My Focus has one-touch electric windows. On my last car, shortly before it was due for a service, the driver-side window developed a fault whereby when it was closed and hit the top of the frame, it bounced half way back down. What I had to do was carefully inch it up and make sure it didn’t hit the top each night when I got home and locked it up. There was still a small gap, though, but it had a service booked and we had no rain, so it wasn’t an issue.
The dealer fixed it and simply said it had been “reset”. I had no further problems with it.
I have another car now, and it has started doing the same thing. It isn’t anywhere near ready for a service yet, so in order to avoid the inevitable assessment visit and probable brake bleed my dealer would insist on before fixing it under warranty, I looked into it a little further. And big surprise, it is quite common on Fords (and other makes, apparently).
From what I can gather, the reset procedure is to put the window all the way up holding the button, and then keep it held for 3 seconds. Then, push the button and put the window all the way down, then keep it held for another 3 seconds.
But that doesn’t work by itself, because as soon as the window hits the top of the frame, down it comes again. It seems to be connected with the safety feature that prevents idiot kids (and dogs) getting their heads squashed if the window goes up while they’re leaning out. A sensor detects the resistance and winds the window back down again.
The trick is to use a piece of paper or thin card when you do the reset. Hold it just under the top window frame recess and put the window up. Hold the button for 3 seconds. The paper acts as a cushion and prevents the sensor triggering. Now put the window down and hold the button for 3 seconds. That should now have reset the sensor and the window goes up and stays up.
It ought to go without saying – but I’d better say it anyway – do not use anything hard as your cushion, otherwise you’re likely to break the glass. Use paper, and fold it once or twice as necessary to get enough cushioning to stop the auto-retraction kicking in while you do the reset. And keep your bloody fingers out of the way when you’re doing it. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!
My windows bounce back when they reach the top
You may have a faulty motor or sensor, but from my experience it is most likely just needs a reset. Follow the instructions above. That should reset it.
My windows come down on their own
I have read that on some models there is a feature which automatically opens the windows when it gets hot – even when it is unattended, and sometimes in the middle of the night. I have also read that the windows in some cars can be controlled from the key fob, and this can get pressed whilst in someone’s pocket. The sources for this are various web forums, and are not really to be trusted, but even if such a feature existed, I can’t believe that would be available in the UK because the car would get stolen almost immediately in some areas.
It is possible you need to do the sensor reset without knowing it, and the windows actually opened before you locked it up but you didn’t notice. That’s just a thought, and I’m not saying it’s right. But the first time I experienced the bounce back I didn’t realise until I went out again and saw the window open.
If I woke up to open windows, I’d book it into my dealer pronto.
Over the last few weeks there have been reports that Royal Mail staff are threatening to go on strike over Christmas. There is one burning question in my mind on this if they do strike.
How would anyone bloody know?
Back in September, I purchased something from a seller on Amazon. It wasn’t fulfilled directly by Amazon, and the seller sent me emails with a delivery window. When the item didn’t arrive, they quickly sent me another, which arrived promptly. I told them I’d let them know if the first package arrived, but it never did.
We’re now well into November, and last week I got a card through my door telling me the Royal Mail had a delivery for me, but that it needed outstanding postage paying on it before they’d bring it. I had several parcels expected, so I paid the outstanding amount – a couple of quid – and waited to see who it was who’d messed up so I could claim it back from them (when you order through PayPal and Amazon, you have no worries on that score).
The delivery date Royal Mail had given me was a day last week, but by the day before that all the stuff I’d been expecting had arrived, and there was no indication or reference number that suggested any of those were involved. I was wondering what the hell it could be – I’d forgotten about the lost September delivery.
Come Saturday – and you can probably guess what’s coming – the September package was delivered! It was clearly dated September, but it had taken them until November to action it. A total of 50 days. I informed the Amazon seller, and they kindly told me to keep the second item as a goodwill gesture (so I got a spare of something I will almost certainly buy again at some point for a couple of quid when it normally costs ten times more).
But that’s not the point. The Royal Mail is likely to be hit by strikes for more pay by the arseholes responsible for things like this.
Items go missing on a fairly regular basis for me – I can count on a few a year for sure – and when I contact sellers it is always Royal Mail deliveries involved, and never couriers. You can be sure that I make my views on the Royal Mail well known at that point. What really bugs me, though, is the thought that at this time of year they take on a lot of temporary staff, many of whom couldn’t get jobs anywhere else, and with the occasional stories in the press where individuals have been either stealing or binning the post instead of delivering it… well, you have to wonder.
Then there was that time they suspended all deliveries on my road for a fortnight because a dog inside a house had barked at a postman (we’d assumed he’d been mauled and lost an arm or something until we spoke with the owner). The whole bloody street. We had to collect our mail from the sorting office. And what was funny was that the majority of the houses in the exclusion zone were further away from the one with the dog than all the ones round the back. It wouldn’t have surprised me to discover they’d also forbidden staff to even drive down the road.
I’ve had a Nextbase 612GW for over a year now. It records in 4k – meaning that you can see number plates and other details much further away and much more clearly than on other dashcams.
I’m actually on my second unit. Within a year, my first one stopped turning on automatically, and after discussions with Nextbase, they gave me an authorisation code so that Amazon would accept the return and refund me. I bought another in lieu of the refund.
What had happened was that the internal battery had died. It would barely run for 30 seconds after a four hour recharge, and since it is the battery that provides the camera with enough residual power to detect when the power systems in the car are activated (which tells it to turn on and start recording), it was kaput. It worked perfectly if I powered it on manually each morning once a bit of charge had gone to the battery, but any power down lasting more than an hour and the battery would drain again.
Any 4k video device right now gets warm when it is in use, and the 612GW is no exception. I wouldn’t say it gets hot, but certainly very warm, and with the summer we had in 2018, it got warmer still. Li-ion and Li-Po batteries are degraded by high temperatures, and I suspect that overall this contributed to the battery going as quickly as it did. OK, it may also have been a bad batch (or just a bad one in my case), but I didn’t go into that with Nextbase. I’d had it replaced, after all.
It is worth noting that Nextbase told me replacing the battery is quite easy, and they supply them if you ask. It does involve a bit of soldering, but I will bear it in mind for the future.
As I understand it, some cheaper dashcams use a capacitor to hold residual power. However, where a battery is involved, this problem of degradation could occur with any model of camera. Indeed, any battery-based dashcam will effectively “break” sooner or later once the battery dies. Exactly the same thing happens with laptops, phones, and tablets – and it is amazing how many people don’t realise it’s just a dud battery which, in many cases, could easily be replaced. It even used to happen with desktop computers, when the coin battery which held the BIOS settings that enabled the PC to boot died (I’ve replaced a fair few of those in the past for people who thought their PC was broken).
I suspect that a lot of the complaints you see about dashcams dying could be a result of this – along with using the wrong types of SD card.
Apologies to anyone who has followed the Jennychem links and been met with a 404 error. They updated their website, and it wasn’t until I came to place a new order that I realised. The links are fixed now.
The problem of smeared windscreens in the rain has driven me nuts ever since I started driving, but it became a major headache when I became a driving instructor.
We’ve all experienced it. You get a few spots of rain, and when the wipers wipe you get a mosaic pattern left behind for a few seconds. In heavy rain it’s like someone poured chip fat on the screen and you just can’t see properly. I’ve had varying levels of success removing it – scrunched up newspaper (no good), sodium lauryl sulphate (not bad), various solvents (fair), Clearalex (quite good) – but things came to a head when my lease company replaced my car a few years ago. In rain you couldn’t see anything, and absolutely nothing would get rid of whatever it was on the windscreen. I was so bad, I seriously thought that the glass must have been damaged in some way.
Essentially, what causes it is oil, or something related to oil (grease, wax, and so on). Virtually every vehicle on the road leaves deposits behind. Some of it is dusty, some is gritty – but a lot of it is oily or greasy. That’s why when it rains after a period of dry weather we’re advised to take care, because the road can be very slippery as oil sits on top of the wet tarmac before being eventually washed away. Obviously, any road spray is also going to be mixture of dirt, oil, and water, and when this gets on to your windscreen you start to get smears. Now, up to a point, your screen wash can deal with it, but eventually the oil seems to bond to the screen such that removing it is no longer easy.
Strangely, washing your car can also lead to the same sort of problem – especially if you use a car wash (hand or automatic). Any wax on the rags or brushes will transfer to your windscreen, and if you’ve ever noticed how a single greasy fingerprint is capable of smearing across the whole windscreen (unless you use something that lifts it off), it doesn’t need much to cause smearing on the outside when the glass gets wet. It also gets on to the rubber of your wipers, and collects underneath them when they’re off, so even if you manage to clean the glass the wax is smeared back again from the rubber as it dips into the stuff in the gutter, just like a pen dipped in ink.
The particular problem with my lease car this time around turned out to be, as far as I can tell, the result of a manufacturing residue. Something gets on the glass during manufacture, and it’s still there when you get hold of the car.
How can you get it off?
Most detergents and surfactants will remove the normal deposits of wax and oil with varying degrees of success, though car wax is particularly stubborn. Even Fairy Liquid works up to a point. Some cleaners are more powerful – for reasons of chemistry – and are much more effective. Clearalex can be purchased (these days it’s a liquid, but you used to be able to buy it in sachets in powder form), and you add it to your screenwash. The problem with it is that it leaves a horrible white residue when it dries. I have had some success with Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS), which is an anionic surfactant used in many household products. It removes quite a lot of windscreen gunk, but it didn’t seem to touch wax (it also leaves a slight residue at the concentration you have to use it at).
Then I came across sugar soap. I’d not heard about this before, but it is used by decorators and builders to remove grease and dirt from surfaces prior to painting.
Wikipedia describes it thus:
Sugar soap as typically found in Commonwealth countries is a cleaning material of variable composition sold for use on surfaces affected by greasy or tarry deposits which are not easily removed with routine domestic cleaning materials. When in dry powder form it looks like table sugar thus causing the name.
The solution is alkaline and its uses include cleaning paintwork in preparation for repainting.
It looks exactly like Clearalex powder, and I suspect that there may be some similarities in chemical composition. However, compared to Clearalex, sugar soap is dirt cheap – one 5g sachet of Clearalex costs about £1.50, but sugar soap is about £2 for nearly half a kilo from Screwfix. I bought some and made up a batch. I soaked some soft cloths in it, gave the windscreen a good scrub and rinse, then took the car out for a run in the rain.
Initially, I thought it hadn’t worked, but with each wiper pass the glass was getting noticeably clearer. The sugar soap appeared to have softened whatever it was on the glass and it was gradually coming off. So when I got back home I made up another batch and soaked some rags in it, then left them covering the windscreen (including the bit at the bottom) for about half an hour. I also cleaned the blades with it. This time the windscreen was absolutely crystal clear.
Sugar soap is great for one-off cleaning, and it got rid of the residue I’d had trouble with, but it leaves the same horrible residue if you put it in your screenwash for normal use.
Not long after this I stopped using my local ESSO garage because the new management had added 5p to their fuel prices (they used to match Asda, but overnight became one of the most expensive in Nottingham). I shifted from using their Tiger Wash machine to a hand car wash, and I was intrigued at how clean they could get the car just using some small garden hand pumps and a power spray. The next time I was in, I did a bit of snooping around the bulk containers of the concentrates they were using, and discovered “TFR” – which is “traffic film remover”.
After reading up on this, I bought some TFR from a company called JennyChem. They also supply the mysterious cherry-smelling shampoo the hand car washes use. In a nutshell, a 1-2% TFR solution gets all the oil/wax film off a windscreen in one go, and it also seems to also attack the residue I’d been plagued with on my lease cars since that first one that had it, though sugar soap is still best for this. The same concentration in your wash bottle keeps it off, and it doesn’t leave much residue.
As time has gone by, I have started using the TFR in a small spray bottle to clean my alloys and bodywork in between visits to the hand car wash when I have an upcoming test. It removes brake dust from alloys like all get out, as well as summer tree gum and bird crap (especially when the little sods have been eating blackberries and insist on sitting on the telephone wire right above my driveway).
As a footnote, my hand car wash has just started using what I am assuming is a liquid wax (I haven’t yet identified it) that makes water bead very easily (and very impressively) when it rains. The problem is that it gets on the windscreen, and it is a sod to get off (two sugar soap treatments did it).
Does TFR damage the windscreen?
Does TFR damage paintwork?
If it is the non-caustic type, and if it is used at the manufacturer’s recommended concentration, no. But remember that TFR will remove any wax you have applied, so you will need to re-wax after using it on painted surfaces. However, removing wax is exactly what you want if it’s on your windows.
Strongly caustic types – which are cheaper and harsher, and often used to shift several centimetres of crap off the undersides of lorries – could damage painted surfaces if used at high strengths and if left on for too long.
The stuff supplied by JennyChem (linked to earlier) is not strongly caustic as far as I am aware, and is specifically designed for use on cars.
Does TFR leave a residue?
The stuff I use doesn’t – well, no more than normal windscreen washer solution does. You’ve got to remember that when you use your windscreen washers, you’re doing it to remove dirt on the windscreen. That dirt is visible, so when you wash it off it will leave visible streaks outside the wiper area when it dries. It’s like when a bird drops a load on the screen – when you wipe it off there’s a good chance it will sit on the screen at the edge until you scrape it off by hand. There’s not much you can do about that.
Is there a non-chemical solution?
A reader (from Australia) wrote to me to tell me that he had had success removing that new-windscreen film using Cerium Oxide paste. You can buy it easily from various places (including Amazon) in various forms – powder, paste, or block – and it is specifically used for polishing glass. If you buy it, make sure you get the finest grade possible – ideally, one which is specifically sold for the intended purpose.
Can you put oil on the windscreen to prevent smearing?
Or, as it was put to find the blog, “can u put oil on wind screen 2 prfent rain”? NO. It will make it worse. It’s oil (and suchlike) you are trying to remove. Put it on deliberately and you could end up killing yourself – you won’t be able to see properly.
You can buy things like Rain-X, which are intended to make water bead up and roll off more easily, but those who use it often complain that it is patchy in coverage and leads to worse problems with smearing when the wipers pass over the glass, especially as it starts to wear off. I nearly tried this, once, but the risk of it causing more problems put me off. I’m not saying it doesn’t work, just that not all reports about it are as positive as the advertising is.
My windscreen is smearing when it snows
That’s probably a different thing, and not “smearing” at all.
When the windscreen wiper rubbers get cold, they also get stiff. As a result, instead of flexing to the windscreen contours and bending forwards an backwards on each stroke of the wiper, they snag and bounce across. They may even not touch parts of the screen properly on the wipe. All of this is often accompanied by a horrible grunting sound, and it leaves behind a trail of smeared water.
Also, if there are remnants of snow on the blades, this can leave a trail of melt water as the blades wipe.
There’s not much you can do if it’s really cold except put up with it, or let them warm up as the windscreen warms up (a cold windscreen will also smear until it warms up). But scrape off any snow or ice and at least you won’t get melt water (and they’ll warm up quicker if they’re going to).
I see rain spots after my wipers wipe
You’ve got wax or some other coating on your screen. I get it after I’ve been to the car wash, and I get it off using TFR and/or sugar soap. I would guess that you also have a visible line where the wipers stop at the end of their wipe span – that’s where they pull wax or oil residues from the bottom of the screen and leave it behind as they change direction. Like I say, TFR gets it off.
Don’t forget that the wiper blades must also be cleaned. There’s no point cleaning the glass of wax if the rubber still has it on it. The wipers will put the wax back as soon as you use them.
They’re at it again. Someone has asked for advice on car leasing, and one of the replies (answering the wrong question, anyway) has stated that someone on a franchise pays £1,000 a month, whereas if you buy your own car and go independent, you save £1,000 a month.
How many more bloody times? NO. YOU. DON’T!
However you obtain your car, you have an ongoing cost associated with it. Unless you’re driving a 15 year old banger that never goes wrong, needs no maintenance or servicing, never has anything wear out or get a nail in it, and doesn’t need insurance, you are probably paying at least £250 a month for it all told. If it’s less than about 8 years old, this overhead cost could easily be £400-£500.
It isn’t just about how much you are paying for it per month if it’s on hire purchase. Or how much you initially paid. You have to factor in depreciation and having to replace it periodically, any maintenance, insuring it (lots of complaints about insurance hikes lately), getting dual controls fitted/removed, repairs, and so on. It isn’t costing you “nothing”. It’s costing a lot more than nothing.
Even if there is someone out there who has a banger, and does all their own servicing and repairs, they still have to get hold of parts and consumables. The equipment they use to do the work has got to be paid for somehow. And so does the time it would take them to do it – how on earth can you be a full time ADI if you are also a part time mechanic?
There is absolutely no such thing as an instructor car that “costs nothing”. But there are a hell of a lot of ADIs who don’t understand this.
I’ve explained it before in the article Should I Become A Driving Instructor?
Apologies to anyone who has had problems accessing the site the last day or so.
I’ve been trying to get a content delivery network (CDN) set up, and until yesterday every time I activated it the site went down. I finally got it sorted, and the site should be loading much faster now – especially where images are concerned.
However, the site has been up and down like a yo-yo today. I don’t think it is anything to do with the CDN, but more an issue with the IONOS (1&1) servers I host it on. It happens from time to time.
The article on the blog, Should I Become A Driving Instructor, is very popular. Yes, it’s very long, but there’s only so much information you can convey in a single Tweet, or with a couple of rows of emoticons in a Facebook post, and sometimes you have to go into the grown-ups’ world and actually read more than a handful of words to learn anything.
One of the points I make in that article – indeed, in a fair number of articles on this blog – is that many independent driving instructors have a completely blinkered view of the world, and genuinely believe that when they’re independent, every single penny they take from their pupils is profit. In particular, they sincerely believe that compared to a franchisee with a driving school who pays maybe £180 per week, they earn £180 extra by not having to pay a franchise.
When they’re giving bad advice to prospective or recently qualified instructors, they readily advise them to go independent and not to pay money to any of these thieves and robbers (aka driving schools). They say that they can get their own pupils just like that (and their car is free, of course), so why waste money paying someone to do it for you?
So it makes me smile when I see them online asking about pupil referral companies, and then seeing the replies that show a lot of other independents are already using those same companies. You’re not “independent” if you’re relying on someone else to get pupils for you. It doesn’t matter, of course – but it means the “independent” claim is simply untrue.
When someone is with a franchise, in most cases that franchise supplies pupils. If it’s a decent franchise, then a decent number of pupils will be available. So the £180 the franchisee is paying covers the car, insurance, pupil supply, and probably a few other things.
As I explain in the Should I Become A Driving Instructor article, an independent instructor will likely be paying between £70-£150 for a car if he or she is leasing it. If they buy outright, they’ll be paying about the same per week if they keep the car for three years (£70 for a Corsa, £130 for a Ford Focus, at least £150 for a BMW 113i) then sell it. Even if they have a banger, it’s still going to have a weekly cost for tax purposes of £30-£50. And if other Facebook posts are anything to go by, most independents are being asked to pay about £300-£400 a year on average for insurance (£6-£7 a week, though some are up to double that). These pupil referral companies charge around £20 per pupil.
Independents will deny all this, of course, but it’s true. Even an ADI using the cheapest (non-banger) car option is paying around £100 a week if he is taking these referrals. If the ADI has a BMW, he’s paying more like £170.
And franchises are a rip-off for new instructors, right?
Don’t get me wrong. I have no issue with these referral companies. I only have issues with instructors who mislead others by making false claims about how much it costs them to run their businesses (I wonder if they tell HMRC the same?) and how easy it is to source your own pupils, when they end up paying someone else to do it for them.
Well, the Clown Prince has finally had something go his way. We’re set for a General Election in December.
I am a lifelong Labour voter (and one time active Labour Party member), but I cannot vote for them while Corbyn is leader. His stance on Brexit – and what I know he feels about EU membership, in spite of the grudging position the Labour Party has adopted – means there’s even less chance of me voting Labour right now.
Quite honestly, under normal circumstances it doesn’t really matter who gets into power after a GE in the sense that the world keeps turning. It’s only after a few years that policies start coming through that begin to upset people, and that starts a chain reaction which leads to a change of power at the next GE. The only PM who has ever done any real good for this country in terms of the economy was Tony Blair. After him, even Gordon Brown wasn’t that bad, although most elderly and unenlightened members of the electorate will forever blame the 2009 global recession on him, as he was unfortunate enough to have it happen on his watch.
Right now, though, the only thing that interests me is Brexit, and I don’t care who is in power if their pledge is to stop it.
Brexit is not a political issue. However, it most definitely is a political tool. Johnson can count on every moron who wants to leave the EU voting for him just because he is promising to leave no matter what. However, remain voters are fragmented across several political parties. Recent opinion polls suggest that the remain/leave sentiment is still split 50:50, with the possibility from some polls that the remain side is further ahead than it has ever been since the referendum (though still close to 50:50). Even if the remain side had 60% of the vote in terms of EU membership, in a separate political vote to elect a government this would be split among two main parties Labour and Lib Dems) and several smaller ones.
Right now, Remainers are f***ed, because Johnson is almost certainly going to walk away with it. And this is in spite of the lies and appalling oratory he favours (I never thought I’d hear a reference to Charlie Brown in Parliament, but I did yesterday). I mean, I never thought people could be so stupid as to vote to leave the EU. But they did (albeit, only just). In the same year, I didn’t think people could be so stupid as to put Donald Trump in the White House. But they did. I’m not even going to wonder if they could be so stupid as to freely vote Johnson into No. 10, because I’m pretty certain they will be.
And all because they desperately want Brexit.
There is only one party that has had the balls to state outright that if they come into power they will stop Brexit. That is the Liberal Democrats. And that’s who will be getting my vote in the GE. I don’t care what their other policies are, because it simply doesn’t matter that much. But Brexit does matter. A lot.
So I urge all Remainers out there to ditch their political allegiances and vote for the Lib Dems. I also urge all young people – especially students – to plan ahead and make sure they can vote wherever they will be on 12 December. I’m fairly certain Johnson will have considered that the younger voters are the strongest remain demographic, and that with most Universities finishing for Christmas around that time some will perhaps not be registered properly to vote.
Brexit is wrong. It was wrong in 2016. It’s wrong now.
And it will still be wrong in 50 years’ time, when most current Brexiters won’t be around, but a lot of young people will be. It’s your future. Make sure you try and save it.
I had a heart stopper today.
I was on a lesson with a pupil who has her test booked in about a month’s time. She’s a good driver, and we’d done a two-hour motorway session in heavy traffic, road works, and rain. We were on our way back to her house, and I’d asked her to follow the signs towards Nottingham. She’d done really well, successfully interpreting signs saying “all routes” as we passed through Loughborough, as well as those specifically referring to Nottingham. Apart from Q&A and chit-chat, I wasn’t having to say much at all.
We approached a dual carriageway from a side road (T-junction) with Nottingham to the right, and it looked like she’d checked and decided it was safe to move into the central reservation. I know I would have gone if I was driving. Suddenly, she braked, stopping right in the middle of the carriageway closest to us. Cars travelling along the 50mph dual carriageway were forced to stop.
I got her moving, and when there was finally a chance to pull over I asked her why she had done what she did. Then it dawned on me, and I asked “did you realise it was a junction?”
She didn’t. She’d just driven straight out on to a 50mph road without realising it was there!
We all make mistakes, and this one was mine. Many of my pupils are occasionally freaked out by the fact that it seems I can read their minds. Obviously, I can’t. But what I can do is pick up on the smallest twitches, eye movements, inappropriate speed or acceleration,and so on, and realise what they’re thinking (or not) before they do something. In this case, I’d committed the cardinal sin and been complacent. I didn’t expect my pupil to make such a mistake and so wasn’t looking for it to happen – when usually, I am. But it did happen, and I wasn’t prepared for it.
We were lucky not to be involved in a pile-up, and I’m kicking myself for letting it get to that stage.
I would have liked to have apologised to the woman who had to stop, but obviously on a dual carriageway that’s not an option. In fact, it wasn’t for another few miles that we had the chance to stop to discuss it ourselves, and I was careful not to mention it until we did.
Anyway, if my hard lesson helps anyone else, that’s good. Just remember: never forget that your learners are learners all the time they’re with you.
This is getting beyond a joke now. Take a look at the map of current road works in Nottingham (click the image above, or click here, for the full-size version).
This section of the map doesn’t even show the whole of the county, nor does it include at least two of the telephone pole replacement operations I’ve been caught up in over the last few of days.
There are literally hundreds of the f***ing things (every dot represents at least one, but sometimes several separate works). You get diverted by one set, then you get held up on the diversion route by another – made worse by the fact that traffic is being diverted that way from multiple locations.
If you think that’s bad, look at the 12 month forecast. And yes, the prats are going to be closing the A60 at some point at Daybrook and diverting Ring Road volumes of traffic through the side streets in Arnold – where other works are also planned. It’s just going to get worse and worse.
This is the result of incompetence of the highest order across many organisations. The Council, Severn Trent, Cadent, the electric companies, BT… all of them. The whole thing is made worse by the fact that relatively small jobs are invariably scheduled to last ten times longer than they need to – and frequently over run.
Cadent has been working on multiple sites on a rolling plan for getting on for a decade now. A typical example of their efficiency can be seen at the junction between the Ring Road and Beechdale Road. It’s one of the busiest junctions in Nottingham, and a few weeks ago (30 September) they blocked off part of the left-turn slip road into Beechdale. This caused major tailbacks because only one or two cars could get into the slip before the lights, which meant that fewer overall passed through the junction with each sequence. That was bad enough, but last week they blocked the left turn completely, and now traffic either follows the official diversion, or – if it knows better routes – goes through the narrow side streets. But it now means that all Ring Road traffic has to go ahead at the junction, causing bigger tailbacks than ever beyond the Crown Island. To add insult to injury – and the reason I’m singling them out – on at least two days last week absolutely no one from Cadent or anywhere else did any work whatsoever on that junction. There was literally no one there. No one at all.
Those works are scheduled up until 11 November. Over a whole f***ing month. And yet they could do it in a much shorter time if they didn’t employ time-wasting arseholes, and who actually worked for a living, and did proper hours, instead of the standard two in the morning, two in the afternoon, and two in the van eating and not talking to each other. And who didn’t spend half of their “work” time pissing about with their phones. And incidentally, there’s no absolute reason for the slip lane to be closed in the first place, because they’re working on the verge – it’s the usual Health & Safety thing, where work can’t take place if traffic is passing within 5 metres, so they close off lanes to make sure it isn’t. Oh, and they aren’t working weekends or – it seems – if it’s raining. They are a joke outfit.
Severn Trent is also worth a mention. They are different to the others in that they never do any maintenance work (unless it involves maximum disruption in the first place), but instead wait until there is a leak. Then, they still do nothing until the leak has either damaged the road to the point of being dangerous, or has worsened to the point where people are reporting sightings of sea mammals going past the shops, and passing pilots heading to East Midlands are moaning about wet windscreens. At this point, they install temporary lights – the batteries of which they frequently allow to drain, resulting in the lights staying on red – then go away for a week. Then they come back, dig a hole, and go away again. A week later, they come back and fill the hole in, then go away again. Eventually, someone puts some tarmac over the filled-in hole, then goes away again. Several days later, someone comes to remove the traffic lights to use in a similar pantomime somewhere else. The whole process of fixing a leak takes at least two f***ing weeks (several months if you allow for when water was first reported gushing out of the ground), when it should be done in a day. And I know they could do it that quickly, because when they have one of their not-infrequent catastrophic leaks, they can dig up an entire road, replace a main, and put the road back in a fraction of the time it takes them to do one of the small ones. And Severn Trent is the only company I know that seems to think tarmac takes four days to cure before it can be driven on.
I often tell my pupils about how we didn’t used to have wheelie bins when I was their age. Instead, we had cylindrical metal dustbins, which had a small handle on each side. Usual custom was to fill it to overflowing with filth that was almost alive (in hot summers, it often was), possibly because of the batteries and any other electrical item you could cram in with the food waste, then wait for the bin men to come round every Monday, pick it up and sling it over their shoulder, and take it out to the dustbin van and manually empty it in there. A common follow up custom for some residents was to complain to the Council because the bin men hadn’t put the dustbin back exactly where it came from, or had left the lid off (these dustbins had round metal lids). Christ, you could have filled the dustbin to the brim with wet cement the night before, and they’d still take it out and empty it for you. They’d also take cupboards and almost anything else you left next to the dustbin. But these days, if the lid of the wheelie bin isn’t shut properly they’ll refuse to empty it – and you have to take it out to the roadside yourself, and bring it back in once emptied.
It’s the same with road works. Once upon a time, they could resurface several miles of road in a day, because they worked almost continuously – overnight and weekends. I mean, back in the day you could go to bed one night, and wake up next morning with a new motorway ready to drive on. These days you’re lucky if they do ten feet of road a day and work for more than an hour at a time. And it still takes a week or two more before someone comes and paints the lines on again (but only on the newly laid surface, because the faded lines on the old bits they haven’t touched “aren’t part of the contract”). And as for the signage… well, fixing that can take years (they still haven’t put signs up for the Virgin and Racecourse roundabouts after building the eco-clown route on the Colwick Loop Road, and that was finished almost two years ago).
Something has got to be done about this.