Wednesday, July 09, 2003

Motorway Madness

One of the many things I hoped my Labour vote would get me in 1997 was an end to what Mrs Thatcher called 'the great car economy'. Labour had denounced the ever-increasing volume of vehicles and the ever-increasing roadbuilding programme. They stated categorically, for example that the Birmingham Northern Relief scheme would be abandoned.

In office it went ahead, as have many other schemes. So much more greenery is now under concrete. I particularly mourn the A465 from Glynneath to Neath, a magnficent valley now disfigured by four concrete lanes exactly in its centre. Work continues on making the entire length from Abergavenny to Swansea dual carriageway. Alright, so we might be in Gower 35 minutes earlier - but at what cost ?

Now look at this. If Swampy were alive he'd be turning in his grave as a 'massive' road building programme is announced.

And for what ? I guess the answer is 'to put off charging 'til after the next election'.

But why has Labour's public transport strategy failed ?

One issue consistently ignored by this joined-up government is the impact of crime and disorder on transport. Start with the no-brainer - that despite road accidents people feel safer in their cars than on public transport. There can be few Londoners who haven't had an unpleasant experience on the Tube or a bus. So people use their cars even when public transport is available. I still remember Steve 'Five Mistresses' Norris, then Tory transport minister, making disparaging remarks on the personal qualities of public transport users. More car use.

This factor extends much further.

You end up taking the kids to the edge-of-town MacDonalds on a Saturday, rather then the yob-infested town centre branch. More car use.

You drop the town centre shops for Cribbs Causeway (our nearest equivalent to that massive Essex shoperama) or Merry Hill. More car use.

You move (if you have the money) to some greenfield development or village, where you might still be burgled but neighbours from hell are much less likely. It's almost a badge of middle management where I work. More car use.

But don't worry, crime is sure to drop as our caring government teach citizenship and 'respect' to all children. I found this story particularly pathetic - and I generally admire the NAS/UWT.

And once the NSPCC get their way and disciplining children by smacking is abolished, then behaviour is sure to improve, just as it has in Scotland since the law there was changed.

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