Being based in central London and travelling to work by train (thank God for the Javelin service from Ashford. High Speed Rail – forget the cost to the taxpayer, I love it) means I don’t get behind the wheel as much as I used to. But over the weekend I managed to get a few hundred miles under my belt driving from Kent up to Wrexham, and then back again.
Overall the journey was fair. But it could so easily have been great.
The first problem was the Dartford Crossing. Clearly trying to use the tunnel at about 4pm on a Friday evening is asking for some trouble but is it really acceptable to be stuck in slow-moving traffic for almost an hour just to pay my money to get under the river? Electronic tolling has long been talked about and the sooner the need to stop at a barrier and hand over cash to a man in a booth is removed the better.
For the next hundred miles or so things went smoothly. With the M25 widening works around the north of London now completed this was a busy but free-flowing piece of road. Progress up the M1 was equally smooth.
Because it was getting late-ish I decided not to risk the M6 through Birmingham and the snarl-up which is invariably associated with the point where it meets the M5. Instead I decided to dig deep into my pocket and take the toll road. It was therefore a slight shock to discover that this was being dug up. Given that the volume of traffic was low the delay was actually slight but it did leave a bad taste in the mouth that for my £5.50 I could not get along the expressway unimpeded.
I joined the M54 using the A460 and then made steady progress out past Telford. My mood lightened as I approached Shrewsbury and caught sight of the beautiful undulating territory which is the Welsh marches unfolding ahead. Having not been to Shropshire’s county town for the best part of twenty years I thought I would drive through it for old time’s sake. What a mistake.
Claremont Bank had not survived amongst my memories of the place but oh boy is it engrained on my mind now, for it took about 30 minutes to travel 400 metres along it. At 8pm in the evening. The problem stemmed initially from the road works taking place at the top of Bridge Street by the river, and the temporary traffic lights associated with them. Understandably this was creating queuing traffic. Unfortunately this meant that other traffic – including us – trying to join from Claremont Street could not do so easily, not least because there were only six seconds (the length of time the lights were green) in which to join a queue of vehicles which had few gaps in it. Six seconds.
Why on earth could the lights not be better co-ordinated?
The only blessing was that the children slept through the hold-up. As it was I wish I could have too. Suffice to say, on the way back we skirted the place.