WHEN local councils and transport cross paths, it’s usually the buses that draw the most complaints, or maybe icy roads that have seen less salt than a low-sodium crisp.
But there’s a new trend emerging, where councils’ roadworks planning departments blindly place major works on every route into a major city from one particular direction, placing their fingers in their ears and shouting “LAA LAA LAA LAA LAA” whenever someone who has to come that way tries to mention the fact that their commute is now long enough to qualify for an in-flight meal.
Just recently I’ve been playing a sort of reverse Russian roulette, but with potential routes into work replacing the barrels of the gun and roadworks in place of the bullets. The aim of the game is to find a barrel with no bullet, and thus far I’ve failed spectacularly.
Every route I’ve tried, covering four or five completely different plans of attack plus variations on each of them, has either developed narrow lanes and speed restrictions (ergo tailbacks), temporary traffic lights or simply massive great holes in the road with nobody doing anything about them.
It can’t take much life experience to see that at least one major route into a city from the north, south, east and west wherever relevant needs to be kept clear at all times. Partially blocking every route from the north, for example, is a recipe for disaster and you’d have to be completely insane to give a scheme like that the thumbs-up.
And yet it seems my local council – and I’d bet many more besides – are experts at this. Right when it’s dark, cold and a just bit more treacherous than usual during rush hour, too. Outstanding work from the authorities.
Surely, I thought, someone needs to know that people’s 20-minute journeys are turning into hour-long nightmares. I tried calling and was essentially told to go away. I tried emailing and was told I couldn’t email about a problem. You have to write a letter. A letter?! What is this, 1950? In the age of digital communication where you can pay your council tax and parking fines online, request a new driving licence online and even order a pie online, you can’t complain to the council without the Royal Mail.
Sadly there’s only one reason for this; they don’t want to hear it. They want people to be put off by the hassle of writing a letter and do nothing. I reckon that if you could complain online about the fact that your journey time and fuel consumption had tripled because of unilateral roadworks they’d have hard drives full of angry messages in hours. Most of them might be mine, mind you…
We can all point to a few roads near us that need resurfacing, and water mains need maintenance just like gas lines and communications gear. But not at the same time, right across one half of a city. To sanction so many ‘essential’ works in unison is the sort of jape that used to get you put into a hessian sack and branded the village idiot.
All I and most other drivers want in a commute is minimal disruption. We know it’s going to be busy and we know we have to allow for that, but to bottleneck everything up still further with relentless digging is just the latest evidence that councils of all political persuasions are as useless as a moon lander made out of digestives.