Tag Archives: transport

If there was one car I could own

If you have an interesting looking car, people come up and talk to you about it. My Citroën SM is now entering my 21st year or ownership so, over the years, I’ve got reasonably used to this, though my social grace occasionally lets me down. Sometimes the speaker is highly informed and might tell you something you don’t know. Sometimes they are like-minded enthusiasts who just want to make a pleasant comment or know a bit more. Sometimes they just want to ask the same pointless questions – constantly re-occurring are “is that the one that goes up and down / the headlamps turn / has a Maserati engine / Burt Reynolds drove off the dock in The Mean Machine?”. These questions all get a polite but terse ‘Yes’, but the two questions I find it more difficult to answer are “‘Is that a classic then?” and “How much is it worth?”

Ever since I was quite tiny I’ve had a crush on the Citroën SM. There is something about the shape that I just love. This excellent post at Driven To Write is an extended long term test drive (aka ownership and everyday driving) of the futuristic 1970s Citroën, and simply makes me want one even more than ever.

Has it been a year‽ 

Wow! Doesn’t time fly? I can’t believe it’s been a year since we waved goodbye to l’Atomo and said hello to his replacement.

In the past twelve months we’ve travelled a lot further than we dared to in the little red Fiat. Obviously, a bigger car makes life a bit more comfortable, and the automatic gearbox makes a huge difference, too—especially in traffic. The year has also been pretty uneventful, in a motoring sense at least. No major panics, no worries about mechanical issues, no huge repair bills. I think it was a good decision to go for the Škoda.

We haven’t come up with a sensible name for the Roomster yet. It doesn’t have any really outstanding quirks to pick on, aside from its looks. It’s funny how I was never aware of these cars before, but there must be at least a half dozen of them in the neighbourhood. Once you know the shape, they pop out at you. 

The thing that both Best Beloved and I like about the Roomster is the storage. There are cubbyholes and pockets everywhere. The rear seats not only fold up, but can be removed completely, giving some useful carrying capacity if we need it, though we haven’t yet. I’ve been deputed as taxi for our neighbours, who enjoy regular coach trips and need to get to the pickup points. The car swallows them and their luggage with ease. 

The only thing I haven’t liked has been the gap between the rear seats and the luggage space cover. Because the seats can be moved for comfort, the gap is useful, but even at the furthest point back the gap still lets the nosey peer into the luggage space. I had thought to get tinted rear windows, but when I was investigating getting replacements for things like luggage nets and bag hooks I found Škoda also made a gap cover. 

I didn’t need to think twice.

It arrived is morning, and I had it fitted in a matter of seconds. It’s flexible, so it moves with the seats and luggage cover, and simply clips to the rear seat head restraints and the cover front lip. 

The instructions are straightforward, with happy and sad faces to show correct and incorrect fitting.

I am not sure about the disembodied hands, though. 


I’m not usually one to gush about aftermarket accessories, but this one has made me happy. So has owning a Škoda. 

BBC News – Viewpoint: Could we do without traffic lights?

We rely on traffic lights to tell us when to go. And when to stop. We should replace that with common sense, argues traffic campaigner Martin Cassini.

It was a day in Cambridge in 2000 at a road junction where normally I would wait for three signal changes to get through.

This time it was deserted and as I breezed through without incident or delay I saw that the traffic lights were out of action.

From then on I started thinking: “Are we better off left to our own devices and is this huge system of traffic control blocking our progress and making us ‘see red’ in more ways than one?”

I kind of agree with this notion.

Near where I live there is a confluence of two motorways and a major link road. If I wish to visit Maidstone, I have to negotiate at least five sets of traffic lights to cross the various junctions. Many times, I have sat in an impatient queue while the road ahead and either side was completely clear.

Indeed, on days when there has been a power outage and the lights are off, everyone treats the junctions as proper roundabouts—giving way to the right and filtering as necessary—and the normal hold-ups simply evaporate. I would argue that there is simply no requirement for traffic control lights in off-peak hours at all. Why hold me up at a red light when there are no other vehicles in the other direction?

Obviously, we can’t eradicate all traffic lights. Pedestrian crossings, for example, and places where the lights actually do help the flow of traffic. However, I do think many of the traffic light controlled junctions I encounter in my daily life do not really need lights at all.

BBC News – Dartford crossing fee suspension proposed

A six-month trial of the suspension of charges at the Dartford Crossing at times of severe congestion is being proposed.

The suspension would come into force “when the severity of congestion is such as to constitute an emergency” said the government consultation paper.

The paper, published by Mike Penning, the Under Secretary for Transport, also proposes a “free flow charging system”.

Car drivers will see a rise from £1.50 to £2.50 come into force in 2012.

My reaction to the last line there, I think, is “facepalm”. It wouldn’t surprise me if they proposed adding border crossing to check who was travelling between Essex and Kent.

I’ll edit later to link to other posts about the Dartford crossings.

BBC News – MP calls for action on Dartford Crossing traffic jams

The Dartford Tunnel and Queen Elizabeth II bridge cross the River Thames between Dartford and Thurrock.

They form a link in the M25 motorway, carrying about 150,000 vehicles a day.

Actually, pedantically, the crossings are not part of the M25 at all. The orbital motorway joins each end of the A282.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: remove the tolls and the congestion will almost miraculously dissipate.

BBC News – Unacceptable train overcrowding to get worse, MPs say

Rail passengers in England and Wales face “substantial increases in already unacceptable overcrowding levels” by 2014 and beyond, a report by MPs says.

Department for Transport plans suggest targets for increasing passenger places will be missed.

It was “not clear to passengers” where money from fare rises went and firms should be made to tackle overcrowding and not rely on subsidies, it added.

The government said plans to improve the situation would be unveiled soon.

Public Accounts Committee chairwoman Margaret Hodge said MPs were concerned that the “already unacceptable levels of overcrowding will simply get worse and ever more intolerable”.

She added: “At present there is no incentive for the rail industry to supply extra capacity without additional public subsidy.

“The DfT should, for future franchises, require operators to take measures themselves to avoid overcrowding and to meet the costs of doing so.”

The elephant in the room, as ever, is how many of the commuters squeezed into trains could be working via the internet? I bet a good fifty per cent of them needn’t travel “to the office” every day.

Time for employers to wake up to the benefits of using teleworking, instead of being control freaks and insisting on people being in an office where they can be controlled. Treat your workers like human beings, not slaves.