Against All Odds

by The What's On blog, with Chris Price Wednesday, December 1 2010

OK, so the snow has wrecked just about every single travel route in Kent.

I joined the hundreds of commuters stuck on the gridlocked A2 yesterday (Tuesday, November 30) until I swerved off the pandemonium onto the hard-shoulder for about 300 yards (very naughty I know) and took the next junction off the motorway and made my way home through the country lanes.


London is slightly different. You can actually get from A to B, albeit at a snail’s pace in some instances. I know from the ear-ache I’ve been getting from my commuter dad and brother that there are no excuses for city workers heading into the capital. The trains are slowly running from my home town of Gravesend into the Big Smoke but I know delays have been much heavier for commuters from other areas of Kent. We have all heard stories of people stranded on trains on their way home on four-hour journeys.


So it is with this knowledge that I fear for anyone going to see Arcade Fire at the O2 Arena tonight (Wednesday, December 1) or tomorrow. Although I appreciate travelling is tough at the moment, I’ll be hacked off if the venue is half empty for a set from one of the best live acts in the world at the moment.


A gig is nothing without atmosphere and while tonight’s performance is sold out and tomorrow’s (which I am going to) has only some additional seating left for sale, I fear the worst for the attendance levels.


What would the Canadian outfit think of what happens to this country when we get a few inches of snow? Of course, the UK’s budget for dealing with this level of snowfall is much smaller than that of the North Americans but that will not stop the sniggers from our cousins across the Atlantic. It might also dissuade Arcade Fire from playing over here at this time of year again.


To be honest I was a bit miffed when I heard their headline sets at the Reading and Leeds Festivals this summer were poorly attended. This was largely down to scepticism from ticket buyers about the Montreal band getting bill topper status when they had only released two albums.


Yet when they released their mind-blowing third effort The Suburbs in the spring, it should have silenced the doubters and made for a sensational gig. Let’s face it, the other two headline acts were Guns and Roses, whose frontman Axl Rose showed up an hour late, and the brilliant but slightly dated Blink 182.


So for anyone out there umming or arring about whether to brave the cold and hop on a train to the O2 (I am not advocating driving – this is clearly not safe at the moment) then this is a call to arms. The spirit of rock and roll should implore you to support your favourite band no matter the obstruction or journey time.


It is not as if you’ll be suffering delays for a train that is going to take you to work, where you don’t want to be anyway, is it?

Categories: Celebrities | Commuting | Entertainment | Leisure | Trains | snow

Kent takes kicking on transport - but at least the PM grounds airport plan

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Wednesday, October 27 2010

The more you unpick the government's spending review, the more apparent it becomes that Kent has come off particularly badly on the transport front.

Strange, given that we all know that the forecasts for traffic growth are all pointing to a continuing upward trend and that the county, as a major gateway to Europe, has the additional burden of its roads coping with an extra 8million vehicles a day.

But there has been a steady trickle of bad news for motorists and others since George Osborne delivered his spending review. First, there was the news that Dartford tolls were to increase to £2.50 each way by 2012 - causing a few jitters for Kent Conservative MPs who had made great play of pledging to get rid of the toll charges before the election.

Then there was the news of a hike in rail fares for hard-pressed commuters, which have been widely condemned. And in the last 48 hours, the confirmation that planned improvements to the A21 are on hold til 2015 and that a scheme to improve Junction 10 of the M20 near Ashford is also under review.

This catalogue of delays and the prospect of paying more for travelling by train or crossing the Thames in a car makes up for a pretty dismal outlook - not even taking into account the fact that petrol duty is to go up in the New Year.

According to KCC data, nearly 80 per cent of households have one or more cars and six in ten drive to work. A further 74,000 people commute into Kent on a daily basis.

I don't know why Kent has fared so badly. I suspect that in addition to all the cost-benefit analyses, ministers took a cold look at the political conseqeuences of their decisions and came to the conclusion that however unpalatable they might be, they would be unlikely to have serious electoral ramifications come the next election. (That's sometimes a price you pay for having thumping great majorities - whatever the party.)

And I don't doubt that in a few years time - just before the end of Parliament -ministers will be making rather more optimistic noises about some of these schemes that have been kicked into the long grass.

Still, if the government was hoping to get onside with motorists and rail commuters in the county, it needs to do a bit more than simply postponing much-needed road schemes and hitting them where it hurts most - namely their pockets.


Still, at least David Cameron appears to have grounded Boris Johnson's latest wheeze to re-examine options for an airport on the Hoo Peninsular. He stepped in today to declare at PMQs that the government has no plans for an airport anywhere in the county.

The question is whether BoJo is listening.There's a growing sense of exasperation among MPs and council chiefs in Kent that the Mayor being so persistent in pursuing his much-criticised airport plans, seemingly determined to do whatever he can to get them off the ground.

This exasperation is felt particularly by MPs in the county - it's not even as if the Mayor has any jurisdiction or powers in the area he feels would be so well-suited to a new airport. Perhaps our MPs should turn the tables and start talking up the idea of a new airport around the vicinity of City Hall.

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Categories: Commuting | Hoo peninsula | KCC | Local Politics | Politics | Transport

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