Sunday, February 12, 2006

Show me the way to Amarillo

Norfolk is one of only four non-metropolitan counties in England which does not have a motorway.- Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia

It is a commonly held belief, particularly by the French, that the “Roast Beefs” are a bit backwards – particularly when it comes to transport. With the French GTV trains that go a million miles an hour and their extensive, though expensive, motorway network, they can afford to be very smug.

Things actually aren't that bad now-a-days. After all, when I first came to England there was the M1. Yep, that was it. Arriving by boat in Newcastle, I was faced with a tedious jog south on the M1 to reach Mill Hill at the southerly terminus – just north of London proper. In my ignorance, I thought, “Only about 12 miles to go – probably be there in an hour – at most.” What an ingĂ©nue I was - except for the obvious sex difference. Five hours later I arrived. Folks down the Old Kent Road left their cars in the traffic and went and did a little shopping. Honest. I saw it.

Now-a-days we have the magic of the world's largest car park – otherwise know as the M25 – to make the journey completely around the capital the relatively simple matter of a few hours at most – all 117 miles.

When the motorway network was planned and built it followed a simple plan. Take the routes of the old “A” roads and build the motorways along roughly the same line. Fairly sensible. Therefore, the M4 goes from London to South Wales, roughly along the line of the old A4. Likewise, the M2 goes from London to Dover on the line of the A2; M20 follows the A20 to Dover as well. The idea is clear and sensible.

But, when the M11 was planned and built something odd happened. The A11 goes from London to Norwich. The M11 goes from London to Cambridge?

What happened? Did the planners forget to consult the map? Did they think the in-bred clodhoppers in Norfolk wouldn't notice?

No, I suspect they actually made a conscious decision to stiff the dozy pig-stickers in the hope that they wouldn't notice. They almost got it right – as far as I can tell – I'm the only one that twigged. Doesn't say much for our elected representatives, does it? As a result, we've been suffering for 20 years as one of the four counties without adequate road links. Not for lack of trying, of course. Our local representatives and the local media are forever banging on about it – to no avail – simply because they fail to see the real problem.

Various road improvement schemes have been put forward that would help to alleviate the situation. Improvements have been made – to the extent that the A11 is now dualled (in effect a motorway) from Norwich to London – except for the 10 miles between Thetford and Mildenhall. Herein lies some of the most nonsensical stupidity yet seen in the western world.

What happens is this: schemes are put forward (over the years) to dual this or that part of the A11. Take, for example the Thetford bypass. When first approved and constructed the powers that be would only provide a single-carriageway bypass for part of the notorious bottleneck that was Thetford – on the basis (wait for it) that there would not be sufficient traffic to justify a dual carriageway! Can you smell that stuff you shovellin?

Of course, they couldn't possibly get away with this, so a few years later they had to go back and dual the whole thing. What was the extra cost? Astronomical! How much could have been saved if they had done it all all once? All the equipment is there. Material has already been ordered. The planning process has been substantially completed. Result. Millions are wasted.

And so on, seemingly ad infinitum, so the road builders all turn up, eventually, at say the stretch between Attleborough and Thetford and begin the arduous task of actually building the road. What a task! The land is flat. There are no rivers to cross. Actually, there are no natural obstacles at all. Result – they take 3 years to build about 5 miles of road. Unbelievable! Then, with only one section to be completed, they cheerfully load up all the equipment, take it away and disappear. For 5 years they wait whilst the whole planning process starts all over again – then, maybe then, they will all turn up and start over again. This last bit however may be different. They may have a generation off; because, after all, when (and if) this last section is done there will be nothing left to build and the gravy train being run by the government for the benefit of the road construction industry may be temporarily derailed.

Incidentally, Amarillo is served by Interstate 40 and Interstate 27.

No comments: