Last week the Lady in his Life and Malcolm drove the Great North Road from London to North Yorkshire: nothing particularly noteworthy about that.
It was a remarkably easy journey, both ways. No major road works. No minor (or major) upsets:
There was no wrecks and nobody drownded,
Fact, nothing to laugh at at all.
Except, for working days in mid-week, there seemed to be very sparse traffic. Certainly far less than the days of yore (well, since the John Major Memorial Motorway cleared the way from Alconbury to Peterborough).
Is it the economic downturn? The price of fuel? Have the English gone cool on their cars?
And then Malcolm hit on this:
To a non-expert, such as Malcolm, that is more than a puzzle. For the last decade, from even before the Slump (yes, c’mon: let’s use the word the history books will use!), it would seem that the number of cars on the roads has been remarkably stable.
Yet, consistently official expectations are of an imminent — and quite massive increase in the UK car population. And ministers continue to publish grandiose and expensive schemes for road improvements and new roads. For example:
Mr Osborne unveiled four major new road schemes, including an upgrade of sections of the A1, a new dual carriageway link road between the A5 and M1, widening a section of the A30 in Cornwall and improvements to the M25 motorway at the junction with the A13.
And there’s another billion quid of public money, to go with the other eight billion spent on new roads.
And, sure enough, here’s David Cameron — in his speech at Keighley this very day — bragging about it:
… in spite of all that we are having to do to deal with the deficit, we have invested more in major road schemes in each of the last two years than in any year of the last Parliament.
Now, let’s wonder whether the Department of Transport “experts” who so over-estimated car use, did equally badly by under-estimating public transport use. But that’s another story.