during the week. They leave home early in the morning and don’t get home because of the disruption until nearly 9pm. Clearly this is not what you can call a train service. People are expected to leave their cars at home but why should they when their jobs are at risk because they are late for work and other appointments.

      1. fedupsoutherner
        November 30, 2016

        Apparently, the drivers are now on strike as well as the guards. All overtime for drivers has been stopped and this is the cause. This is what I have been told. As usual it is the customer that bears the brunt.

  12. Original Richard
    November 30, 2016

    Congestion in the South-East will ony get worse if we continue with high net immigration.

    1. Dennis
      November 30, 2016

      Always talking about immigration sends a bad message. Better to talk of overpopulation which includes everyone. Immigration does not help but if the indigenous were much fewer immigration would not be a problem, if we could absorb them well.

    2. Lifelogic
      November 30, 2016

      Well if we continue with low skilled immigration, paying perhaps £4K tax/NI in and then taking circa £30K out in benefits, schools, child allowances, housing, health, roads and all the other part of the bloated state sector.

      If we just take only higher paid immigration then we can afford more roads, houses and all these costs.

  13. Know-dice
    November 30, 2016

    As MP for Wokingham this is the question you should be putting to YOUR councillors…

    Why has Wokingham (and Reading) introduced a policy of deliberately delaying traffic? Why have traffic lights times been altered to inconvenience and slow the passage of traffic? Why has WBC spent a fortune on messing around with traffic islands?

    A few weeks ago councils were complaining about pollution levels particularly in towns rising – Hmm… what do you expect when you deliberately create stop/start traffic and price public transport at a level that encourages personal car use?

    A bit more carrot and less stick would be helpful….

    Reply I have shared my thoughts on how to promote less congestion and safer junctions with WBC who are the local highways authority.

    1. Lifelogic
      November 30, 2016

      Why has Wokingham (and Reading) introduced a policy of deliberately delaying traffic? Why have traffic lights times been altered to inconvenience and slow the passage of traffic? Why has WBC spent a fortune on messing around with traffic islands?

      Because that is the agenda of government try to deter car users from getting to and from work by inconveniencing and delaying them as much as possible with mugging them with bus lane etc. cameras and parking fines too. Also it creates more pollution while they sit is jams for hours and does wonders for productivity and higher blood pressures.

  14. Original Richard
    November 30, 2016

    “The first is new signalling on board each train, so a train can go closer to the train ahead safely, knowing the position and speed of the trains on the line.”

    We need more driverless trains to take advantage of new signalling etc..

    It is unbelievable that it seems we will have driverless cars, buses and trucks before we have driverless trains.

    1. Qubus
      November 30, 2016

      And if we also had driverless trams, the drivers wouldn’t fall asleep.

  15. Yosarion
    November 30, 2016

    John, a recent announcement is the electrification work into Bath and Bristol is to be put on hold, Although the Valley lines electrification was an add on to the original plan I have heard nothing to confirm that this will be on hold too. Given that when a By -Pass in Wiltshire was cancelled the funds went towards the doubling of the line between Swindon and Kemble which is the by pass route for the electrification of the Severn Tunnel, this Englishmen has had enough of Barnett Consequential.

  16. Ian Wragg
    November 30, 2016

    Interesting development on the power grid.
    We are running at 95% capacity. Wind is supplying a paltry 3 gw and France is importing 1.2gw.
    So much for the interconnecters helping out at periods of high demand.
    It’s not even that cold yet.

    1. acorn
      November 30, 2016

      Did you see they hit £450 MWh (45 p per kWh) in the 7pm settlement period yesterday.

    2. Lifelogic
      November 30, 2016

      Well energy was run by dire Libdim think, PPE graduates and the likes, not a decent engineer to be seen. This, afterall,l is the green religion and politics not ratioal engineering.

    3. Cold war warrior
      November 30, 2016

      Our government should stop conflating foreign ( military ) policy with economic policy.It’s robbed us from getting cheap gas from Russia for decades.But Germany doesn’t mind Russian gas and oil in the least. The only exports we could “use” to punish Russia was to stop sending them cheshire cheese and hunting rifles. They must have shuddered with fear in their valenki.
      If trade is going to be used as a military weapon , wouldn’t it be a good idea to trade a great deal with Russia in the first place to make any economic disruption a tad more than laughable?

    4. stred
      December 1, 2016

      Have the ministries thought about how easy it would be for an undersea cable to be blown up in the event of conflict? All those huge offshore wind tubines , Norwegian hydro, Icelandic geothermal, French and Dutch nukes unavailable just like that. But this is what the ex- Decc heads are planning.

  17. Brian Tomkinson
    November 30, 2016

    Local road capacity has been reduced by so-called traffic-calming measures. Money is squandered on ‘smart motorways’ which Brresult in years of disruption and reduced capacity followed by what seems to be no more than multitudes of speed cameras. Is anyone in government, either local or national, really interested in developing road transport?

    1. Chris
      November 30, 2016

      Guess where the smart motorway initiative came from – it is all part of the EU vision. Linked also to paying for road use, which seems to be the ultimate goal. This EU report gives some idea of the direction things are going, and why there is this apparent determination to punish the motorist: the obsession with man made global warming seems to be behind all these “environmental” initiatives.
      Electronic Pricing and Payment

      Escalating congestion and pollution RAISE DOUUBTS ABOUT THE SUSTAINABILITY OF ROAD TRANSPORT. Road usage charging can address these issues as it can influence the choices of road transport users. Already in 1997 a Commission White Paper outlined the main principles for charging. It should be based on the “user pays” principle be directly related to the costs that users impose on the infrastructure and on others promote the efficient provision of infrastructure

    2. Lifelogic
      November 30, 2016

      No it is mainly about motorist taxing, mugging and inconveniencing this as they try to get to and from their work and meetings. It is essentially a parasitic process to create pointless jobs in the state sector and tax income to pay their wages and pensions.

  18. JimS
    November 30, 2016

    One of the approaches to Birmingham New Street from the West is via a link originally to exchange sidings, when wagons were moved between Victorian railway companies, a 5mph crawl even under clear signals. There must be many similar junctions around the UK.

  19. Antisthenes
    November 30, 2016

    True enterprise and innovation only comes when profit is the overriding consideration when supplying a product or service. The public sector owns and operates nearly all our roads and tracks or the major parts of them. Certainly train operators are in the main from the private sector but are constrained by factors that do not lend themselves to competition and do not give total freedom of action. Network rail is a major obstacle to improving efficiency. It is a monopoly and has no incentive other than to be cajoled to improve it’s performance.

    Technology is improving at a remarkable rate and all of what it can achieved you have outlined and more. It will achieve what you suggest but not so effectively if the private sector is not given the job of doing so and vested interests like trade unions are not divested of their disruptive powers. Remarkable things can be achieved but only if the state acts as a guide but not as a provider.

    To do both is a recipe for waste, inefficiency and time wasting. All that has to be coupled with less debilitating laws, rules and regulations. Planning regulations a perfect example of how bad laws can hold back progress as are those on energy, health and safety, employment the list is long.

  20. acorn
    November 30, 2016

    Where is the money coming from!!!??? That’s what you would be saying if your post had come from a Labour MP.

    Anyway JR, it is not going to happen. It never does under Conservative governments. You privatise natural monopolies and expect the private sector to supply public goods for the nation. The private sector operates for profit and will sweat the cheaply obtained public assets, till they fall apart. Why invest in 5G when they haven’t amortised the cost of the 4G assets yet? Same with Trains, same with Electricity.

    “And, you know, there is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women, and there are families.” Brexit will expose just how wrong that woman was.

    Conservative governments don’t know how to manipulate private sector resources to deliver the goods and services the public sector (we the people) want, at a price it is prepared to pay. If the private sector is reluctant to do what the government wants, then the government can use its unlimited currency issuing and taxing powers to get the individual parts of the private sector in line.

    Samsung was not built into a giant by Samsung, the South Korean government did it. Just like it has manipulated the rest of its industry.

  21. Bert Young
    November 30, 2016

    All forms of traffic congestion are due to population levels . I have no experience of rail transport having been retired for many years , on the other hand my car use is more important . Locally my neighbourhood faces an extra 2000 houses according to the Planning Authority ; the impact of this extra burden will be horrendous . The local school , surgery and traffic problems already exist and there are no provisions to cater for the additional housing ; parking is already a headache .

    The driving force in my support for Brexit was uncontrolled immigration ; it remains my biggest concern today . Population density is creating havoc in so many ways and I see little point in tackling fringe issues at the expense of the biggest one .

  22. Alan
    November 30, 2016

    I agree with almost all of this, but think we should also start considering what changes to the road system will result from the introduction of self-driving road vehicles. This could revolutionise our road traffic system, giving it far higher capacity and safety. It could in time eliminate the need for almost all passenger rail transport except for that needed for commuting into the larger cities.

    I think there also needs to be further development of telecommunications, especially high quality video conferencing, which has the potential to greatly reduce the need for business travel and commuting.

  23. Barbara
    November 30, 2016

    If we stopped importing hundreds of thousands of people every year, we wouldn’t be so congested.

  24. Oggy
    November 30, 2016

    I agree with the railways needing modern signalling and more capacity, but you mention not moving to electrification – personally I think that is fine but the EU doesn’t – it has put in place strict exhaust limitations for Diesel locos which is a limiting factor to their purchase.
    In addition Locomotive building like many other UK industries has been destroyed/lost. Think of Doncaster, Derby, Crewe or Swindon and you think of trains. Now locos have to be bought from the USA which is ludicrous when the UK was THE World leader in engine building.
    The way rail was privatised is also at fault, the idea of train companies having to pay to run their trains on the tracks is just plain daft. The train companies could simply add extra carriages to their trains to increase capacity but this increases the payments to Network Rail and leads to increased passenger fares.

    More roads just means more cars and more pollution and in the longer term doesn’t help at all. A first class public transport system is what we need.

  25. Chris
    November 30, 2016

    The inordinately long time that road upgrades take e.g. the M3 “smart motorway” upgrade, is unacceptable. It has gone on for some years now, and frequently one can drive down miles of M3 and see not a single workman or piece of equipment. It is nothing short of scandalous, and the impact on the economy in terms of driver hours wasted, for example, has been significant. Rumour has it that the contractors who won the bid for the work would only work one 12 hour shift per 24 hours (I don’t even see evidence of 12 hour working on many of the miles of motorway), something that may have been related to their own work force pay and conditions? However, there is another rumour that DEFRA had a hand in restricting hours of working on some environmental grounds? Is there any truth in these claims, Mr Redwood?

    Major arteries of transport should have repairs conducted swiftly and efficiently, and there should be penalties enforced for delays.

  26. English Pensioner
    November 30, 2016

    As far as I can make out, people only use the railways if they are forced to do so by circumstances and would always prefer to drive. One had to use public transport if one works in London or other major cities because of traffic congestion, parking and congestion charges. One has to use the train if one cannot drive, but otherwise most of us avoid it like the plague.
    My neighbour has had his driving licence withdrawn due to his age and it now takes him and his wife virtually all day to visit his family in Weymouth from South Bucks. Taxi to the station, train to London, tube across London, another train and finally a taxi. Plus the trouble of carrying their luggage. The car took half the time and was far more comfortable at a fraction of the cost. Who in their right mind would use the train when they can drive?
    The same with myself, we looked at going to Cornwall by train to stay with a friend for a week or so, and just didn’t consider rail to be practical apart from the huge cost. Fortunately we can both still drive, but found it rather tiring. Next time we will stop overnight at a motorway motel, I think it will still be cheaper than rail and we will have the use of our car when we get there.
    Perhaps if you are wealthy and can afford to travel first class and pay for taxis or hire cars, rail travel is practical. No doubt these travellers will be able to afford HS2, although I suspect that by the time it arrives it will be out of date and the wealthy will be using helicopters!

  27. A different Simon
    November 30, 2016

    The new passenger bridges at Reading appear to be high enough for double-stacked-trains to clear .

    I haven’t seen any double stacked container freight trains in the U.K or even double stacked passenger carriages .

    Has anybody else seen them ? If so which lines ?

    It should be recognised that technology cannot solve all problems so we should not rely on it to get us out of trouble .
    Once the density of people in a particular area reaches a certain level , private vehicle usage will mathematically tend towards becoming a nightmare .

    I believe we have reached if not exceeded that limit in the South East .

    Think we need to work out way of paying the EU to take the Remoaners on condition they don’t come back .

  28. Ed Mahony
    November 30, 2016

    Great article.

  29. stred
    November 30, 2016

    Every day, there are long delays at the M25 Thames Crossing. The queues and necessity to change lanes, along with safety traffic lights for escorts of fuel tankers, result in accidents every day. This, in turn, leads to more delay. A new bridge, which could the same design as the existing, built alongside would relieve the traffic and save thousands of man hours, fuel and accident costs. The existing bridge paid for itself 10 years ago and the present tolls are profit to the Treasury.

    But what’s the betting that they prefer to use taxpayer’s money to build a bridge with nice trees on it, blocking views of the Thames in Westminster instead.

  30. Atlas
    November 30, 2016

    Agreed John, what you propose is far better than the HSx vanity projects.

  31. Mitchel
    November 30, 2016

    Off topic but on an infrastructure investment theme and the EU,there is an article in today’s Guardian (Russia should foot Syria’s reconstruction bill) which includes the following :-

    “According to one western diplomat “the EU in reality was the only player with the resources to restore the fabric and infrastructure of a country torn apart by a five year long civil war”.Estimates of reconstructing Syria range from a World Bank projection of $180bn made in April to far larger sums.

    The Syrian foreign Minister in Moscow this week promised Russian companies could receive priority in the allocation of contracts.But Moscow,wary of the bills and anyway short of cash due to the depressed oil price,is understood to have declined the offer.

    The Russian leader’s reluctance to own the peace may give the EU an opening it has lacked in the latter days of the war,diplomats say”

    So what could not be achieved by force of arms may be now attempted by a massive bribe.I was aghast when I read that(perhaps I shouldn’t be!).Isn’t the Italian banking sector on the verge of collapse to add to all the EU’s other problems and liabilities?- and now this.Get us out now!

  32. agricola
    November 30, 2016

    Can we face up to reality, we are over populated in terms of an acceptable quality of life. I would have a target figure of around 40 million, but this is open to debate. For sure we cannot sustain the present 65 million and climbing. This is where government attention should be targeted if there is a real desire to rectify matters.
    Some facts.
    27.5 % of live births in England and Wales were to women born outside the UK , if we are to believe recent figures.
    Live births 2014/2015 increased by 2.5% to women born outside the UK. Births to UK born women decreased in the same period by 0.4%
    For UK born women the fertility rate resulted in 1.76 children per woman. For none UK born women the rate is 2.08 per woman.
    etc ed

    There would seem to be an overwhelming argument for a drastic cut in immigration and confining Family Allowance to the first born child. This is no quick fix . I can see it taking 50-100 years, but one needs to start somewhere. The immigrants we need to sustain our economy are largely wanted to support the out of control levels of immigration we have seen over the past fifty years or more. In future we need to think about what type of immigration we wish to have., permanent residence or limited periods of stay commensurate with what our economy needs.

    Railways are just one choke point, there are roads, schools, housing, health provision, and myriad social services. These are very tough political decisions to reduce demand on our infrastructure to sustainable levels. Many of our politicians come to the table with too much baggage to be able to make the necessary decisions, and much of the UK population has a something for nothing perceived right to be carried by the state. For sure, demand on our infrastructure must be reduced lest we destroy the essential qualities of life in the UK that draws so many people to them.

    1. agricola
      December 1, 2016

      Just to add strength to this post, take a look at todays immigration figures. We have an enormous and growing problem that can only be solved with an early resort to Article 50 and a rapid presentation to the EU of what we intend to do, not a protracted EU discussion.

  33. graham1946
    November 30, 2016

    Yet the Eu wants us to continue to take 330,000 immigrants a year plus whatever econonic migrants (mostly not refugees) from outside the EU they think we should have to ease their ‘burden’ without regard to what we can physically handle.

    On the news this morning it was said that our traffic problems are ten times worse than France or Germany. Well fancy that. We have similar population to those and yet their lands are several times bigger so it’s obvious that we are overcrowded. The French are already complaining about the amount of immigrants they are taking and the change to their culture. How do they think we feel? Doesn’t matter of course.

    We need to be controlling our borders now, not in three years time when another million plus will be here. Ditherer May needs a rocket behind her. Things can only get worse with the present regime, so we need a complete halt to it while we sort ourselves out and take only those who we have a need for. The Remoaners keep on about the farmers in East Anglia needing labour for the vegetables, but no-one is suggesting they can’t come and go back as they have done for generations. They also cite the NHS, but if we need them we can let them come. What we don’t need is more Big Issue sellers or car washers.

  34. a-tracy
    November 30, 2016

    You should start by reviewing vehicle accident hotspots by asking Insurers to identify the highest number of insurance claims in each county. Identify the top 10 hotspots and deal with them immediately.

    Roadworks just take so long the M6 in Cheshire has had serious delays for a couple of years and the M62. The length of the road closure is extreme causing serious problems nearly every day, even days when no work is done on the section the speed limits are severely restricted, it would be nice to see an occasional local news bulletin on why, what and how long these things are going to take.

    1. stred
      November 30, 2016

      This is happening all over England, often just to replace the steel crash barrier with an EU style concrete wedge.

      1. hefner
        December 3, 2016

        Where did you get this idea of “an EU style concrete wedge”. On the French and Italian motorways I have been using recently, it is mainly steel crash barriers usually (not always) adjusted to such a height that prevents at night the light beams from cars on the opposite lanes to get in your eyes. Unfortunately, this level of “sophistication” does not seem to have reached (yet?) our British engineers, e.g., for the M4 to Bristol or M5 to the South West.

  35. Dennis
    November 30, 2016

    Cut congestion by cutting our gross overpopulation which would solve much.

  36. Dave Andrews
    November 30, 2016

    We could ease road congestion by raising the driving test standard so less people qualify. It might be a good idea to retest periodically to remove individuals whose driving skill has lapsed. There ought to be a night vision test as well, with those failing restricted to daylight driving only.

  37. Rollerskater
    November 30, 2016

    Building a birdsnest of mutually exclusive means of transportation as now inevitably promotes circular and sterile discussions such as this.

  38. Martyn G
    November 30, 2016

    The BBC this morning announced that the UK has now the densest vehicle occupation of roads in all Europe. Then followed news that our ambulance services are creaking and sometimes cracking under the strain of so many demands being placed on their services. Our local ambulance providers are seeking additional staff across Europe and, strangely, Australia to boost their staff resources.
    We know that many hospitals are in dire straights and unable to meet the 4-hour waiting time in A&E and cause ambulances to be backed up at the entrances unable to clear the vehicle of patients and get to the next task. We also know that we are an ageing population and thus increasing demand on medical services.
    On top of that an unknown or officially recognised many million people have been added to our numbers over the past 10 years or so, many of them young, fertile, who marry early and in general have several children who also get married much sooner than do and again have more children than we. The ever-increasing population has already outstripped the resources and infrastructure needed to cope with ever-increasing demands on health, transport, roads, trains, education, housing and all other elements of life. Yet no one in power seems willing or able to go public and say that our services cannot cope as it is and it is therefore essential to immediately limit the numbers of people entering the country, unless there is a proven case for need of their skills. I am beginning to wonder if the infamous ‘rivers of blood’ speech by the late Enoch Powell MP was a far-sighted appraisal of what might soon become reality.
    What a mess we have made of the UK to hand to our children and grandchildren – overcrowded, inadequately resourced in all areas, saddled with huge national debt, taxed to the point of the pips squeaking with other nationals and religions gradually crowding out our ethnic identity. Well done, Parliaments, present and past, thank you.

  39. TimeTraveller
    November 30, 2016

    There are some very nice walks where I live, all facilitated by former railway tracks and disused roads. Lots of wild flowers, wild blackberries, elderberries, wild garlic with glorious birdlife. Many different kinds of trees and flowers.
    Instead of making excra railways and roads at great cost, it would be cheaper to pretend we are building roads and railways, conveniently forget to lay down rails and tarmac/road surfacing, forget to build bridges and tunnels. The we can all sit and sleep and dream we are forty years hence, the roads and railways were a waste of time and money, we have pulled up the rails as before, and jigger-picked the roads; wakey-wakey then wake up and see the result as previously explained. Wonderful walks!
    # All the above in the hope that the transportation ideologs do not think of trams, trolley buses, cycle tracks, monorails, cable cars and one-passenger drones.

  40. Barry Cooper
    November 30, 2016

    BUT bear in mind that in a thriving economy, increases in road capacity, however it is done, merely enables more traffic movement, leading sooner or later to the same travel speeds as previously. In London sooner is more likely with new congestion points quickly becoming evident. Congestion is inevitable where there is wealth and should be seen as a positive outcome of a busy economy. On the other hand if the economy were to stop growing – which now seems possible – travel speeds will, eventually, increase!

    1. JJE
      November 30, 2016

      So you propose to limit the size of the economy by not building any infrastructure?

    2. stred
      November 30, 2016

      Reduced immigration will result in less traffic and lower house prices. Green brainwashed, please reconsider and support Brexit. PS. it doesn’t matter which origin the immigrants come from, so don’t worry about thinking you’re racist. Join the club.

  41. Mr Sensible
    November 30, 2016

    Massive Fail at securing EU citizens living and working here!. Estimated 3 million. There’s 3 million road/rail users GONE. What need of an extra road?

    #The added benefit is that we would not have to wait so long at the doctors and at the fish n’chip shop.
    It gets better and better the more I think about it. I shall wait until tomorrow to curb my excitement when I shall then consider the less time I shall spend waiting to be served with a pint at my local pub.

  42. Pro-migrant
    November 30, 2016

    Emigrating to Canada is a much better option particularly for young people with families. Mr Carney doesn’t work their now either so you’ll be OK putting your money in the bank and investing for the future.

  43. Resigned
    November 30, 2016

    re Italian Homes grab. It’s ok, it’s only second homes !!
    See Italian Interior Minister ( what a face ) says…

    I think they want to keep it quiet till after the Italian elections.
    Logically where are they going to put them all. You can see his thought processes.
    I’m alright, only one paid off home, and no benefits ever claimed.

  44. NickC
    November 30, 2016

    A “pinch points fund”??!?! Lord help me. We’ve just spent near 20 years and possibly £ hundreds of millions “bulging pavements” precisely to create pinch points to slow traffic and make lorries climb the pavements and knock over bollards. Now you want to reverse that?

    Where can we spend taxpayer’s money next? I know, let’s spend 10 years negotiating with the EU, thereby delaying any negotiations with countries in the rest of the world which are bigger customers than the EU is. That’ll waste a bit of taxpayers’ cash. Whoopee!!

  45. MikeP
    November 30, 2016

    The bridge over the Wokingham-Waterloo line for the Southern Distribution Road would be a good start John (in this decade maybe?)

    And – while we ponder if the Heathrow 3rd runway disaster will ever happen, I wonder if a short high speed tube connection was ever considered between Heathrow and Northolt? Many countries have their city military bases co-located with commercial traffic and I bet a tube connection would be a darn sight cheaper than LHR runway 3, no aggro to M4/M25, two runways longer than London City and barely 6 miles to connect feeder services to long haul? Sorted.

  46. Iain Gill
    November 30, 2016

    Good nuggets of ideas here John. I cannot help feel that these ideas would benefit from some time spent with the enthusiasts who write and contribute to the train magazines, and the drivers in the British Association of Drivers. In both cases they have thought much longer, harder, and in more detail about these issues and have lots of fantastic ideas. The problem is largely the fashions of the public sector and their engineering and town planning consultancies, with self-fulfilling ideas not based on sound science at all, using transport as a way of social engineering. Thinning roads down to discourage car use, often to widen the same road the next year, to thin it again the next, a never ending gravy train for the consultancies. The other obvious big issue is the sheer amount of incoming immigration, both that officially acknowledged, and that happening below the radar, which is squeezing all of our resources including transport.

    November 30, 2016

    The government could take another stab at planning.

    This continued policy on the lines of “Dad has come back from town and brought me another new Lego tiny box, whatever it is, housing, petrol station, railways station..I’ll plonk it where I find space ” is insane unless you’re six years old.

    The layouts of our towns, cities, housing estates, and I have seen far too many are farcical. The group of housing I saw on TV , recently built but facing demolition due to the great road or is it a railway “planned” by the government. well,it looks very familiar to me.
    It is a very British problem. Poor planners of transport. Amongst the world’s worst.It’s easier to find your way about in Germany or France or the States, and yes even in Eastern Europe where planners liked straight lines and utterly managed housing developments. Higgledy-piggledy thoughts and “planning” was literally out of the question.

    So, building new roads and railways on the basis of a toddler’s on-going lego-brick acquirement and decision-making is a waste of money.

  48. James Bell
    November 30, 2016

    Fourth main change – nationalise the railways. Fifth main change – bring down the price of

    fares. Even if we go for first and third class travel again.

  49. E.S Tablishment
    November 30, 2016

    So, given that Mrs May is telling the truth about negotiations….then:on what basis are we building new roads and railways?

    If Mrs May and her Brexit team cannot at all be sure just which industries and what the occupation of particularly situated housing is going to be plus unable to foresee which trade deals are made and which services/commodities/production facilities will be necessitated, then how come the government is going forward building transport infrastructure? May be it will be a road leading to an open field or a railway track to a removed factory complex. ( Keeping the analogy simple )
    A bit daft thinking any industry, any export of any made good and the production of such can readily take place in the area a road planner or rail planner has indicated. As silly as giving permission for the Mars company to build in Reading when all the redundant Rowntree and other workers were hygiene trained and situated in York. To say the government does not think is untrue. It thinks, though badly.

  50. Will
    November 30, 2016

    If we can have driverless cars driverless trains should be a much simpler proposition. At the very least it would allow Southern guards to close the doors!

  51. A different Simon
    November 30, 2016

    Road tax is quite a lot of money but at least you get something you want in return for it .

    Unfortunately the same cannot be said of the BBC .

    It is outright extortion that people are compelled under the threat of imprisonment to pay £145 per year TV license fee .

    When is HM Govt going to privatise the BBC or force it to fund it’s own lavish lifestyle by phasing out the license fee ?

  52. Englander
    November 30, 2016

    Mrs May emphasised yet again in Prime Minister’s Question Time she wishes the UK to be the world’s champion in Free Trade. Putting aside she is at slug speed on Brexit…nine months to sign a piece of paper, there seems little likelihood.

    We mostly hear about London. How great it is. Londoners need to get out more!
    Most of us would dearly love to go to parts of the south-east, south coast, south-west and to all parts of the world without ever ever ever in our entire existences and those of our families needing to go into or through or even see any part of London whatsoever. Block it from news, please, and also block the mention of the Middle East and Northern Power Houses.
    The infrastructure of transportation is really London-orientated. The overall plan makes sense only if you are living and making the plan based in transportation radiating from one of the most dead-beat capitals in the world…devoid largely of persons you would recognise as English… a malignant ever-growing tumour on the Thames.A blot on England’s green and pleasant land.

  53. NA
    November 30, 2016

    Yes it was a good article

  54. Prigger
    November 30, 2016

    We don’t need better transport. We need more reasons to stay exactly where we are.

    For example; the first thing a newly qualified schoolteacher does in the North is get a mortgage for a terraced house which should have been demolished half a century ago. Of course buy a car on tick even if the school is just around the corner. Soon as possible flit to a cold moorland location requiring what he thinks is a better more expensive 4 by 4. He needs to pay more fuel costs and insurance , plus more on another house with rising damp. Clogs up the roads when he goes to school. Takes a day or two off school when there is half an inch of snow. Moorland roads saw him coming and his “great” 4 by 4. Naturally at weekends he clogs up the roads driving to town pretty close to his original terraced house to go shopping, clogs the way back, clogs the road to take his children to dance school in town. That’s just one clogging schoolteacher. Multiply this by all the clogging school-teachers in the land and you have the mother of very highly educated traffic jams every morning.
    Answer: reduce teacher pay. Ride a bike like Corbyn, Hunt and Boris. or, try walking. Try a couple of steps each day until you get the knack if it.Teachers may require some one-to-one instruction in it for a month two…and a tick and sticky gold star.

  55. NA
    November 30, 2016

    What about the canal system? Could we expand that?

    I woke up on my boat in leicestershire this morning and it was magical. The canal frozen, everything glistening white. My friends and fellow boaters came to check up on me and make sure i didnt freeze to death over night (I have a log burner I was toastie).

    People who live on the canal are so polite, friendly, lovely people. A sub-culture where people still say good morning to you and stop and chat. Together we are building a new Jerusalem in Englands green and pleasant land.

  56. hefner
    November 30, 2016

    An interesting comment by Sebastian Payne in the FT today about the constituency work done by MPs. Well worth reading.

  57. margaret
    November 30, 2016

    How many years have roads been widened and new roads built to accommodate the expanding population? They will only fill up again , how ever many more are constructed.

  58. David L
    November 30, 2016

    The advent of driverless cars will increase the number of vehicles as the elderly, the disabled and the underage will all demand their right to personal transport. We’ll need more than Smart motorways then!

  59. GulliversTravels
    November 30, 2016

    The Donald and his Vice-President Pence are due to talk to a mass rally of over 17,000 people at 7pm ET Thursday ( our time midnight ) in Cincinnati, OH at the US Bank Arena.
    We will be able to see and hear it LIVE on the internet.
    I prefer one particular broadcasting network as it is the only one which consistently shows the full crowd. Other networks do not. They glue the coverage to Trump and about 20 on the front row. Sometimes the quality is not as good as the others.But I imagine the event will be covered by several networks. Make your choice.
    Caution to any Corbynistas viewing the crowd. What you see will blow your mind.Warning: what you see and hear from the crowd will not fit into your Corbynista world of “reality”. You may need therapy afterwards or a pint of Yorkshire beer.( Just as good )

  60. rose
    December 1, 2016

    I first noticed congestion, pollution, and damage to roads from overuse, in the Blair years. There was also congestion on the pavements. It is now much worse. This is a national emergency but isn’t being treated as one. We are importing far too many people and some of the ones who have come recently are having too many children so the outlook is terrifying. Not just from the transport point of view.

    On the question of freedom of movement, I am fed up with Boris being stitched up by the media and the Liberals. This is deliberate, on the eve of the by election in Richmond, which the remainstream media have turned into a second referendum. Boris has always supported immigration and an amnesty. This is nothing new. But he has also said we need to take back control of the numbers.

    What sort of diplomat is it who goes gossiping to Sky news about confidential talks with a Foreign Secretary? Boris should be able to talk to them without that happening. His only mistake, which he makes again and again, is to treat people as intellectual equals, and to be open and frank.

  61. Will Andrews
    December 1, 2016

    Not generally appreciated is that the majority of problems that arise on our roads have to be laid at the door of our traffic planners…Badly trained, and furthermore indoctrinated with the notion that to them, falls the need to get people out of their cars and politically motivated to propagate cycle and public transport useage. In addition their philosophy is all commerce use of our road systems should be at some ungodly hour of the morning. The majority of road congestion is down to incompetent or wilfully bad planning. Too much heavy goods transport is now by road when rail transport should be taking the strain and probably would have been, had rail unions not destroyed it as a reliable method of moving goods around our small island. Discipline the traffic planners and their teachers , and make railways reliable again and life, the traffic and the economy will flow a lot smoother.

  62. a-tracy
    December 2, 2016

    The simple fact is that in rural areas we need cars, we don’t have decent local shops, no cinema, nowhere for teenagers to go, no nearby University, no decent local college, actually no decent local school, the buses stop after 6pm and there are very sparse services at the weekend especially Sundays. The connections to the local railway isn’t there and the train only runs once per hour anyway. So if you have the expense of running a car you then can’t add VERY expensive train and bus services if you’re lucky enough to even have a train and bus to anywhere there is work (which we don’t). The once per hour train service for a member of our staff from an area 15 mins away by car, has an half-an-hour, long, wet walk at the start and end of it or a bus that doesn’t co-ordinate with the train and at a much higher cost, no connecting Oyster cars up here.

    We want our freedom, our freedom to work from 0745 one day and 0815 the next, to stay when required to 1815 or leave early when quiet at 16:50. We are sick of cancelled trains, late trains, holding up workers and causing problems on the phones, poor planning on business parks to get 1000s of people on or off and ridiculous future ideas for park and ride causing delay and extra cost for everyone, one day recently we had a 40 minute delay getting off the park because they decided to stop every car and hand them a leaflet, when a business invests in their offices they don’t want to cause massive problems for their employees parking and twenty minutes getting just on and off the main road on the estate. We don’t all want to put our reliability at the hands of a bus or train driver either.

    Thousands of new houses all being built along the main 60 and 70mph trunk road, with new traffic lights and then lower speed limits slowing commuters to the main areas of employment down, which none of us banked on when we invested in our properties, causing pollution as people are stuck at every set of uncoordinated traffic lights for ten minutes at a time. Long delays as people try to jimmy for position and cut in because they’re too impatient to wait the twenty minutes in the queues. The latest housing estate entrance built on a blind bend with a set of traffic lights that confuse people and cause them to slow right down as they round the bend thinking the through lights are red when that is just the turn right lane. Road planners need to spend a month as a transport driver to ensure they make things safe for everyone.

  63. a-tracy
    December 7, 2016

    These big plans for HS2 investment using Crewe as a key station, don’t you think some serious planning needs to go into car parking near Crewe station, a reduction in the short and long term parking charges as long as you book the parking with your train tickets to stop none train users using specific car parks for this purpose, if you want car drivers to use the trains more for long distance journeys, I’ve nearly missed two trains through lack of car parking spaces. It’s not beyond planners to have pick up drive through points either, we have them at airports for arrivals, why not for departure returnees too at the largest train stations by passenger number. It’s all about extra charges and inconvenience at the moment, not about productivity, improving GDP, improving business journeys. I think a lot of this is to do with the fact that Londoners are spoilt, I know you have very busy trains and need more services but at least you get trains, tubes, buses and taxis available at most stops, at least your connections are good and fast, I’ve heard Londoners moaning if they have to wait ten minutes for a connection!

    When you are stuck at 50mph on a previous 70mph motorway for 30 miles have government number crunchers actually worked out how that affects productivity. Have the haulage associations told any of you how a domestic driver only has ten driving hours per day and HGV drivers reduced driving hours, causing extra costs in overnights and massive disruptions to driver’s home lives, delayed goods deliveries holding up manufacturers and disrupting supply chains.

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