I’ve recently had the unalloyed pleasure of travelling across England again.
He Who Does Everything Around Here made the decision to travel by A-road, rather than Motorway, from Devon to Milton Keynes. This was an unforced error, resulting in a much longer journey than planned; on the other hand, it avoided the M5, which is a thing to be wholeheartedly encouraged.
The roads in England are broken. All of them. They need mending. They also need an army of litter pickers to tidy up the verges.
The problem with both of these things is that, should the Government actually notice, and, after due consultation and a week’s holiday somewhere warm, decide to act upon these shortcomings, they would then put them out to tender. Some vast company would eventually win the right to do the job, by quoting a price which the Government will then forever afterwards insist will be the sum paid and no more. It will then be discovered that the real cost will be three or four times that, due to unforeseen factors, including the one that says that every government scheme always does come out three or four times over budget, and the company concerned is never made to pay the difference.
Now, as the holiday season drew to a close here in France at the end of August, the road menders and builders came out in force. The national stock of ‘Diversion’ signs was taken out of mothballs and spread around the country, with rather a large proportion of them being placed on any road that we care to travel upon within a ten mile radius of here.
There is a brand new ring road being built to take the holiday traffic past St Brieuc. When major works like this are undertaken, a big sign is put up, telling the passer-by just how much it is going to cost, and who is paying what proportion of that cost. They may be counting on the fact that the average passer-by will be travelling at some 70kph and so won’t be able to read it, but if the urge struck, you could stop and find out all you need to know. Actual numbers, upfront, with no added bit to say ‘4m€, unless they’ve underbid/got their sums wrong/decided to charge more’, which is what would have to happen in England.
I was thinking about this as we undertook to drive my brother, aka The International Traveller, to Paris CDG Airport, to catch a flight to Australia. This is, as you will realise, a service above and beyond the call of duty, as it involved the Paris Ring Road, Le Periph, as it is fondly known (though not by me), on a Friday afternoon.
I take back everything I have ever thought about the M25. Well, not all of it, perhaps, but most of it. The M25 has got one major advantage over Le Periph: daylight. I have no idea how many tunnels we had to go through; and I am only glad that our exit wasn’t in one of them, and so could be signalled by the satnav, without which we would still be circling even now. They have sorted out the mad motorcyclists since our last foray here; they have the right to travel at any speed they choose, but always faster than you, between the two inside lanes, and will sound their horns to get you to shift out of their way. (Shift where? We’re in a tunnel here).
What worries me is that one day they are going to need to do road works here – big ones. Like England’s road system, Le Periph wasn’t built for this volume of traffic. Something has got to give. If the traffic above the tunnels is as heavy as that in them – well, I leave it to your imagination; I shut mine down somewhere underneath the French capital, while shedding several years off my life-span.
I will never be there to witness the ensuing chaos. I am not travelling round Paris by car ever again. I will thus not contribute to the wear and tear, for which all Parisians may thank me. However, when the authorities put up their sign saying how much the works will cost, they can be assured that it will be read by every motorist passing by, for the simple reason that they will have ample time to read it. They may even be thankful for the entertainment value. What else is there to do as you sit on Le Periph on a Friday afternoon?
© lms 2013
© lms 2013