An increasingly strident call nowadays is that there is a “war against the motorist”. Generally this is used by organisations that think it unfair that lawbreaking results in prosecution, that vehicles should be able to park where or when their owners wish, or that the rules of the road apply to others.
And now the phrase has been picked up by Government, in the form of Transport Secretary Philip Hammond. He’s committed to ending this war. So will we see the ending of fuel tax increases, 70mph speed limits, parking restrictions, and spot fines for drivers using hand held mobile phones? No, we won’t: that might curb the revenue stream and yield little publicity value.
What Hammond is going to do, in front of a sympathetic audience at the Tory conference, is to end the M4 bus lane. This will cost little, gain bucket loads of praise from the assembled hackery, and enable him to dump on “Shagger” Prescott (“traditional misbehaviour in a modern setting”). And the fawning publicity will, conveniently, avoid the facts.
When the bus and taxi lane on the city bound carriageway of the M4 was introduced back in 1999, it was part of a package of measures which, taken in total, reduced journey times on that stretch of motorway for all vehicles. As this news did not fit the agenda of Prescott bashing prevalent at the time, it was not widely reported in many papers.
And even the AA has conceded that removal of the bus and taxi lane will still see queues of city bound traffic. Spokesman Andrew Howard confirmed that “getting rid of the bus lane will simply move them 3.5 miles to the east”.
But the publicity will be useful, and Jeremy Clarkson will be happy. So that’s all right, then.