George Orwell, in his predictive novel Nineteen Eighty Four, published in 1949, introduced the reader to a world in which the government, amongst other activities, changed the meaning of the language to suit its ends.
If you have not yet read it, do so now and then ponder how much the dystopian world he described as fiction has become fact today and marvel at how far-seeing he was.
The book came to mind the other day as I sat in a traffic jam on the M25. When the motorway system was started, both carriageways had a hard shoulder upon which you were forbidden to drive unless in distress. It prevented broken-down vehicles from obstructing the motorway and permitted the emergency services to access any incident as quickly as possible. Now what could be more sensible than that?
Well, apparently, doing away altogether with this safety lane permits the capacity of the road to be increased by 33%.
Q: What happens if a vehicle breaks down?
A: It can coast to one of the emergency lay-bys which have been constructed at half mile intervals.
Q: Where are these vehicles which can coast half a mile with a seized engine? Surely they will be hit by other vehicles?
A: No they won't because we have installed an electronic signalling system which will direct the traffic away from the obstruction.
This is what actually happens.
The drivers who are exceeding the speed limit of 70mph are obviously in a hurry and so accelerate down the closed lane which the careful drivers have vacated for them.
When they reach the obstruction they then push in to the lane on their left and we all stop.
Five years after the opening of the M1, the average speed in the left lane, next to the emergency hard shoulder, was 40mph with 98% of all vehicles travelling at less than 70mph. The speed in the left lane is now 70mph. Motorways which are being converted to this monstrously idiotic arrangement have been officially named:
Think of George Orwell's novel.
'SMART' IS THE NEW STUPID