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Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Archive for December 1st, 2006

Readers respond to car-testing column

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Readers respond to car-testing column

England is a Ministry of Transport inspection mess. My relatives dread the yearly MOT — long lineups, hassled motorists, arrogant government workers….

A private garage inspection program creates a viable customer/garage relationship to promote safety and encourage small business. Keep it private!

Brian Holme

The letter from Brian Holme is factually wrong.

The MoT test in the UK is conducted by private sector garages and car repair facilities. Always has been. The facilities are licensed and inspected by the government but the employees who deal with the public and conduct the tests are not “arrogant government workers”. Nor are there line ups, as garages are only to happy to book an appointment, usually when conducting other routine maintenance tasks. It is to all intents and purposes part of the “viable customer/garage relationship”. The only difference is the test is mandatory, and there is oversight to ensure there is no cheating. And the accident statistics attest to that: unsafe vehicles are taken off the road.

(This response was sent by email to the Editor, Linda Bates at marked “for publication” – unsurprisingly it wasn’t)

Written by Stephen Rees

December 1, 2006 at 10:08 am

Posted in Uncategorized

A businesslike approach to fixing transport?

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BBC NEWS | Business | A businesslike approach to fixing transport?

The Eddington Report on how to modernise the UK’s transport network is palpably the work of a businessman rather than an economist or a policy wonk.

…he says there are – on the whole – diminishing returns to investing in ever-larger projects. The best returns, he says, come from relatively small investments designed to make our existing transport network and system function better.

Some of us have been saying this for years. A group of planners at the former Greater London Council came up with the idea in the early 1970s. We said “Let’s start a department for small initiatives”. The idea was not just rejected either. It resurfaced under Ken Livingstone as a grants program for community groups. It was vilified by the Tories and their acolytes in the media but it was a well run program that got money into the hands of the people who could make a difference in their neighborhoods.

When I got to the Department of Transport I worked on local traffic initiatives. Again very simple, easily implemented traffic management and rule enforcement schemes which were not only cheap but incredibly cost effective when compared to the mega projects beloved by engineers and politicians. To give one example, an incredibly expensive grade separated interchange was proposed in North London, which we showed was not needed, once we put railings up next to a signalised intersection where people were parking to pop into the tobacconists on their way home and blocking traffic (“but I’ll only be in there two minutes!”). I cannot now recall precise amounts but you work out the difference between a) buying a couple of acres of prime real estate, putting up a concrete overpass and building a few lane kilometres of ramps or b) buying and installing a few metres of cast iron railings.

But BC is the home of the mega project even after the dismal failures of recent years – the fast ferries, the Island Highway, the Millennium Line – that we seem to think more of the same will be our salvation – the Sea to Sky, the Canada Line , the new Convention Centre, The Oval …

Written by Stephen Rees

December 1, 2006 at 10:04 am