Anyone who’s ever taken their car on holiday to France will have noticed a few delightful things.
Firstly, you can simply set your satnav to Nice or Cannes or some other lovely place, adjust your cruise control to 82mph, then settle back for a long nap. Secondly, the French roads are like Gigi Hadid’s skin after a long soak in warm milk. And roadworks are dealt with before teatime.
Compare and contrast this with the UK. As we crawl along under the leaky grey lid we call the sky, our journeys are punctuated by a number of inconveniences.
These include roadworks with little evidence of actual works. Average speed checks of 50mph that last longer than a test match. And billions of vehicles driven by red-faced angry, bald men who look like they’re considering where to dispose of your body.
Perhaps a good place could be the Department for Transport (DfT). No one will ever find it there, because it must surely be as unmanned as our roadworks.
The truth is that delays from street works cost the UK economy around £4.3 billion a year. What we find truly amazing is that the DfT, or Daft for short, actually puts forward new proposals to sort out the whole sorry mess about once every two years.
In November 2014, the government issued seven new leaflets at a research cost of £1m. Yes, that’s one million. Not ‘one muffin’.
One of the key recommendations was to introduce a Core and Vac process, which is a sort of keyhole surgery for roads. It’s said to be ideal for utility companies needing to drill down to pipes and valves without damaging the road.
Core and Vac (only slightly distinct from Shake n’ Vac, which featured a housewife doing a strange dance with her Hoover in a bid to put the freshness back) can typically reduce a five-day job to just half a day.
What we’d like to know is, just like the other mooted plan to map underground pipes and cables to stop utility companies randomly prodding their way through to the Earth’s core, did it ever actually happen?
Who knows. So let’s skip forward to January 2016. New government rules promised to reduce congestion by ensuring that all roadworks affecting A-roads are worked on seven days a week.
And it gets better: if road workers want to take a break at the weekend, they must remove any traffic restrictions or face a fine of up to £5000. Anyone leaving traffic lights on the road after work has finished can also be fined.
Then, just before Christmas 2016, Transport Minister John Hayes ordered Highways England to examine whether speed limits at roadworks could be increased beyond the current maximum of 50mph. He also asked the agency to reduce the length of roadworks to a maximum of ten miles and encourage more use of contraflows.
This would all be very laudable, were it not possibly a load of pixie-goblin fairy dust sprinkled liberally over butterfly wings and sent to live in Narnia.
A cynic might suggest that it seems a shame to remove the speed cameras set up at roadworks because each one can generate up to £3m in fines each year.
You might also add that this tremendous income stream obviously helps with the upkeep of our lovely roads.
Me? I’m off to the Riviera. If I ever make it to Dover.