Germaine Greer says Britain's 'primitive' roads are a disgrace
We need roads like those in Italy and France, says author, but Highways Agency isn't up to the task
GERMAINE GREER has lambasted the "primitive" state of Britain's roads as well as the government agency responsible for their management and maintenance.
Writing in the Daily Telegraph, the Australian-born feminist says most country roads in the UK are "potholed, weed-infested messes with no genius evident in their planning or management". She contrasts Britain's dire highways with Italy's "breathtaking" road network and the "elegant" viaducts that link France's stretches of smooth tarmac.
Greer says the UK's motorways are inadequately serviced in terms of petrol stations and other facilities and a social media campaign is needed to get the Highways Agency – the body that manages and maintains the roads – to lift its game.
"They [British roads] should be the absolute best that we can manage, in engineering, in design and in construction," writes Greer. "They offer a huge opportunity that in Britain is in great part wasted."
Greer's column coincides with the news that Britain's second toll motorway is to be given the green light in what The Times calls an "attempt to stimulate the faltering economy with capital spending". The paper says a "decade-old plan to ease congestion on the M4 in South Wales" has been dusted off by the government as part of a multibillion-pound road-building scheme.
The new motorway can't be built soon enough for Greer, who considers roads to be "the most significant buildings of the 21st century". Unfortunately for Britons, the UK's roads are in the hands of a "mysterious" body called the Highways Agency. Greer says the organisation's five year strategic plan, released in 2010, is a "preposterous assemblage of pseudo-inspirational guff".
What the agency really needs to address, writes Greer, is the shortage of services on the UK's motorways. Motorists who urinate in the hard shoulder face a £30 fine, but surely it is more dangerous to drive with a "bursting bladder", she says. "As it is you might as well be catheterised before you set out to drive any considerable distance on a British motorway."
The scarcity of petrol stations on British motorways is also an issue, writes Greer. Drivers are forced to venture off the main roads to buy fuel, but a lack of signs indicating the whereabouts of the nearest petrol stations leaves drivers confused and "on their own".
"That British drivers are reduced to carrying spare cans of petrol in their cars is enough to disqualify the Highways Agency from ever claiming to be the 'world's leading road operator'," she writes.