The War Against Motorists Continues
By Michael Shrimpton
The Russo-Ukrainian War and the small civil war in Sudan aren’t the only wars around. In every Western democracy governments are waging a coordinated war on motorists. The same irrational arguments are used. Last week saw a small victory for the British government, the abandonment of further so-called ‘smart’ motorways (freeways).
Widely hated London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s Ultra Low Emission Zone expansion is also running into trouble, although since I’ve been consulted over its legality I am somewhat constrained in commenting. The half-crazed ULEZ policy, no offense intended, is imploding almost as fast as Fox News following Rupert Murdoch’s cave-in to the Bad Guys, the biggest Aussie collapse since their second innings in the 1981 Headingley Test Match.
Incidentally I can scotch the rumor that Shrimpton & Associates are supplying arms to the RSF rebels in Khartoum. It’s true that we were sounded out, informally, but I was a little unhappy with the genocide in the Darfur. I know it was only a small genocide but nonetheless it wasn’t very nice. As a general rule we don’t get involved in arms deals anyway – they can get very messy and are a bit of a legal minefield. If you’re nice, can supply an end user certificate and the British Government have no objection we can always see what we could do, but nothing bigger than a main battle tank please.
‘Smart’ motorways were introduced back in 2006 as a means of killing motorists. That’s not how it was phrased at the time of course – the British Civil Service never says what it means and never means what it says. The bright sparks who came up with the original plan were only interested in making life easier for motorists by widening motorways.
I should explain that from the late 1950s the Cabinet Office, which was desperately anxious about journey times in the UK being shortened, put pressure on the then Ministry of Transport (the old name survives in the annual MOT test) to make Britain’s new motorways as narrow as possible, with chicanes to cause traffic jams. The Cabinet Office understood that if you could narrow a six lane freeway to four lanes you could back traffic up for miles. British motorways were designed with a hard shoulder, effectively an emergency lane, to provide a refuge for broken down vehicles. New technology in theory allowed the hard shoulder to be turned into a running lane, with CCTV monitoring and automatic alerts. Most cars do not come to a sudden stop when they break down – even a vehicle with a punctured tire can run on for a few hundred feet. Provided there was a lay-by every few hundred feet there would be little chance of a vehicle being stopped in a running lane. The Cabinet Office saw their chance and turned the scheme on its head, spacing the lay-bys so far apart that motorists would be bound to be stranded in a running lane. The death toll so far is over 40. Another word for the policy would be corporate manslaughter.
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