Clarkson on: the perfect transport system
I have a dream. It’s of a road network in Britain where the cameras in the back of mobile speed trap vans are replaced with police marksmen.
So, the old man, pootling up the A44 at 35mph would be shot, his head exploding around the interior of his Rover like that melon in The Day of the Jackal.
And that’s just the start. I see a world where buses are not allowed to leave the depot until they’re completely full. And if some of the passengers get off at a stop, the driver must wait, off the road, until it’s full again before continuing.
There’ll be none of this ‘let the bus go first’ nonsense either, because in my world the bus will be a safety net, a device that will get the poor and the old to the shops so they can buy tinned salmon for their cats. It will not be seen as an alternative to the car.
Bus lanes, however, will be kept. But they’ll have a new use. Traffic wardens will be diverted from their normal routine and told to direct people with nice cars onto the red routes. If you buy a good, fast car, it is preposterous that you should be forced to sit in the same lane as people with Hyundais and Nissans.
They, after all, have demonstrated by the car they’ve chosen that they have no interest in motoring or speed. So they won’t mind being jammed up with buses and bicycles. They’re not in a hurry or they’d have bought a Porsche, in which case they’d be waved into the red lane by the traffic warden who, incidentally, will stop slouching and salute as you whizz by.
Out of town, there will be an underpass where the A34 meets the M4 and many new roads will be built. And, no, there will be no public inquires which go on for 18 years. Instead, a Minister of Common Sense will be appointed with orders to put the phone down if someone on the other end says “Hello. My name’s Swampy. I would...”
The new minister’s job will be to listen to the genuine grievances of people whose peace and quiet will be affected. Then order the road to be built anyway. And once the contractor has been appointed, its senior management will be warned that if the carriageway needs repairing within 5 weeks, as recently happened on the new M6 relief road, or even within a year, they will be taken outside and executed, publicly.
It’ll be the same story on the rail network. At the moment, train operators are fined when they don’t come up to scratch but this is stupid. It means they have even less money to spend on improvements. So, in my dream, any train which arrives more than 10 minutes late will be met by the operator’s managing director who will be dressed in absolutely nothing at all. He will be completely naked, and passengers will be invited to laugh at his tackle.
"If you were caught doing handbrake turns outside a school, you might be facing disembowelment, or maybe a beheading"
I think we can be assured that if 500 people saw your winky and laughed at it, you’d make damn sure that the next day, the train due to arrive at 8.15 actually arrived at 8.15.
We move now, onto the question of yellow boxes. A recent initiative from the government will allow traffic wardens to impose on-the-spot fines on motorists who drive into a junction when the exit is blocked. But in my brave new world, most of the traffic wardens will be employed keeping Hyundai Accents out of the new high-speed former bus lanes.
So what we need is a quick-response helicopter with an enormous magnet dangling underneath. Wrongdoing motorists will be taken up to 1,000 feet, and then dropped into the English Channel. Simple. Quick. And effective.
Don’t think, however, that this will be a charter to speed or drive recklessly. The limits would remain as they are, and there would be punishment for those who transgressed. Working out what that punishment might be would be a job for the Minister of Common Sense.
I suspect that if you were caught doing 95 on the motorway, you’d be fined maybe £50 with one point. Thirty-five in a 30, you’d get £10 and no points. However, if you were caught doing handbrake turns outside a school, you might be facing disembowelment, or maybe a beheading.
One thing that would definitely stop is this mad system whereby traffic wardens can fine you for parking badly. Since when did they become judges? It’s not an ice skating competition.
No, in my utopia, you’ll be allowed to park wherever you like so long as it doesn’t inconvenience anyone else. My Minister of Common Sense – it may have to be a Ministry at this rate – will tour the country, in a long, brown leather coat and jack boots, calling on the council in any town where there are unnecessary yellow lines. Should the council have no excuse, its entire Highways Committee will be put on a float, accompanied by a brass band and bunting, and driven round the town as naked as the aforementioned railway boss.
These are the people who are forever banging on about the environment and nature, so we’ll let them be naturists until they realise the idiocy of making motorists drive round and round looking for a parking space. It’s not the pollution, I don’t care about that, it’s the waste of time.
That’s what my dream is all about. A world where we don’t waste time stuck behind Rover 214s, and blocked in by people who drive into yellow boxes when there’s not a hope in hell of getting out. A world where people park considerately and drive considerately, and the punishment for selfishness is 7.62mm of lead in your face.
The trouble is, it’s not going to happen. The Daily Mail can complain all it likes, but speed cameras are not going away, and bus lanes are as here to stay just as surely as the ‘temporary’ 70mph motorway limit that came along in 1965. It’s the same story with the swarms of traffic wardens who descend on your car if it drops below 2mph and congestion charging. And it’s all your fault. Because you voted for him. And you’ll vote for him again. And then you’ll vote for Mr Brown and by the time he’s finished emptying our pockets, we’ll all be dead.
This article was first published in March 2004.