I know a little about languishing in traffic jams. For starters, there are my miserable memories of being trapped all day and all night – thanks to French strikers setting fire to a wall of tires blocking the main and only road out of town.
Then there was the international incident in which I was caught while participating in the Paris-Beijing Rally and trying to get out of Kazakhstan to go to China… like you do! I and other Crazy Event drivers were not allowed to cross the remote border until we had acquired our “legally required” Chinese license plates. We waited so long to submit our paperwork and receive our local plates that our queued cars doubled into makeshift hotel rooms.
But it’s getting worse. In mid-April and back home, I can honestly say that I got caught up in some of the worst traffic jams I’ve ever seen on this planet – and drove almost a million miles through more than 70 countries. on six continents.
Although I traveled out of peak hours the day before the inevitably busy Good Friday, my planned route from the south to the north of England was sabotaged. How? Anti-roads/anti-oil protesters in and around London, reported queues of nearly 40 miles on roads to and from an area of Dover crippled (for a month or more) by P&O, as well than a tunnel closed to waterlogging, hell on- Earth Dartford Crossing. I reached average speeds of around 100 meters per hour. The congestion was so severe, unacceptable and hopeless that I saw and photographed car occupants abandoning their cars and continuing on foot.
Me? After half a day of burning fuel and going nowhere as I idled through traffic jams of biblical proportions, I gave up and headed home. Not even the French industrial action or the Chinese bureaucracy left me with a feeling of despair, frustration, rejection and inability to continue.
It’s time to tell it like it really is. In terms of new car quality, we’ve never had it better. But in terms of roads fit for purpose, we’ve never had it so bad – at least not in the four decades I’ve driven.
The tipping point has been reached. We have reached a historic low. Lines of tens of kilometers, paralyzed roads, traffic jams and politicians who don’t care are the new normal.
The UK network operates at maximum capacity or beyond at best, and at worst deserves a ‘misfit for purpose’ review slapped on it. Transport Secretary Shapps needs to stop making embarrassing videos promoting himself and his even more awful hoodie and sunglasses. Instead, he has to reintroduce seemingly taboo (to him) words such as “motorists”, “cars” and “motorists” into his vocabulary. Then he has to sort the routes.
And if he can’t do it, it’s time for him to pass the job on to someone who can. The likes of Shapps, Grayling, Byers and Prescott have proven that career politicians tend to be bad secretaries or transport ministers. Maybe it takes a non-politician (a Branson or Musk guy, maybe) to run our roads, which have been bought and paid for many times over by some of the most heavily taxed motorists in the world. We deserve better.
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