The UK Highways Agency has written to 'stakeholders', informing them of impending roadworks on the A34, a busy, swooping dual-carriageway which passes between Newbury and Oxford.
The very use of that apostrophe-enclosed term should already forewarn the reader that we have entered the strange world of corporations and government agencies, a world dominated by liability transfer and reduction.
It transpires that the A34 runs over a bridge near a village called Beedon, and the bridge requires 'refurbishment'. Sadly, despite the miracles of modern engineering, it seems that the process will require not merely roadworks and speed restrictions on a small part of the A34, but the entire closure of both carriageways overnight, and throughout successive weekends.
Carol Hurley, Communications Manager of EM Highways Services Ltd, writing on behalf of the Highways Agency, claims that "these full weekend closures are required to ensure the safety of both the workforce and the travelling public, due to the nature of the activities to be undertaken."
Blimey. Sounds like they could be using rocket-propelled grenades as part of the 'refurbishment' process. It's just as well, then, that they're closing the road at the weekend, although I'm a tad concerned for the risks encountered by the public during a weekday rush-hour as, zig-zagging through the contraflow, they try to avoid being penetrated by a shaped explosive charge.
The good news, however, is that Ms Hurley is able to recommend a diversion: "For both the north and southbound closures the main strategic diversion route for motorway permitted vehicles will be via the M40, A404 and M4 - the distance is 46 miles and the expected delay times will be a minimum of 42 minutes."
A 46-mile 'strategic' diversion? A brief perusal of the map below displays the diversion which Carol has in mind. The roadworks are roughly equidistant between Chieveley and Chilton, labelled 'A' and 'B' in the figure. The M4 runs East-West along the bottom of the image, the A404 runs North-South up the right-hand side, and the M40 runs diagonally between High Wycombe and Oxford.
Perhaps it's best to fill up with a full tank of fuel before you attempt Carol's 'strategic' diversion.
Carol defensively states that "this route has been agreed by the local authorities, police authorities and other Highways Agency areas."
Which explains everything. There are plenty of routes either side of the A34 between Newbury and Oxford, but all of them are B-roads passing through small towns and villages. Understandably, they don't want their roads to be clogged up with the copious amount of traffic, much of it heavy freight, which travels along the A34. So despite the fact that these are exactly the diversionary routes which people will actually take, the Highways Agency and the police authorities don't recommend using them. If they did, they would be responsible for clogging up small roads, and possibly causing numerous accidents, and they certainly don't want to accept liability for something like that. No, what they do is to recommend a completely unfeasible diversion. If the motorists and truck-drivers ignore their recommendations, then that's outside their control; such motorists are clearly foolish and irresponsible, and must be the ones held to blame, not the Highways Agency or the police authorities.