Sunday, 8 April 2012

To Build or Not to Build

A local town needs a bypass, it wants a bypass. The roads are gridlocked, growth is hindered. The issue has periodically raised it's head for a generation. In fact, in a letter to the local paper a resident points out that twenty years ago it got so bad they built a relief road, but it's now gridlocked.

And herein lies the problem. "Build it and they will come" applies to roads as much as circuses, and in twenty years the bypass will probably again be gridlocked. The road passes a station. It's a short walk to the town and there are good links with some, but not all, local towns - Dr Beeching saw to that.

The people who want the bypass say the gridlock puts people off coming to the town and drives away business. Perhaps while the cars are at a standstill the local council might survey the drivers, many of whom are alone in five seater vehicles, and establish how many are heading to the town and how many are just trying to get somewhere else? I wonder how many people are really put off by the traffic? Judging by the queues at local horse racing days traffic and boot fairs is rarely something that puts people off their journeys.

The favoured route for the bypass will punch through an ancient wood. When it was proposed to include this wood in the national park, the local county council referred to it as 'unremarkable.' The mainly Conservative council mentioned further on it's objection that, essentially, it's in the way of the bypass.

We must move faster, get there quicker, not have to wait. Time is money, and money is growth. We need a bypass to drive this growth, in the same way that we need to decimate even more countryside for a high speed rail link from Birmingham to London. We must shave off a few minutes. Time is money. We need the rail link because the motorway they built in recent memory is not enough, it's full. We can't expect people to get up earlier, only make necessary journeys, or travel together. We can't expect business men to use technology to have their meetings, via Skype and Videolink. No, it must be done face to face. The journey has to be made. Flesh has to be pressed.

The HGVs that pass the local town have to cross a rail bridge. Every few years it has to be strengthened. It's not up to the traffic. It crosses near the station, where the old goods yard is laid to waste and development land. We don't use the rail network for freight here. Even if it's use could be resurrected the network that once supported it is buried under such  development or is wasteland. The short-sightedness of our forebears has come to haunt us. Roads are the answer. The only answer. Build them we must. Until every inch of unremarkable landscape is buried under concrete.

A letter in the local paper says wildlife can thrive on verges. So the bypass could become a haven for wildlife. Those that would want to enjoy it, of course, would have to take their lives in their hands foraging on the verge while trucks rumble by at umpteen miles an hour. Of course, the vergeside environment would support a different ecology to that of the ancient woodland, with it's coppiced beeches, medieval ponds, and  historic oaks that would be lost by it's construction. 

The local council will again fight a costly battle to argue for the bypass, already rejected once on environmental grounds, protestors will take to the trees. The new planning laws may even support its approval. Then millions will be spent on its construction. The traffic will come, and it will increase, and in time this road too will fill with cars.

The long term view, to use the money to change habits, support improvements to rural public transport, is not something we are used to taking in this country, especially when it comes to transport policy.  What we need to do, for the greater good, for the benefit of the vocal minority - the business leaders, the corporations who's only link with the area it's to rumble blindly through - is build on anything unremarkable.

Until all that is left is the remarkable. Remarkable because it's still there.


  1. nicely put. I used to live down that way but have not long moved. I wrote this ere thing which maybe of resonance:

  2. Thanks, interesting. Very much like the mess they made of Coire Cas on Cairngorm!!!


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