Belfast Telegraph

The traffic jams that tell us it's really time our politicians hit the road

By Lindy McDowell

They say they're going to sort Corporation Tax. Any chance that in the meantime our politicians could sort Corporation Street? Nelson Street? Blacks Road? The M1, the M2, the Sydenham Bypass, Sandyknowes, the Bangor dual carriageway? To mention just a few of the thoroughfares that come to a halt on a regular basis every weekday morning and afternoon during what is ambitiously referred to as the rush hour here.

It always baffles that local politicos, ever eager to jump on any populist "issue" they think might garner a few votes, haven't spotted that traffic congestion and its miserable, soul-destroying fallout might be one such cause.

But then, this is to suppose that the people supposedly running this place are in touch with the people who actually keep this place running.

It is also to suppose that they have any real idea how to deal with a problem once identified.

As the lights have been going out (literally in terms of street lighting) and the likes of police, teachers and health workers warn that planned cuts to services are unworkable, the Assembly has hiccuped along preoccupied only with its sense of its own importance.

The workers? Let them inhale traffic fumes.

In fact, if you were to pinpoint one issue that illustrates the six-lane gap between our so-called ruling class and the man and woman in the street, the ongoing Horlicks they've made of traffic management in this place would be as good a place to start as any.

Maybe politicians think it isn't such a big deal. Yet on every level the nightmare traffic congestion in the Greater Belfast area (with its inevitable knock-on effect) is hurting people's lives and livelihoods and in wider terms, the environment and the economy of this country.

It's hardly conducive to their health that tens of thousands of people here regularly start their day stressing about getting to work on time.

There are people stuck in jams who've been made late for vital appointments and, in the evening "rush", working parents late for picking the kids up from the nursery or childminder. In environmental terms, God knows what all those fuming cars are doing to the ozone layer. And as for damage to the economy, let us count the ways ...

Lost hours at work, frazzled staff exhausted by the time they even get to work, the late delivery of goods, shoppers avoiding the city centre because they've given up on ever getting there ...

But do the politicians notice any of this? To incoming investors they trot out that line about our brilliant, skilled young workforce. Does it ever occur to them that these brilliant, skilled workers aren't going to be a whole lot of benefit to any business if, come opening time, they're still stuck in a Ford Focus at Sprucefield roundabout?

It would be easy to blame just one Stormont department, but when did you last hear any politician here express concern about traffic congestion and its malign knock-on effect on the workforce and on the economy?

Other places have congestion too, but in other places they at least take measures to minimise it.

Here the strategy seems to be the single focus of getting people out of their cars and on to public transport. But, whoops, that one has just been dealt a major blow by the Translink announcement in recent days that fares are now set to rise further still. And meanwhile in that empty bus lane there's another one due in around a quarter of an hour. If you're lucky. And until the next single-decker hoves into view, this empty bus lane is blocked to all apart from taxis that offer access for the disabled.

Why not all taxis? Why not try at least to get more vehicles moving in there? Too much like common sense that.

With the emphasis perhaps on the "common" ...

For in the rarified world of those supposedly running this place, the real day-to-day concerns of the common working man and woman appear to be of no real concern.

Presumably they think there's no votes in them.

Russell's hairy tale

Nigel Farage claims that before Russell Brand's Question Time appearance, he had his personal stylist (Russell's, not Nigel's) straighten his chest hair. Too little information! The question here surely isn't why Mr Brand would have his chest hair straightened. But how?

Did Nigel mean the stylist just tidied it up a bit. Straighten as in, say, straighten the cushions on the sofa. Or did he mean straighten with, gulp, hair straighteners? Surely a vanity too far. Next time Russ shows up on Question Time he'll know how Katie Price feels. Nobody will be listening to a word he says. They'll just be focusing on the chest.

By George, stop this!

Little Prince George - why are they dressing him like the baby Winston Churchill? He is the cutest wee thing, with one of those lovely, old-fashioned chubby faces.

But does this justify dressing the child like an extra from Downton Abbey? Or Foyle's War. True, the retro look is big in fashion generally. But that still doesn't account for navy knee socks for a toddler.

Hopefully when he's off-duty, so to speak, George gets to wears clothes that are more age-appropriate. And indeed, more comfortable.

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