Transport: prepare for the long haul

When does more disruption mean less disruption? Answer: in the strange, old-fashioned, topsy-turvy world of transport.

Because if you want a decent transport scheme, you just have to put up with years of politics, planning, budgeting and building before you finally get the new rail link, bridge or bypass that was proposed a decade before. Or, in Crossrail's case, two to three decades before.

This is one area of life where you just have to take more pain today for fewer jams tomorrow.  Good transport takes time. Ironic, really, when all we actually want is for transport to take less time.

Former British Airways chief Sir Rod Eddington is due to unveil his long-awaited, much-trailed transport report for Gordon Brown very soon. And he appears, if the speculation is to be believed, to have moved away from recommending any grand projects.

No magnetic levitating trains for Sir Rod. Or even a conventional North-South rail link.

Instead, we are being led to expect a more modest, carefully concocted recipe of different ingredients to end the UK's hunger for better transport - a mixture of improvements to the existing road and rail system, coupled with a national road pricing scheme. All of which will, it is said, be introduced more by gradual acceptance than by big bang.

This poses interesting challenges for us in communications, particularly for local authorities and public sector transport bodies. 

Because it is sometimes the dullest, most boring, un-newsworthy projects that actually bring the most relief to the transport system. It is often the humdrum, day-to-day pieces of work - rather than the big, sexy, headline-grabbing schemes - that make the biggest impact on people's lives.

The irony is that, while lives are being disrupted by daily annoyances such as engineering works or contraflows,  it is precisely these sorts of disruptions that so often, in the end, provide the relief people are waiting for.

Truly, it's a long, hard slog to get to where you want to be in transport. Come to think of it, that's true of most other sectors or industries, too. Including PR.

Luke Blair is a director of London Communications Agency

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