“Chiverton Cross has been upgraded to Chiverton Angry”. It’s one of my favourite jokes following the recent work to change the layout of the infamous roundabout on the outskirts of Truro.
It’s all part of a big upgrade to the A30 in that part of Cornwall. It’s a notorious bottleneck and vast sections of land have been dug up to create more capacity for the traffic. The recent work to remove the Chiverton Cross roundabout as part of the scheme has, in the short term at least, apparently made the queues even longer! So, although the jokes about it on social media have been very clever, it’s not funny for anyone who has to drive that route on a regular basis. To be honest, getting anywhere in Cornwall or beyond is no laughing matter, whether it’s by car or public transport, especially at this time of the year.Recently I drove down from South East Cornwall to see some friends in Falmouth.
From the outskirts of Truro onwards it was nose to tail and stop start all the way to Falmouth and the same on the way back. The journey from Falmouth back to the A30 the other side of Truro, that on paper should be little over half an hour, took me more than an hour.I moved away from Truro in 1997 to work at Spotlight in Plymouth. For many years after that I rarely had the time to get back to my home city. But each time I did visit I was shocked by the ever-increasing amount of traffic. I am in Truro more frequently again now as I fill in regularly at BBC Radio Cornwall, and as far as I can tell the traffic continues to get worse. When I lived and worked there, the roads only really became gridlocked in the run up to Christmas.
Now it seems that same gridlock happens every day of the year. This is despite extensive park and ride facilities either side of the city. It’s the same in most cities. I dread driving into Plymouth or Exeter. For me any journey now needs to have traffic delays built in to ensure any hope of arriving at a destination on time. The fact that many of our roads in Devon and Cornwall are operating under such pressure means there is no slack in the system when there is an incident.
A broken down vehicle, a minor shunt, a learner driver, they can all bring roads grinding to a halt very quickly.Of course, major accidents have to be properly investigated and we all understand the need to close roads for the police and other emergency services to do their job. But because our roads are so congested it means that the knock-on effect is often felt far beyond the original crash site.
It’s ironic that we have more freedom and ability to move around than ever before. Car ownership is far greater than when I was a child, yet getting from A to B seems to be harder than ever. Building more roads has always seemed the obvious solution and in many cases it’s made a positive difference. One example that springs to mind is the bypass at Goss Moor.
Remember the horrific traffic jams there in the summer? However, once the bypass was built, the jams just moved further west along the A30, hence the need for the latest upgrade from Carland Cross to Chiverton.
Road schemes are costly though and they often take years to go through the planning process. Then it takes years to build them. In the intervening time, traffic levels grow even more, so by the time the new road opens it’s already at risk of being overwhelmed. Time is money of course and constant delays and hold-ups have an effect on the economy. And I won’t even go into the environmental effects of ever more road building, but you only need to look at the vast amounts of earth being removed from the side of the A30 upgrade around Chiverton Cross to know that the impact is enormous. As a journalist I have interviewed numerous Government ministers and councillors about the pressure on our road system.
Often the answer is that we all need to be persuaded to make greater use of public transport. That is easier said than done. For more than a year now train services have been hit or miss to say the least, because of industrial action. My wife occasionally has to go to London and Exeter for work. It’s only a handful of times a year and the dates are random. But most of her journeys by train have been delayed and sometimes cancelled entirely at short notice. Last week I had to go to Penryn for a meeting. With my hellish experience of recently driving to and from Falmouth fresh in my mind, I couldn’t face going by car again so opted for the train It was fantastic! The train from Saltash was on time. Only had to wait a few minutes for the connection at Truro and my appointment was only a short walk from Penryn station. A big thumbs up from me as the train took the strain.In fact the slowest part of the whole day was driving out of Saltash alongside the famous fast food drive-thru at Carkeel.
The roundabout was at a standstill. The queue stretched all along Callington Road, blocking the exit from the fast food outlet and supermarket, again! There’s another example of an “upgraded” road layout that is struggling to cope with the development around it. Goodness knows what it will be like there when all the new homes are finished at nearby Treledan.But trains can be just as frustrating. I posted a Tweet about my relaxing and stress free rail journey, only to be contacted by someone in great distress on a delayed train who was going to miss a connecting service and couldn’t get any information.
Reliability is the key to getting more of us onto the trains and I am sorry to say it’s just not there. When it works, as it did on my recent rail journey, it’s superb. When it goes wrong, which it does too often, it quickly becomes a nightmare. Having tried to get solutions from decision makers during my career as a journalist, I am at a loss as to what the answers are, but they’re going to need to be more radical than ever.
Otherwise the only way forward is ever more slowly!
Bye for now.