Thursday, February 16, 2006

Road Rage

My Dad was a labourer. He worked the building sites of London, Leeds and Bradford for many years. A typical homesick Paddy. He married his first love. He worked day and night, six days a week so that Mum and the kids could have a better life. If we'd access to an ESRI report, we'd have probably learned that we were poor. But never once in my childhood did I ever feel anything but fortunate, loved and lavished upon. My Dad still has biceps that that many gym bunnies would die for. But his chest was never fuller than the day my big sister graduated from TCD. It didn't matter what University it was. Here was the first child in the family's history to stay at school beyond the age of twelve. Dad taught his children the value of hard work and the peace and satisfaction that comes from doing an honest day.

So, why do I blog this? Well, I see that Minister for the Environment, Dick Roche plans to introduce a new planning section within An Bord Pleanala to deal with strategic infrastructure projects. See, the thing is we need to speed up the time it takes to build new roads, tunnels and such like. It took 20 years for the nation that concreted Britain from top to bottom to build a short stretch of motorway. The Romans could lay new roads at 10 times the current pace of construction.

This week, bedridden due to an incident with a roller blade, I had occasion to watch some guys tarmac the road outside of my house. A total of 12 vans, trucks and assorted machines were assembled to cover a length of about 400 yards. They began promptly - too promptly - on Monday morning. This evening they completed their task. Not once during the entire process did any of these guys actually set foot on the road. Six shovels unveiled at the start of the project were never touched. There was a machine that poured the tarmac. Two the rolled it. Once that marked it. Two to dig up the grass verges. One to remove the grass verge to the other end of the street where it still lies dumped in a curious mixture of soil and bitumen. The finished article is a disgrace to the construction industry.

I couldn't help wondering how much this whole enterprise cost. I'm sure the coordinated HiVis vests with "On contract to Dun Laoighaire/Rathdown would have cost more than the price of a wheel barrow. I know, 'cos I've seen his work, that with that wheel barrow my Dad would have dug up and removed that grass verge. He'd have done it neatly. He'd have laid and rolled the tarmac with the care of a master craftsman.

We don't need a Strategic Infrastructure Planning body to speed up construction. We just need to value the concept of doing something right the first time.


Blogger dunner said...

Dont worry Paige, it is a problem this side of the atlantic aswell. One piece of relaying about 1/4 of a mile, including a major intersection has taken the local council oh nearly 2 1/2 years to do.

1:04 a.m., February 17, 2006  
Blogger JL Pagano said...

We also need to find away to sever the links between the construction industry and organized crime. Not much Mr Roche can do to guarantee that, I'm afraid.

11:24 a.m., February 17, 2006  
Blogger Omaniblog said...

"... My Dad still has biceps that that many gym bunnies would die for. But his chest was never fuller than the day my big sister graduated from TCD..."
What fabulous writing! The switch from biceps to chest, accompanying a lovely transition from theme to theme.

I don't agree with you about the need for a strategic planning process. You need structure and policies for individuals and groups to operate within. A generalised commitment to 'Right first time' won't do the trick in isolation. If we are to get big things done within a reasonable timescale, we need to remove unnecessary bottlenecks. Local politicians are exactly that, local, not strategic.

1:26 p.m., February 17, 2006  

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