First of all, I have to apologise to you, dear reader, before I begin this post.
I promised myself that I would try to put my soapbox away in 2013 and seriously cut down on the amount of time that I spend ranting.
Fate has decided, however, that this dream is just that – a pointless and futile dream.
Yesterday, my normal journey home, which usually takes between 15 and 20 minutes, became a nightmare of frustration and rage. To aggravate the situation further, it was my turn to waste an hour of my life in a supermarket doing the weekly shop, something I look forward to as much as a kick in the happy sack.
You can imagine, I guess, how I felt when instead of a 15 minute journey from work to the local supermarket, I had to suffer a 75 minute journey instead.
Because of a single bad decision – and the target of my wrath in this post:
Where do I begin?
I calculate that I have wasted months of my life stuck in traffic jams due to roadworks. There is nothing more exasperating than sitting in a line of motionless traffic with absolutely no escape, because roads are being dug up, resurfaced or diverted.
At the moment is South Manchester the Metrolink system is being extended. This is a good thing in many ways particularly as one of the extensions is to Didsbury, where I live. That particular extension is having virtually no effect on the roads near in the Didsbury area because the trams will run on a former rail line, meaning that all of the track laying and station construction has been done on a path that already exists and therefore does not in any way impinge on the road network.
The East Didsbury line opens later this year and will provide residents of Didsbury with a fast way to get into Manchester city centre. I am actually looking forward to it opening.
The problem I have is the extension to Manchester Airport.
Unfortunately, this particular route cannot use any former train lines and therefore has to traverse existing roads.
The worst part of it is that one or the affected roads is right next to where I work and the entire road network in that area is in a constant state of upheaval and turmoil, leading to an absolute nightmare for any commuters, like myself, who have to negotiate the resulting roadworks to get to work.
If that wasn’t bad enough, this extension isn’t scheduled for completion until 2016.
That means at least three more years of mayhem.
You might argue that this extension is a good thing and that ultimately I may be able to ditch my car and use Metrolink to get to work. While that may be true – the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, if you like – in order to take advantage of this new and exciting innovation in public transport, I have to suffer three years of constant roadworks every single working day of my life until 2016.
Last night, I left work early and hit a wall of traffic. As I thumped the steering wheel in frustration, I was suddenly faced with a choice.
Should I take a deep breath, turn my music up loud and ride it out hoping for a minor delay of, say, 10 minutes?
Or should I take the next left, go the long way round and arrive at the supermarket congratulating myself that I had, in my own minor way, kicked the system up the arse?
I opted to turn left.
Approximately 30 minutes later I was sitting in another traffic jam due to one of the main roads having been half closed thanks to Metrolink roadworks. Since that route was not normally on my itinerary, I had no idea that temporary traffic lights were in place, that were badly timed (i.e. we had 10 minutes of red light followed by a second of green) thus causing long tailbacks.
I found myself heading in completely the wrong direction on a road that had temporarily and unwittingly converted into a car park with what seemed like a thousand cars queuing at a traffic light that only allowed one car through every 10 minutes.
I wanted to cry. I wanted to get out of the car, march up to the guy in the car in front and scream at him for having the audacity of choosing to be on the road at that time in front of me for no reason other than to wind me up.
I turned up the volume on my music so loud that my windscreen shook in fear.
I was listening to Metallica at such a high volume that local people thought the road was being dug up underneath my car.
An hour later I had managed to cover a full circle and arrived fairly close to where I worked. I had wasted a complete hour, an hour I could have spent buying potatoes and cat food.
Driving has a way of bringing out the worst in me. Normally it is not a pleasant experience. I am not one of these boy racers who liked to drive for the sheer fun of being behind a wheel. The only time I have ever truly enjoyed driving is when I have been abroad. Driving from Brisbane to Sydney was a highly pleasurable experience because I was on holiday and in a foreign country. Equally driving around the US in the middle of nowhere listening to rock music is a marvellous experience.
Driving in the UK is as close to driving in Hell as it is possible to get, particularly when the resident demonic entity decides to torture my mind by inflicting pointless roadworks to infuriate me.
Our island is overcrowded and congestion is bad enough even without roadworks to make journeys a hundred thousand times worse. Motorways are a particular target.
The journey from Manchester to Birmingham and the south of England via the M6 motorway is a particularly horrific journey. And when there are roadworks, you may as well just pull over onto the hard shoulder and walk.
I’m sure it would be quicker to walk 70 miles than crawl along at the speed of a lame tortoise in your car.
Sometimes, there are warnings of roadworks ahead and one lane is segregated for about twenty miles by a line of cones with absolutely no workmen in sight, no sign of roads being resurfaced, no holes in the road visible and irritating signs saying:
Sorry for the Delay to Your Journey
When I see such a sign, I want to get out of the car (this is easy because the average speed through roadworks is about 30 inches per hour) and smash these signs into a cube of metal and hurl it in the direction of the Transport Secretary.
Why do they close lanes for weeks before they actually start the roadworks? Are all of the workmen skiving or on holiday? Or – as Ben Elton once said – do they have fun driving up and down the closed off lane, moving cones from end to the other?
I apologise for subjecting you to this rant, dear reader, but if you are British you will know what I mean and hopefully be a kindred spirit.
Even better, if you are a South Mancunian reader and have to do daily battle with the Metrolink roadworks you will applaud and say “Yes YES YES!!!!!”
Roadwork rage is a way to make work rage seem insignificant because each day I get to work having endured a journey of frustration, I can then face a hellish day at work before embarking on a repeat journey home.
Thankfully – next week is a four day week. On Friday, Mrs PM and I are going to be English tourists by visiting two places we have never seen before – Bath and Stonhenge.
Hang on – we have to drive down the M6 to get to Bath.