Editor's comment March 2016
PUBLISHED: 10:58 18 February 2016 | UPDATED: 12:30 18 February 2016
Cotswold Life editor Mike Lowe discusses the blame culture taking place on UK roads, the importance of an effective transport system, and the appalling weather we've experienced this winter.
You might think that the trials and tribulations of the motorway network had little do with those of us ensconced in quiet Cotswold villages. However, an effective and affordable transport system is essential to the financial well-being of the economy – both local and national. And we need to get out there to earn our living.
Unfortunately, this lifeline is in crisis for a number of reasons. Rural bus services have completely disappeared in many places. Those that remain are under threat from further budget cuts. Our mainline railway service to London is often useless. In fact, if a day goes by without signalling problems causing delays somewhere on the system, I swear I’ll wear Brunel’s top hat for a week while smoking a stogie.
And then there’s our increasingly dysfunctional motorway network, where daily closures cause havoc for millions of drivers (forced into their cars, of course, by the problems detailed above).
A couple of weeks ago I had cause to drive up to Chester and back. After a seven-hour trip, I emerged more or less unscathed, despite a queue near Sandbach caused by a minor crash, during which two blokes got out of their cars and started fighting in the middle lane in some kind of road-rage incident. Not so the poor souls the following day, some of whom spent NINE hours stuck on the M5 because of a broken-down crane in the roadworks.
Never a day passes without a closure of one of our main arteries. The M6 and the M5 suffer regularly; the M4 less so. The principle cause of this seems to be the Blame Culture that has infested our society.
Once upon a time there were things called ‘accidents’, defined in the dictionary as “something bad that happens that is not expected or intended”. Nowadays no such thing exists. Someone always has to be to blame. It seems that any significant crash now involves dozens of police with their tape measures and tripods, cameras and sticks of chalk, desperately trying to prove that someone is culpable for every collision. (Obviously I exempt fatal incidents from this whinge.)
The eventual culprit will be fined a few hundred quid while millions of pounds in business time will be lost by the masses in the huge queues that have piled up behind. It just doesn’t make sense.
We dearly need to adopt a more pragmatic view to keeping the traffic flowing. If not, the nation is literally going to grind to a halt. And where then will the money come from to keep our Cotswold economy buoyant?
It is difficult at the moment to write about anything but the weather. The constant deluges of January and February have been biblical, with fields and roads awash as well as the ever-present threat of flooding for many.
The wind and rain hasn’t been much fun for the dogs either, with the whippet blowing around on the end of his lead like a small, grey furry kite, while it has to be said that a damp lurcher does exude a rather ‘interesting’ odour.
But the downpours are just one problem. What we have missed so far this year is some proper winter weather: a snap so cold that it kills off everything that needs to be killed off in the garden – flora and fauna – and prepares the way for the new life of spring.
The window of opportunity for Jack Frost is now narrow, but it would be nice to look out of the window one morning to see a beautiful landscape of ice and snow, rather than next door’s wheelie-bin floating past.
Follow Mike on Twitter @cotslifeeditor