UKIP and the M4

Nigel Farage, leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party, has tried to get to Port Talbot. For some reason he drove, rather than taking advantage of the 2hr 37minute train journey from London Paddington to Port Talbot Parkway (a rather battered station which has 509,976 users, down by 4,500 from last year for some reason).

Although the train takes under 160 minutes, the car journey is apparently advertised as 210-240 minutes so he allowed that. Alas, it took him 360 minutes and he missed his big event at Margam Park.

There are various ways to respond to such a problem when questioned about it. He could of course have said:

These things happen.

But that doesn’t sound very convincing, so he didn’t.

He could have followed the great politician line of blaming someone else:

Obviously Google’s journey planner is over-optimistic and I’ll have to look elsewhere next time.

But that would potentially be actually funny (it’s the sort of excuse Boris Johnson would come up with before suggesting xenophobia waste works), so he didn’t.

He could have followed the standard Opposition line:

The Government has been claiming to be making everyone’s lives better while presiding over a massive failure of the national infrastructure. We need to invest in getting Britain moving again!

But that might suggest some sort of support for massive infrastructure projects (like High Speed 2), so he didn’t.

He could have said something big and new:

While our Government spends billions on wasteful reorganisations of our education system, they are systemically neglecting the core national infrastructure that will allow our children to get to where they can deploy their hard-earned skills, show their enthusiasm for hard graft in a competitive world and meet the people that they need to meet if they are to be who they can be; a core networking requirement if we are to achieve true greatness for our children, for ourselves and for our dear nation!

But this would suggest some sort of suggestion that it might be possible to pour too much money into schools and he’s a politician, so he didn’t.

He could have made some over-proud Government-style speech:

While I am naturally disappointed to have missed this event, it is nonetheless wonderful to see that a free-market partnership approach to national infrastructure has helped to make our roads and railways so busy. As we approach the next election, we need to look at how we can improve our national infrastructure so as not to choke off the economy. The Assembly Government is discussing a new Newport bypass, but with growth returning we need to stop talking and work together start driving these things forward!

But that would, like the Opposition line, suggest that he likes big infrastructure projects, so he didn’t.

Instead he said:

what it does have to do with is a population that is going through the roof chiefly because of open-door immigration and the fact that the M4 is not as navigable as it used to be.

Aside from the fact that “navigable” applies to waterways (the M4 is blue on the map, but is nonetheless and alas not a canal) it also rather opened him up to humorous remarks about “perhaps he wouldn’t have taken so long if he hadn’t kept stopping to ask after the nationality of everyone else on the motorway”.

It also fails to acknowledge that the M4 is currently about as good as it ever has been on its long and dubious career as one of Britain’s less safe motorways, complete with toll bridge over the Severn, multiple non-standard junctions (25, 26, 27, 39, 41 and 42) and lengthy two-lane sections culminating in a peaceful meander around North Swansea. It is always helpful when complaining about how things are different to the past to have a memory that remembers what the past looked like.

M4 Michaelston 1 JPGWonderful old M4, looking west, easily navigated from London to Port Talbot in only a hour more than the train journey.

M4 Michaelston 2 JPGTerrible new M4 (from same bridge), impossible to navigate in less than 3 hours more than the train journey.

It also says a great deal about UKIP. The economy is sort of rising. The population is growing. We are in the most intriguing situation where employment levels can rise rapidly while unemployment levels fall slowly. Railways and roads are getting busier (except in London and the South East, where only the railways are getting busier).

The positive response is to congratulate this and attempt to improve the infrastructure to meet demand while encouraging society to ease off the immediate need for travel. (Could more of the M4 traffic be handled by people moving closer to their place of work, by flexible working, by providing alternative travel corridors or by making the option of taking the train more attractive? Trying to get through the South Wales Corridor during the evening peak is inevitably going to involve encountering some form of traffic jam because, contrary to popular opinion, the area does have an economy and job prospects these days but the M4 and the South Wales Mainline are the only east-west trunk routes.)

Not Nice Mr Farage. He just blames all those nasty immigrants and suggests that the only way out is to get rid of them. While kicking his wife out of the country would certainly reduce the population, it is curious as to how it would resolve the problem of too many of the South Welsh having jobs, cars and a desire to move around the place.

(The context:


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