Sunday, 24 July 2011

Workin' 9 to 5...

This week I was forced to travel through London in the middle of the day. I say forced because I had no other sensible option considering the volume of my load and the multiple destinations I had to visit both in and out of London. You see the other options of not paying congestion charge or paying for the astronomical fuel for the car still come out more expensive, far less comfortable and slower. It's another post entirely one feels but as expensive as motoring is, mainly down to the taxes levied on us apparently to encourage us to switch to other means, those other means are largely unviable.

My mood was tempered by the dulcet tones on Radio 4 and the comfort of my moving sitting room, but even with the aircon humming away I was miffed. Why? Because of course I was stuck in rush hour, only it was midday so I shall just call it rush entire day. There is no rush hour anymore. I queue to get in and out of London and indeed through it at all times of day. So do we all. There are simply too many people with too many cars. Most of them driving badly I might add but I'm sure they'd say the same of me.

What compounded the misery of the polyglot mass crawling through the arteries and veins of London like tar being pumped painfully slowly through a heart is of our own making. Around every corner, past every set of lights or roundabout that you just knew was the cause of the traffic, the road beyond you are certain as empty as the Commons once the cameras turn off at PMQs, was a set of roadworks. Entire stretches of road torn up, to continue with my theme, like open heart surgery. Only instead of having 10 people furiously working per 3 inches of open wound that one expects in an operating theatre, there were 3 people per 100 metres doing very little and certainly nothing furiously.

London is infested with incredibly slow road "works". It pains me to call them "works" so little actual work appears to go on. Boris wrote an excellent article on this very subject here. I suggest you read it so I don't have to plagiarise it all. In essence though he points out not just the irritation, but the sheer cost to UK PLC of queueing through London for roadworks. He points to the laughable situation where just about any utilities company, of which there are now bucketloads, has the right to dig up the road and take their sweet time to do so.

The only way to get them to do this more efficiently is to charge them per metre, per hour. Now people will complain, of course, that these costs will just be passed onto the consumers and that the costs will mean some companies will refuse to put in new lines/pipes/cables and that Mrs Miggins won't be able to get her high speed interweb or whatever. But that is what a free market is there for. Eventually companies will just realise this is another area to cut costs by planning works more efficiently, hiring shift road workers to toil round the clock because time is money and 9 to 5 don't cut it anymore. It will make them talk to each other and co-ordinate digging works to access the same bit of London subterrain. If some companies just keep on with their inefficient methods and pass the costs directly on, some other company will work smarter and undercut them. The knock-on for us is we get less disruption, work happens more quickly and we save a shedload of cash and efficiency lost sat in traffic jams. And I will be that tiny bit less grumpy.

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