Leader of Birmingham.pm [pm.org] and a CPAN author [cpan.org]. Co-organised YAPC::Europe in 2006 and the 2009 QA Hackathon, responsible for the YAPC Conference Surveys [yapc-surveys.org] and the QA Hackathon [qa-hackathon.org] websites. Also the current caretaker for the CPAN Testers websites and data stores.
If you really want to find out more, buy me a Guinness
Last night I was caught up in the horrendous closure of the M5. I had the radio, so could keep up to date with what had happened, and just sit and wait until it had all sorted itself out. Thankfully the northbound carriageway was opened up to 2 lanes, just as I was approaching J6. I feel sorry for everyone going southbound as many had been there for several hours and had no hope of going anywhere for a few more.
The 2 accidents together caused mayhem to the roads in Hereford and Worcestershire, and made you realise just how much disruption can be done by lorry accidents.
There is a move to introduce congestion charges on to drivers, rather than on the fuel. Charges would be made based on congestion blackspots and time of day, then drivers would be charged per mile. Aside from shifting the congestion on to other roads, the researchers don't seem to have noticed how congestion occurs. From my experience, particularly for the M5 between Birmingham and Gloucester, rush hour is made worse by lorries. They often try and overtake each other and can slow traffic in the outside lane down to 50mph or less. I have also known laden 7.5 trucks to use the outside lane, which they are not supposed to do.
A better proposal would be to have lorries banned from roads during the hours of 7-9am and 4.30-6.30pm on a week day. This would enforce lorry drivers to take breaks and allow a better flow of car/van traffic during peak periods. It would also be good to have haulage by rail or canal made more appealing, and thus take heavy goods off the roads altogether.
I don't know the reasons behind the crashes yesterday, and the first happened outside of rush hour anyway. But attempting to reduce traffic might be a more sensible solution than having to increase costs to clean up the mess.
Regarding the congestion charges, there was a TV report a few weeks ago, to figure out how much it would cost motorists. A guy travelling pretty the same distance I do, could expect to pay between £2500 and £4000 more. He then tried using public transport. A 50 minute journey took over 2 hours, he arrived late for work (he took the first available buses and trains), and it cost him more than the car. I would fair pretty much the same. I'd be more than happy to use public transport if it offered a service I could use at a sensible cost.
We are in dire need of public service investment in the UK, as well as safer roads, but congestion charges are not going to make either happen.