index | March 29, 2004 >
So a bit of background and geographical data:
I live in Torquay (UK) and I go to Uni at Exeter. Every day I drive twenty-one miles for a couple of lectures and come home again. Now, Torquay is not greatly blessed with much industry so, unless you want to make your career in hospitality (read: barman or running around with plates for minimum wage), other residents also make similar trips to Exeter or Plymouth every day. This includes my father, ny brother, his girlfriend and about half my friends (to give an indication of how many people make this sort of trip).
The drive's actually quite nice. It takes about half an hour, during which I find I've changed from early morning malaise into a more awake state. The problem is, however, that although most of the route is along dual-cariageway, the first few miles are a single carriageway road between Torquay and its neigbouring town of Newton Abbot. A good percentage of the hundred-odd thousand people of Torbay using it make this road pretty much a car park, so many people (like me) take one of the two rat-runs involving twisty lanes through the countryside. Others use the train, which at seven quid return is a bit steep, and includes a stretch of track closed for repairs more than any other in the country due to its position stuck between the tidal Teign river and a big cliff prone to rockfalls.
Now entering rant mode:
Why am I telling you this? I'm already in a Bad Mood this morning 'cos I woke up late. Then there was a car crash on the main route (It hasn't been revealed what happened, yet and I hope no-one was badly hurt - my annoyance to come seems insignificant to what could have happened to them). The road has been closed off all morning. Or course, this adds to the traffic to the back roads which are now impassable. Add to this that the trains between Torquay and Newton Abbot are not running because of track repairs, and busses are running instead. And you have a real mess.
There are of course other, more round-about, ways to go - up the coast and over the river at Teignmouth, or down the coast to Paignton and over the bridge at Totnes, but these are also now blocked; the locals being joined by Torquinians in their increasingly desperate attempts to get to work.
Now, I'm lucky. I only have to go to Uni for lectures. No-one will notice I'm not there, but I started thinking: what if I had exams, or a job interview? Then it gets worse: what if something bad happened? What if there was a really good reason for needing to leave town? What if there was a terrorist attack (You may think Torquay's too insignificant for such a thing, but we've had a few bombs in Hotels and such thanks to the IRA), or a major flood or something of this nature? There is absolutely no way to leave town at the moment! Not by car, not by train, there's no airport, I suppose there's some boats in the bay, but that doesn't really help.
For years and years now, there have been plans around to build a bypass to get us out of ths mess, but successive governments have shelved the plans time and time again. In this time industry has left us due to high costs of distribution. In two years thousands of people (including me) have been made redundant from jobs that have never been replaced in the area; adding to the congestion problems.
Well. I feel a little better now. I'm gonna make some coffee, smoke some fags and hope nothing else goes wrong today :-)