Last Monday, I passed through Vauxhall to meet with Andrew Forster of Local Transport Today. A growing business district, Vauxhall is a key transport interchange with a six-lane road encircling a major bus and rail interchange for people heading to and from work in their droves.
Just 36 hours later, a helicopter collided with the crane of a newly-constructed Vauxhall tower block and then crashed onto the road below killing the pilot and a passer-by. It seems to have been a tragic accident, but it was also one form of transport going wrong that has caused disruption and congestion to other local transport networks.
Credit to the railways for quickly re-opening Vauxhall station again, but with roads remaining closed while investigations into the crash continue, many bus routes have had to make lengthy diversions causing much longer journeys and increased congestion on narrow arteries. Add in the ‘school run by car’ and many local roads are simply choking at 8am. It’s no wonder that the pavements have been much busier with people walking instead.
Now the snow has been falling in generous quantities across the country and the resilience of national and local transport networks and local authorities are being tested again.
The effects of disruption show how, in the urban environment at least, a major economy cannot run effectively without strong transport networks, yet how much we take them for granted. Rail, local bus, long distance coaches, and yes, our trunk roads, ports and airports too, are ‘emblems’ as well as key drivers of our national ability to provide effective connectivity between major conurbations and in local communities. Over the years, there have been many attempts to ‘price’ the cost of congestion or the economic benefit of good transport links to the national economy. The numbers often make good headlines but they vary so much – so perhaps you can’t put a precise figure on them. Our national transport assets are priceless.
Disruption also tests the human spirit. When you next stand at a bus stop or on a railway platform on a cold winter’s day, consider this: when transport is disrupted by bad weather or freak events, people do work around it and demonstrate admirable stoicism despite inconvenience. In adversity, the human spirit is strong. We shall overcome!