More Pointless Variable Message Signs

A recent article by @MajorGav and some subsequent banter on Twitter made me laugh. Nothing unusual in that. Then over the weekend we had a journey that made me cross. Nothing unusual in that either. But the two matters are linked. By Pointless Variable Message Signs (‘PVMS’).

For reasons that are irrelevant to this, we were returning from Milton Keynes to Kent, M1 then M25 on Saturday evening. The weather was summery – that is to say, heavy and prolonged showers. The PVMS on the M1 told us that there was CONGESTION in both directions of the M25. Further along we were told to expect LONG DELAYS in both directions. All well and good.

But, with a veritable shedload of matrix dots available, why the hell not give the driver more and useful information. As Gav has commented, there is space to ask IS YOUR CAR READY FOR THE WINTER? Given 33 characters, why not say QE2 BRIDGE CLOSED, or FIVE LANES GOING TO ONE or EXPECT 90 MINS DELAY or YOU’RE REALLY STUFFED FOR KENT?

Because that’s what it was. The QE2 Dartford Bridge, a marvellous piece of engineering, was closed for resurfacing and hence southbound traffic was going through the eastern bore of the Dartford Tunnel. Perfectly sensible really. Other than as a nation we are incapable of blending traffic lines in an efficient and orderly manner, but that is a separate rant. Along with incorrectly spaced number plates.

It is the same argument as the airport terminal. Uncertainty is the bugger. Just give me some information so that I can make an informed decision.

“Your plane will be delayed by two hours because it is not yet even in the right country.” Good, thank you, I will relax, tell my family to relax and we will partake of an overpriced and underwhelming snack in one of your airport’s fine eateries.

“The bridge that you wish to use is closed, we will be cramming five times the volume through a single tunnel.” Good, thank you, I will stop at South Mimms for a comfort break and some refreshments to help my family through the forthcoming pain, of which we are now aware. Or I might take a detour through London and find some other way of crossing the river.

Or just warn me as I head north through the tunnel at lunchtime that COMING BACK TO KENT TONIGHT? THINK AGAIN.

On the plus side, the tolls were free.

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Peter Counsell
Official. And still here. 48. No longer in my prime.

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