Monday, 9 April 2018

Roads and things

I don't know if it is the norm elsewhere but down here in Dorset it has become very much the norm to close roads when work needs doing. Once upon a time, when road works needed doing a system of traffic lights was put in place allowing, throughout the work, one side of the road to operate pretty much as normal. When one side was finished the lights were simply transferred to the other side. This, as far as I saw, worked quite well and, it seemed to me, a good way of managing the works. 

All that has now changed, the whole road is closed. We are currently undergoing such road works on the A30 and there is a rolling programme of closures throughout the whole of April. Each closure covers several miles. There are diversions in place, however, it doesn't seem to have occurred to the great thinkers in the Council that the local lanes are totally unsuitable for modern traffic needs. There is, for example, a very large car storage facility just west of the road works. This is on an airfield and is serviced by large numbers of vehicle carrying lorries each day. These huge lorries carry eight or nine cars at a time. It would appear the storage site is also a distribution centre as the aforementioned lorries seem to both take in and out their loads of cars. Just imagine for a moment the utter chaos when one of these monsters goes along a diversion which is barely wider than the lorry itself. 

The old lanes of Dorset were never meant for such vehicles. when a car meets one of these vehicles the car must give way and reverse as it is totally unreasonable to expect such a large, loaded or even unloaded, lorry to reverse. Simply there is nowhere to go! Add to that the fact that the car meeting the lorry is, almost certainly being followed along the diversion route by a number of other cars and, bingo, you have chaos. Great planning! I suspect that the whole situation regarding these road is driver by the two modern great Gods …. Money and Health and Safety. I also suspect that the premier God here is Money. When a traffic light system is in place or, as sometimes used to happen, a convoy system there is money involved. When work is controlled by traffic lights it takes a bit longer to complete so, extra cost. When a convoy system is in place it requires extra staff in the form of drivers to manage it and, again, extra cost. This is, all conveniently, backed up by the second God, Health and Safety. 

Although the two systems above have been used without mass traffic casualties for years there appears to be great danger involved for the work force these days. In practical terms this means delays and disruption for all of the local residents and visitors using the area for the month of April, lovely. But hey folks, take heart, there are Council notices dotted around the place telling all whom care to read them that the Council is working hard to make life better for the people of Dorset and doing all sorts of wonderful things to encourage tourism, trouble is, it doesn't actually seem like it! As someone once said, "you couldn't make it up!"

This being a rural area we have, like all rural areas, large numbers of tractors operating around the place. I am sure the residents of Kingsley will be very familiar with them. However, the modern day tractor is quite a different beast from the ones of yesteryear. Today the driver is perched eight or ten feet above the ground in an air conditioned cab operating a system, which is computer controlled, in a vehicle which can travel at high speed. They are big, I mean very big, high, wide and fast. No longer the fifteen or sixteen miles an hour of the old tractors. These monsters really shift. The problem down here seems to be that, for the most part, they are being driven by people whom have had a brain removal operation. These people are almost always young men barely out of their teens. Add to that the fact that it is common place to see them propelling the said tractors, at high speed, with a mobile phone clamped to their ear. These tractors fill the lanes and if you meet one there is nowhere to go. If one or other or both vehicles are unable to stop the result is tragedy. Obviously the tractor wins, a car hitting such a solid mass has no chance. It feels a bit like taking your life into your hands when driving around the local lanes. 

Hardly a week goes by without a tractor encounter of some kind and they are scary. I am of an age where I can justifiably say I am not a boy racer, or, anything like. Experience tells me to drive carefully around the lanes, as mentioned, they are narrow and apart from the tractor menace they also play host to horse riders, cyclists, runners and walkers, but sadly the tractor drivers appear to be oblivious to all of this. Like all other rural areas we don't see policemen any more, I can't recall the last time I saw a police vehicle in our village. I guess if there were more police about driving would improve. I was talking about this to a police officer that comes beating with me and he gave me the figures for tractor related deaths in Dorset last year and, whilst I forget the exact figure, the number was considerable. If you come to Dorset be aware! 

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