Monday, 24 September 2012
Going anti-clockwise round Coventry - a paen to England's roads
Today, for reasons that are unimportant to you, dear reader, we drove from the fine old town of Bath back to a very nearly drowned Cullingworth. The journey took in a new experience since, rather than the usual sclerotic motorways we opted for a pleasant drive – I would say meander but the one thing the Fosse Way doesn’t do is wander about – passed Malmesbury, Cirencester, Stow-in-the-Wold and Stratford. I say passed since – with the exception of Moreton-in-Marsh – all the places en route are safely by-passed by a well maintained and appropriately sized highway.
At the end of this little trip the navigation (Kathryn) announced that we were now going “anti-clockwise round Coventry”. This tickled me a little but got me to thinking about how we moan and whinge about transport, traffic and roads. Yet, over the years the assorted county councils (in the main) have, along with the Highways agency, smoothed the passage of traffic while allowing the various little market towns, spas and villages to breathe again.
So since we didn’t go through any town centres – a favourite topic on mine – I will comment on roads. Starting with the little windy country lanes that don’t seem to go anywhere but which are lovingly patched up and repaired by a combination of council workers, assorted contractors and the local farmer. The recent bad weather has bashed away at these roads washing away lumps of them, filling dips and hollows with water and strewing the surface with the debris from fields and lanes – a veritable flotsam and jetsam of farm life. And they – those farmers, the men from the water board and the council – were already out mending and making do. Allowing us to pass (actual thigh deep floods aside) from one place to another with the minimum of hindrance.
And then to the better roads – thousands of miles of them that we take for granted. Filled –sometimes to overflowing – with traffic, all going busily about its daily business. These are the arteries of England’s economy. Forget about those trains and planes, ignore the fancy urban tramways and underground systems – it is these A-roads and B-roads along with the wealth of England flows each day. Ten thousand and more vans, pick-ups, low-loaders, trucks, container wagons, car transporters and delivery lorries. Each one with its precious cargo – goods and expertise flowing from one small place to another. Each little trip making it possible for us to have bread on the table, heat in the house and a happy smile on the faces of healthy children.
So to those who look disdainfully at the car, who curse the van and the truck. For all you who hold forth about how all the freight can go on railways or even into barges. All of you are wrong. The future success of our economy depends rather more on those roads, on allowing the easy movement of plumbers and locksmiths, supermarket delivery drivers and truckers, computer salesmen and cheesemakers – all the producers that make us rich. And that means roads.
So if there is to be infrastructure investment let’s spend it on by-passes, new road links, road widening and road improvements. Let’s give councils the money to do the backlog of repairs. Let’s spend the money we get from road users – all £30 billion and more of it – on making life a little easier for those road users. And let’s tell all the tree-huggers and planet-savers that, right now, getting the economy moving is more important than their eco-scaremongerings.
Getting the economy moving means getting people moving. And that needs roads. Including the one going anti-clockwise round Coventry.