Letters, November 4, 2010, part three

Efficient EU

SIR – I read the short letter last week about the “EU Infection” shortly after reading how one of the new MPs, an ex-MEP, had found Westminster LESS efficient than the EU.

Contrary to the letter, the EU budget HASN’T increased by six per cent and I am pleased to see the coalition are working to prevent that. I am proud to say that the Liberal Democrats in the European Parliament voted for a stand-still budget and cuts while Labour MEPs instead voted for more EU money for trade unions.

Sure we could be more “independent” like Norway which many claim as a “step forward”. But then we’d not have a vote on the EU budget and yet still pay in just like Norway. After all it’s a member of Schengen, unlike the UK, and has to meet many of the laws to be able to trade with the EU. Is that better?

Any club you join is only as good as you make it.


Canterbury Court

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St Albans, UK, European Union

Transport solutions are hard to come by

SIR – Your report about Harpenden being labelled “congestion town” (Harpenden edition, October 28 – view online at www.hertsad24.co.uk) is obviously over-exaggerated by yourselves in order to beef up your report. (Editor’s comment: It wasn’t, it was contained in the county council report itself.)

The picture is of cars waiting at pedestrian crossing lights and pedestrian crossings cause traffic queues. In fact we are no worse off than any other area when it comes to peak travel times and problems caused when motorways are closed.

The Urban Transport Plan has been looking at very important facts about the movement of the population and its effects on the transport systems we have and how they can be improved in the future. What it doesn’t provide is the correct solution to our problem.

Excluding a bypass, they report that passing trade will be lost. This comment is a smokescreen to divert us from actually looking at this as a solution - if people want to stop off in Harpenden they will, if traffic is just passing through it does just that.

One of the problems lies with the cross route from the A1 to Luton Airport and the M1. The B653 is a convenient short cut north as is the A1081 St Albans to Luton. It’s the through traffic on these roads that needs filtering out and streamlining to their eventual destinations. It’s this traffic that towns can do without. Stacking it up through urban areas is not an option to improve the environment, traffic flow or pedestrian safety.

We all know road building is rigorously defended by our authorities as it requires investment - they can’t even look after the road system we have as it crumbles beneath us. It is a fact that we still need some new roads to improve through-journey movements so that we do not get polluted by traffic standing idle in and around our streets.

The plan also fails to identify the pressures on us to provide more housing for the future.

Luton, Bedfordshire, has identified areas north of us for major house building schemes, St Albans to our south has also recognised the need for housing and are studying potential proposals to our south. One observation though, according to SADC Cabinet, house building in Harpenden isn’t required so they will not be commissioning any large developments in our area!

Back to transport and the impact of future development. With new housing we will need new employment, schools, medical centres, etc etc; these will all require the movement of people and the existing infrastructure will not cope. Therefore this Harpenden Urban Transport Plan is outdated before it is actually implemented as real thought has not been put into what we really need in the future.

Pedestrian safety is always an issue; any loss of life in motoring accidents/incidents is one loss too many and must be a priority factor in new designs. It doesn’t mean the motorist is always the cause of the problem because accidents will happen, its not mass slaughter out there if we put things back into perspective - roads are used to transport people, goods and equipment in the execution of our daily lives, pedestrians are directed by the paved areas. Eventually pedestrians need to cross the road which many of us do safely each day but sometimes pedestrians enter the road without observing the traffic and put themselves in harm’s way.

When mankind invented ways to transport him or herself above the use of his/her own momentum then the causes of harm to the person was invented. All modes of transport cause injury or death but we don’t stop using them, do we? So why should we punish all car users or ban the use of cars just because someone is injured or killed by them? Most car drivers are careful, considerate and safe; now and again you get one dangerous driver but there are measures in place to deal with these people. Most of the time they are convicted and they are removed from harm’s way but the fact is we will not be able to control every situation. We must allow traffic to flow freely if we are to reduce harmful unnecessary pollution from cars.

Changing people’s habits/mode of transport broadly means trying to price the motorist off the road. The alternative to the car is no alternative whatsoever. My car is clean, comfortable, dry, convenient and is able to transport the equipment I need for my job at any time of the day or night. Our lives these days have been crammed with duties and time is always of the essence.

Let’s look at the alternatives. Buses: we have to walk to find one, wait to get one, then sit in narrow uncomfortable seats crammed up against lots of other people crushed into a small space. When reaching some place near our destination we need to walk to complete the journey. The weather is never kind to the British traveller. Get the picture yet?

Let’s go by bicycle: my attire for the day will need to be considered, if I have to appear smart for the day how will I carry the change of clothes on a bike. Will I have or be able to shower once at work - usually exercise renders you all sweaty.

It may be good for our health and well-being in the long run but the social interactive effects could be rather badly affected. Rain again!

Oh yes, the train. FCC – say no more. When they finally recover from under-investment the system is actually quite promising. Don’t forget as government subsidies are removed from next year, some of us will be unable to afford the journey anyway, priced off of the system that we are being encouraged or forced to use. Still got to connect your journey at both ends, oh and carry one box of equipment size 600mm x 400mm x 350mm deep weight approx 35-40lbs, one bag of personal protective equipment and finally the laptop PC with documents and files. You see one pattern doesn’t fit all but the planners cannot distinguish the lives of everyone and then insist we adopt their recommendations.

A transport plan does need developing. Not just locally but nationally we need joined-up thinking and planning, we need investment in the future, a future that needs a whole new joined-up mass-transit systems with easy one-off payment methods not some piecemeal partial replacement that will do for now scheme. The last thing we need is more traffic lights, signs and pedestrian schemes cluttering up the roads and street scene.