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Driving us round the twist

Thinking back over the past month or so, the one thing that has struck me about life in Britain has been the state of the roads. Or – to be precise about it – the amount of traffic on our roads and the consequent problems that gridlocks cause the general public.

I travel every fortnight or three weeks or so to visit my daughter for a meal. She lives about 60 miles away from me up one of Britain major motorways and – on a clear day, at a favourable time – it is possible to get (or return from) there in about 75 minutes.

That said – in the cause of consuming an early evening meal together and then driving myself home by a reasonable hour – I have had to travel during the afternoon rush hour around a section of the M25. I used to allow two hours for this, but in recent months I have increased this figure to two and a half hours (I repeat, to travel only about 60 miles). All that is due to weight of – and slow moving – traffic.

On another occasion I was driving from the south coast to Fulham for a funeral taking place at 10.30am, a journey that should have taken no more than two hours, door to door. On the day in question south-west London was ensnared in the grip of an inexplicable gridlock and, although I’d allowed three and a half hours to get there, even after four and a half hours I was still not within a mile and a half of the church … and so missed the funeral altogether.

Yesterday I was on my way to a meal with my daughter once again. Given the torrential overnight rain in London – and constant media reports of London Underground and flooding issues around the capital – I made the deliberate decision to set off even earlier than normal (3.26pm exactly) – i.e. three hours to drive sixty miles to a meal set for 6.30pm.

There were radio reports of more rain storms to come – but also worrying ones of troubles on the motorway I would be driving along.

Let me spare you the details. I’ll just report that the journey to reach my daughter took a total of four and a quarter hours. For at least two of those hours I was trapped in non-moving traffic – effectively gridlocked less than thirty miles from my destination with no escape or respite. I even tried exiting the motorway to seek another route, but the surrounding countryside in every direction seemed just as gridlocked. There was nothing to do but sit there, burning fuel, and take it.

This may just be a symptom of life as it is going to be lived in the 21st Century, but if so it’s a worrying development. Are there just too many people in the world, or too many cars, or not enough roads, or what?

I don’t have the answers but I’ve been experiencing the problem with bells on recently. As a Prince of Wales (later briefly King Edward VIII) once said in an entirely different context:

Something must be done …


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About Michael Stuart

After university, Michael spent twelve years working for MELODY MAKER before going freelance. He claims to keep doing it because it is all he knows. More Posts