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Wednesday 4 January 2012

Not Flying Over Hammersmith

There are a lot of less than totally happy motorists out there to the west of London right now: the Hammersmith Flyover is celebrating its 50th birthday by showing signs of potential collapse, so Transport for London (TfL) has closed it for urgent assessment before deciding on whether it can be safely reopened – or closed for good. Selfish pundit Steve Doughty at the Mail is deeply unhappy.

Doughty “thinks” that maintenance “may have been neglected”, but just what maintenance can do to the rotting steel innards of a reinforced concrete structure that has been subjected to loads well beyond its design for half a century is not told. Instead, he blames “Shagger” Prescott, Ken Livingstone, current occasional mayor Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, and by implication Ernest Marples.

And, in a rant that will satisfy the most discerning rant connoisseur, Doughty concludes that “Roads are something the political establishment just don’t care about”. Yes Steve, and that’s why Governments of both stripes operated a policy called “Predict and Provide” between the 60s and 90s, building hundreds of miles of motorways to take the increasing amount of traffic out of towns and cities.

This in turn, along with the falling cost of car ownership, encouraged yet more traffic, and thus even more roads were built or improved, all through Government intervention. So now London, Birmingham and Manchester are ringed by motorways, while much of the A1 has been upgraded to motorway status, and dual carriageways have been driven across north Wales and through the Scottish highlands.

But this does not occur to Doughty, who whines that the railway into London’s Paddington terminus is “the most overcrowded commuter route in the country”, showing that he has not had to use the Northern Line, or indeed any Tube route, for the last 25 years. This is reinforced by his rant at Crossrail: Doughty should join Simon Jenkins as a Central Line regular.

And the point he misses completely is that the Hammersmith Flyover is not the only elevated dual carriageway in the UK: many miles of motorway around Birmingham, for instance, were constructed thus, and the “Midland Links” were thought to have had corners cut during construction. There has been much patching and mending, but these, too, could be next for closure.

Instead, Doughty whines about the congestion charge (“a tax on the poor if ever there was one”), thus confirming he drives into town and resents paying for it. He suggests that Western Avenue (the A40 approach to west London) should have had flyovers and underpasses built along its length, but does not tell what happens to all those living nearby (anyone remember the A1 rebuild through Hatfield?).

This is a serious problem, and could get worse. It deserves serious journalism.


hengist mcstone said...

The Hammersmith logjam would be most inconvenient for anyone visiting the Mail's Kensington Offices.

Anonymous said...

Having lived in Germany - I was really impressed with their cut & cover approach in towns & cities. Take a major road, dig a big hole, build a road at the bottom with traffic travelling in one direction. Build a second road over first with the traffic travelling in the opposite direction. Cover the second road with grass, trees etc to create a new urban green public space and double the traffic capacity - for all this future electrical cars powered by wide. Genius :)