There are some fortunate souls who can do most of their travel without having to get the car out. I know this, as I am one of them. After all, from Crewe you have a daytime service giving four trains an hour to Manchester, three to Birmingham, and two each to Liverpool, Chester, Stoke and of course London. We have a direct rail link to Manchester Airport, with Liverpool Airport needing a short hop on the bus in addition. Birmingham Airport needs a change of train.
But in order to get to a family gathering yesterday, I had to drive. And for the two-thirds of the journey covered by dual carriageways and motorways this was not onerous. The rest, on single carriageway roads including a little of the dreaded A46, certainly was. Every single carriageway stretch, without exception, was severely overloaded with traffic.
But how else do we access all the communities too small to have a rail connection – and how do we manage for the weekends during which Network Rail (NR) habitually dig up large parts of the system? Moreover, public transport will never tempt those out of their cars who value the ability to smoke, share their space with nobody else, and routinely deafen themselves. And if you’re going somewhere the rails don’t reach, it can be massively inconvenient: other public transport doesn’t co-ordinate consistently, and outside London, bus services are overwhelmingly dreadful (especially evenings and weekends).
Yet folks want the option of living out in the sticks, and then to have facilities around them such as pubs and shops. To make those pubs and shops viable, yet more will have to drive. It’s just too convenient to get the car out.
The good news for those driving everywhere, as I was told by someone in the industry, is that the North Sea still has another 20 to 30 years’ worth of oil left. Perhaps during that period we might think about how we get from A to B afterwards.