We do well always and everywhere to give thanks for dual carriageways. “For this relief much thanks,” says Francisco, in Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet. He was referring to the arrival of another castle guard to replace him at the end of his shift, but many motorists could echo Francisco’s words when they get to dual-carriageways. Driving on ordinary roads is so frustrating.
Traffic moves everywhere on single carriageways in slow conga lines. There’s usually a juggernaut or a tractor at the head of each ‘snake’. And the tractors have flashing yellow lights to reinforce how massively irritating they are. There’s always the ubiquitous ultra-cautious lady or elderly man wearing a flat cap, safely tucked in behind. They’re there to increase road rage exponentially by making it even harder to get past. That’s why dual-carriageways are such a godsend.
So it is with our road to City of Derry Airport. Initially the scheme made great progress but then it missed its original completion date. The last section from Campsie to Maydown seemed to take for ever. First, the end date slipped from late November to Christmas although, fair enough, severe weather intervened and made work exceptionally difficult before the break. Since the New Year the weather has been relatively kind but the scheme lost momentum and progress strangely slowed. Now at last, it’s ready and it has been worth the wait. It’s a high quality road.
We need more of the same. We need dual-carriageways heading east towards Belfast and south east towards Dublin. Driving on both of these routes at present is nothing short of torture. Things are so much better in the Republic. We need dual-carriageways to improve road safety and to reduce environmental damage, as well as to make life easier. Traffic flowing freely at an efficient speed is bound to be far less polluting than traffic crawling along at an inefficient speed.
But simply building bigger and better roads can’t in itself provide a long-term answer to the problem of congestion. Road improvement needs to be combined with investment in public transport and particularly in railways. We need to make them attractive too. People will switch to bus and rail services if they’re good enough.
For now, we must be thankful for the road from Maydown to the airport. “You come most carefully upon your hour,” as Francisco says when his relief turns up. Well maybe the road didn’t exactly come upon its hour but come it did. Glory be to God for dual-carriageways!
Read more from Norman Hamill every Tuesday in the Derry Journal