TELEVISION / Jam yesterday, jam tomorrow, jam today
Transport 2000, which took the controls of Open Space (BBC2) last night for a special programme on current transport policy, took us further into this smog-choked Alice in Wonderland. Using the Government's own projections of the increase in car ownership over the next 30 years, they had worked out that we would need to build a motorway 257 lanes wide from London to Edinburgh simply to park the vehicles. I haven't checked their figures and I'm assuming they've been generous to their own cause (there are a few free parking spaces round where I live that they may not know about), but it was a sobering thought all the same. In some areas of London we have already reached the point where the ability to park outside your own house is noted as a 'feature' by estate agents.
Carroll, who liked linguistic tricks, would also have enjoyed the language of transport policy. Money spent on roads is 'investment' (hurrah]) while money spent on railways is 'subsidy' (boo]). 'Deregulation' means allowing packs of feral buses to hunt city streets for prospective passengers. They seem to be eating them - in seven years passenger journeys have dropped by 25 per cent for all cities that have been deregulated, compared with a 2 per cent drop in London, which is still regulated. 'Freedom' is what the car delivers us, the freedom, as Michael Palin pointed out from inside a traffic-bound vehicle, to have the quality of urban life diminished on almost every front.
There were more cheering elements - an account of a Cardiff scheme to reopen small railway lines which had exceeded its five-year target for passengers in a few months, and a description of Manchester's enviable new tram system. It was also heartening that you'd heard some of this stuff before, some of it as recently as Panorama's report on the link between asthma and car emissions. That suggested that Open Space wasn't isolated in protest, a lone objector trying to block the M25 at rush hour. Even inside government, it seems, people are beginning to mutter anxiously about the wisdom of letting an invisible hand take the wheel just as we approach a nasty bend in the road.
Working Parts (C4), a showcase for young directors, delivered a little treat with 'After You've Gone', an excursion into the world of wills. Death is a great liberator, allowing even the meekest conformists to release a final spurt of eccentricity or resistance. 'To my wife, who is a perambulating vinegar cruet, I leave one penny,' wrote one man and you suspected that during his life he never even spoke without being spoken to. In other cases it was harder to tell: 'I leave to my neighbour, Mrs Cook, pounds 5,000 to be used to maintain her only remaining friend, her television set,' could have been kindness or a final piece of point-scoring.
The director, Beryl Richards, didn't quite trust us to get all the jokes, reading some of the wills in funny voices ('I wish to be buried with the chassis, gear-stick and wing mirrors of my Ford Angular saloon') and dressing her film with self-consciously artificial set-ups. But she had tracked down some intriguing contributors - including a cheerful pair who run the wills and legacies department for Barnardo's - and the whole thing was so enjoyable that you felt a mild shock of bereavement at its premature ending.
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