Wednesday, May 14, 2008


On my journey to work this morning, I slipped gently down the slip road off the M6 Motorway at Spaghetti Junction, in the centre of Birmingham. Greeting me at the roundabout at the end of the slip-road was one of those delightful yellow metal signs which gave advanced warning of impending Road Works. It said that as from May 23rd, Roadworks would gum the place up (funnily enough, they didn't use those words) for the next 71 weeks. 71 weeks – that's a year and a half.

What, in heaven's name, can they possibly do that will take 71 weeks. They've just built a brand new shopping centre costing around £200 million, in the centre of Birmingham, during which it was the biggest building site, using the largest number of cranes, in the whole of Europe, and that didn't take 71 weeks. And all this is, is a pesky roundabout.

And anyway, the idea of anyone being able to say that, whatever it is they are going to do, will take 71 weeks simply beggars belief. The precision is astounding. However, the one thing you can absolutely guarantee is that it will not take 71 weeks – it may be 56 or 93, but it won't be 71. As a sop to spurious accuracy, this is a World Class example, presumably designed to make you think they know what they’re doing. Prime numbers (apart from 1, and I seem to recall, through a glass, very darkly, that 1 isn't actually a prime number anyway) play no part in roadwork durations.

All we need now is the Cones Telephone Hot-line number to appear (has anyone ever actually rung it?), and another notice advising us that there may be "Delays Possible". Of course there "may well" be delays possible – they're stopping the use of the roundabout on the most used exit on the most used motorway in Europe. Do they think we're cretins or something?

And I was quite enjoying my drive into Birmingham up until that point.


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