This country has the mother of all problems. Actually, it has a few but for the sake of this piece, I'll stick to just one. And boy, it's sprawling behemoth of an issue. And such is its potency that there's not a person alive who can't deny its existence and can't claim it won't get worse. And yet, despite this, nothing gets done. In fact, if this blog ended up in the hands of the person currently most qualified to tackle the issue he or she would push it aside (bin it) and leave it for another day (forget it). Because to tackle it would take such guts and gumption that no politician would risk the inevitable suicide needed to resolve it.
Two words. Ruddy traffic.
And here's the thing; we just put up with it. We just seem to accept the fact that our Nation's ineffective transport policy has long since broken and we're at the mercy of a decaying corpse with a stink that's about to get a lot worse.
What fascinates me is that this is an issue that needs no complicated description or validation. Unlike so many others problems faced by the UK, there's no partisan agenda required to say whether it exists or not and there aren't many people who haven't been affected by it at some point in their lifetime.
Why then, is nobody doing anything about it?
The answer to that question IS complicated. Just near where I live, adjacent to a road that's clogged to a noisy dribble at rush hour, our local Council have granted the development of over 200 new homes which, by most estimates, will an additional 300 cars to the infrastructure. And what considerations have been made to address this? None, like most developments around the country. Now, pick that apart and find a solution that can be implemented immediately. Don't build the homes? Limit car ownership? Enforce car sharing? Invest in more public transport? Build dedicated cycle paths?
Throw any one of those solutions out to the masses and local Government and it becomes very obvious, very quickly, why our road systems remain so utterly terrible.
Don't build the homes? But we need more affordable housing.
Limit car ownership? But my wife and I both work in different places.
Enforce car sharing? But nobody else works near me.
Invest in more public transport? But we can't afford more buses
Build dedicated cycle paths? But we don't have the road space for bikes.
But, but, but...you see the problem.
Oh, and electric cars are not the solution. They're still cars and still contribute to the larger scale problem of congestion. And if every car in the land was electric or ran from a hydrogen fuel cell, we'd still have the same issue expanding at the same (if not faster) rate. Of course, there wouldn't be millions of tonnes of carbon dumped in to the atmosphere, which is positive. But there would still be a need to chew up more of the environment to build more roads. And more roads doesn't mean less cars. It means more cars to fill more roads and so on.
All of a sudden, one begins to realise where congestion inertia comes from. Real and effective solutions to this problem are way beyond the scope of politicians. They have jobs to keep, a four year term to look after and as I mentioned before, to effectively tackle it (and not tinker around the edges) would amount to political suicide.
The solution, therefore, will come from the free-thinkers and brilliant scientific minds of the private sector. The people who actually do care about change for the better and have the finances, resources and autonomy to do something about it. Green, intelligent driver-less transport that connects to a hive mind to know exactly where problems are and how to avoid them. Vehicles that remain aware, don't crash because they're on the phone or slow down to look at accidents on the opposite carriageway. Self-parking vehicles that automatically navigate to available spaces or wait out the way of other traffic until one becomes available. Smart traffic lights that respond to traffic conditions and are not weighed down by antiquated timing mechanisms. The list goes on.
And the Government? Their job is to incentivise and embrace these technologies and implement them without slipping in to the mire of political agendas and vote wrangling. A multi-party approach, perhaps? And look at how it's paid for with fresh eyes and not a hotchpotch of weak ideas regurgitated from an amalgam of what's gone before. (Pay per mile would be a start; goodness know why we're not already doing that.)
And the people? Well, their responsibility is quite simple. Adapt. Don't fear the change. Understand that the alternative, inertia, is no alternative at all. Keep the pressure on the Government. Make them take it seriously and not make it the problem of the next incumbent of Number 10.
Because the reality, right this very moment, is that there are 35 million cars registered in the UK. Nose to tail, that's a 104,000 mile queue.
And when you really think about it, that's a lot of ruddy traffic for our small island.