Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Closure of "Rat Runs" in Aberdeenshire.

Image produced from the Ordnance Survey Get-a-map service. Image reproduced with kind permission of Ordnance Survey and Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland.

According to the Press and Journal

Minor roads in Aberdeenshire could be closed to prevent drivers using them as “rat runs” while roadworks are going on.

The proposal is one in a series of changes put forward by roads bosses at Aberdeenshire Council to address an increased number of complaints from commuters.

There are currently 27 routes temporarily closed for repairs, with around 300 closed each year — a figure “unlikely to reduce”, according to senior officers. Twenty-one complaints specifically relating to the closures have been received since 2006.

Head of roads Ken Morrison said the majority of roadworks are completed
“without incident or complaint”.

He admits problems have arisen in busy areas or where diversions have been “long and substandard”.

He said: “The disruption to traffic and the risk of a road accident has been significantly increased and is the cause of increased levels of complaint across the whole council area.”

One of the major concerns relates to the damage being caused to minor roads as a result of roadworks elsewhere.

Mr Morrison added: “There is increased concern about damage to minor roads used as rat runs when closures are in place. Signed diversion routes can often be lengthy and road users with a local knowledge will tend to use minor roads if it will save time.”

He said communities would be consulted before closures were approved.

Now this all sounds mighty sensible when shown in this context, nice orderly closing of roads whilst they are "improved" and reopening on time and without significant problems to the average motorist or the local residents. The line about complaints from commuters meaning "rat runs" will be closed is an absolute gem. I am sure the commuters who complained were not asking for the closure of the aforementioned "rat runs" but were complaining about how the closures are done and the poor planning and execution of these closures.

Let me take a quick look at one of the roads that has suffered the odd closure in the past few years, it is one close to my heart at the moment as it is a road I take twice a day on my 30 mile drive to and from work. It's a minor road and by its number, the B9119, it really sound very minor and perhaps you might think it could be one of those "rat runs".

It is in fact probably one of the busiest B roads in Aberdeenshire, or at least it would be if it stayed open for longer that a couple of months at a time. This road has now been closed on 5 separate occasions during the past three years for periods of up to 5 months. During this time 2 roundabouts have been constructed, drains have been laid on two separate occasions, and currently more work is being done to allow access to industrial premises. All of this on a stretch of road that is barely longer than a mile. It is now late opening again from what may or not be it's final closure for the current work with no sign of when the work will be completed.

Why have there been 5 separate closures, when with proper planning, this could have been done with one closure and all the work carried out in one go. This would have been cheaper, shorter and would have caused much less impact on the long suffering commuters in Aberdeenshire. The true cost of the roadworks on this single stretch of road is difficult to calculate but just in time lost for commuters it must be into the millions of pounds far less the knock on economic and environmental cost.

If as well as closing the main road the council then go on to close the "rat run" roads the cost would probably double or triple as the current "diversions" already struggle to carry the additional traffic, especially when they themselves have been subject to roadworks, some times carried out simultaneously with the main roadworks. The whole area would be at a stand still for both the morning and evening rush hours and other routes would also be brought to a stand still as the overflow of traffic moved onto use them.

Instead of closing the "rat run" roads what should be done is to make intelligent use of them by setting up one-way systems at certain times and restricting the size of vehicles allowed to use them. This would be safer and cause much less upset to people living along the roads. We have few enough decent roads in this area without taking away capacity just when it is most needed.

Of course I could also leave my car and home and let public transport take the strain. Well I could if there was any that provided a service to our rural area. The single bus to Aberdeen a day, taking roughly twice to three times as long as even my now delayed car journey. The train line was shut down by Beeching back in the far-sighted 60's. Or of course I could use the useful Park and Ride at Kingswells but it is a white elephant poorly used and now better employed as a Travellers camp site.

Move to close ‘rat runs’ during roadworks elsewhere.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Significant Failings of Browne

Rather than sort out the actual problems in Iraq I see Mr Browne of the MOD will instead attempt to stop Coroners from saying that there have been "Significamt Failings" as this Implies blame on the MOD.

What Mr Browne does not say is that there are "Significant Failings" and that the MOD should be blamed .

I cannot put it better that the Wiltshire Coroner David Masters who is currently tasked with conducting inquests into many of the deaths of British servicemen in Iraq and Afghanistan. He said

"I am unable to make any comment on this particular case"

Having said that, I do not consider that this will deflect coroners from conducting full, frank and fearless inquiries into the deaths that they are entrusted to investigate - those of people serving their country when they are killed abroad.

"If something needs to be said, I'll say it."

Browne In High Court To Stop Criticism Of Mod (from The Herald )

Monday, March 17, 2008

Dumbing Down at Cambridge

Cambridge University is dumbing down in order to try and meet it's target of having 60-63% of pupils from State Schools. In this case it will be dropping the requirement that students have passed a foreign language at GCSE ('O' level to oldies like me) level.

This is because nowadays in our dumbed down society less than 50% of Students from State Schools take a foreign language at GCSE level.

The university said one of the factors that has led to the review, was the fact that from 2004, children were no longer required to take a foreign language after the age of 14.

It said having a formal entry requirement that at least half of all GCSE students are unable to meet "was not acceptable in the context of Cambridge's commitment to widening participation and access".

Experts argue that many schools draw back from offering languages at GCSE because they are perceived as "difficult" subjects.

A Department for Children, Schools and Families spokesman said forcing children to study languages does not motivate pupils.

"This is a position strongly supported by Lord Dearing in his review of languages in schools, and by teachers and employers.

"We are providing a more diverse range of qualifications - like Language Ladders, which work in a similar way to musical grades - and better teacher training, to motivate and enthuse students.

"There is now over £50 million a year being invested in language learning, and from 2010 every primary school pupil will learn a foreign tongue - which will help instil a love of languages at an earlier age."
All I can say is that we reap what we sow in terms of what we are going to get out of our schools. If we don't teach subjects because they are perceived as difficult how can we expect students to do well at a good University where hopefully the subjects will all be "difficult".

As the product of a state school, albeit one of the best in Britain, I can only think of the horror some of my school masters would have had at the thought of this now being the case.

My whole class of 30 achieved a grade A at 'O' level French, whilst also studying two other Languages. This cost my French Master a total of £2:10 as he had to buy us each a Mars bar having bet against us all achieving an 'A' grade.

BBC NEWS | Education | Cambridge drops language demand

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Line Out

Today Malcolm was playing at the the North Midi Finals at Ellon for Aboyne.
Aboyne did pretty well for one of the smaller teams at the competition winning 3 and losing 2 games. Malcolm is lifting at the front of the lineout on the left as Aboyne win the lineout.