This is Wordsley High Street, outside the Church. It’s a scene I’ve known all of my life. I’ve also got a fine shot of a Midland Red D9 double decker powering up the hill in the early 70s, so much so you can almost hear it’s famous throaty engine!
But today, this picture is in the news for a very different reason. This particular spot is today blighted by air pollution. It comes as no surprise whatsoever. Throughout much of the day, the High Street is thronged with traffic.
Dudley Council makes all of the concerned noises, but what, actually, realistically, can it do? There’s talk of “realigning” the traffic lights (isn’t this always the stock answer?) and some comment about working with bus operators.
And what’s coming soon? Loads and loads of new houses nearby on the site of an old Hospital. Add to this, a recent Council headline-grabber: free parking on authority car parks. Yeah, I get this “stimulus” idea to promote town centres, etc in the battle not only against internet shopping (equals yet more traffic on the roads to deliver it all), but also the Merry Hill shopping centre (where everyone seemingly wants to go, all of the time, with free parking). But – and it’s one of those “fundamental” buts – what about quality of life? What about life itself?
There’s plenty of evidence to suggest that polluted air is literally killing people early. What about mental health? I, for one, am quite sick and tired of this never-ending parade of vehicles, exhausts pumping out God knows what into my lungs.
It’s not just city centres. It’s urban areas and even villages like Wordsley that are now being blighted hour after hour, day after day with this.
There’s more and more of us, all trying to get from A to B, all of the time. It’s not only harming us, it’s killing us.
And whilst Brexit continues to wrap it’s octopus-like tentacles around us, we’re not paying attention to things much closer to home.
Where’s the real mobility policy? Where’s the dedication? Public transport has a potentially huge roll to play in addressing this. The industry itself has to step up to the plate, but it needs fundamental support from Governments local and national.
If the buzz-phrase is “carrot & stick”, it’s rapidly out of date. We’ve surely persuaded all those who are persuadable to think about their mobility habits. The “carrots” have nearly all been nibbled. Now we need the sticks, to cut the congestion, to save our lives and provide the coming generations with a society fit to live in.
Who’s in? Or who’s still sitting in their tin box going nowhere?