Cornwall’s traffic madness

Do you remember the roads in the 1970s? Oh, the misery, the queues into Penzance stretching back to Crowlas and Marazion, the dreary circuit of rammed car-parks, the laughable idea of even trying to get to St Ives. The authorities tackled the problem at their usual snail’s pace. They built the Penzance by-pass, opened two or three new car-parks with more stringent time allowances and higher charges, installed the St Ives Park-and-ride to make better use of its fabulous railway line, etc etc.  And for a while things got better.

However all I hear this summer, on the street, in shops and everywhere else that people stop for a good moan, is people exchanging awful stories of traffic.

Of course it’s a hardy perennial, as the summer builds towards August, the crowds close in and the weather denies them the beach conditions they long for. We suffer their rudeness, their inexperience of our scary country roads, and their addiction to the 4 x 4 style – presumably they fell in love with the TV image of a deserted moorland track rather than the reality of the enervating crawl down to Hayle’s eastern roundabout in the drizzle with a carful of fractious kids. We can’t really blame them, and it gives us something to grumble about.

But this year there are signs of a real crisis. The crazy decision to re-route the access to Lelant was a classic case of a Planner In The Works, an ill thought-out attempt to fix one problem by creating a bigger one. Cornwall Council, in its Hate Penzance period, proposed something even more ridiculous at St Erth, a massive Park and Ride from which – yes, they really said this – people would distribute themselves all over Cornwall (except Penzance) by train, even back to Truro and St Austell, i.e. they’d drive dozens of miles past a place so they could get on a train back to it.  Some watered-down version of this is back on the agenda and we can only wait and dread.

An even bigger disgrace lurks in the dark vaults of Cornwall Council’s hard-drive: the Sainsbury money. You may remember (or never have known) that Cornwall Council kept back a million plus pounds of the sweetener Sainsbury’s offered Penzance for the privilege of knocking out its heliport and enticing more of its shoppers out of town. This was put aside for a new park-and-ride facility, cunningly placed right beside Sainsbury’s store. The idea that motorists, having crawled down the A30, would abandon their cars within sight of the town was clearly ludicrous, especially as there was to be no actual provision for the ‘Ride’ aspect, no fleet of minibuses but merely directions to the bus stop where they could stand in the rain and wait for the regular bus services. The money still languishes in Cornwall Council’s account and could be so much better used.

What’s to be done? The Lelant-to-Penzance dual carriageway would help. Proper king-sized seasonal park and rides outside Penzance and St Ives would be cheap and work like a dream. Notices of queues ahead, as on motorways, wouldn’t be too difficult to do. But we can’t go on like this. We need some urgent action before our roads are marked on maps: “For Winter Use Only”.

Old Mike – No Way, Cornishman 25/8/16


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