West London ground to a halt today.  The cause was a car accident near the Hammersmith Flyover at 3am that, despite not being fatal or involving more than one car, lead to the entire area being sealed off by the police for forensic investigation and not handed back to TfL, apparently, until 1pm, resulting in near-total gridlock.  This tendency to shag everything up after an accident is an unfortunate trend in policing over about the last 15 years or so – the Southall rail crash was similarly treated as a crime scene, greatly delaying clear-up operations, but the sea of stationary traffic I passed on my walk to the shops around lunchtime was testament to the extreme fragility of the road network in London to such events.

Naturally, like burst water mains (and indeed the fire in the same area the other day), this sort of incident is completely immune to Boris’s plans to tinker with traffic lights and so on to ‘smooth traffic flow’.  In fact, the only real ways to mitigate the effects are to build lots of new roads (yeah, bring it on, sucker) or get people out of cars so the jams are less severe.  Certainly, Shanks’ Pony was much the best option today and doubtless would be healthier too, apart from the unfortunate effects of all the exhaust gases I can, even now, still taste.

Boris could, of course, investigate why the police felt it necessary to close things for ages and whether TfL pushed sufficiently hard to have the road re-opened earlier, but somehow I can’t see him having the guts to get into the detail.  It’s a bit reminiscent of Snowday, really, on which note there’s an interesting coincidence:

A Met spokesman said: “The lamp post had to be sorted out by the council and we had to conduct a forensic examination of the scene and unfortunately it took time. This was a road traffic accident which needs to be properly investigated.”

The council, of course, is run by our old slash-and-burn friends at Hammersmith and Fulham.  The Met Police is run, when there’s good news, by Boris Johnson and Kit Malthouse (and at other times by Jacqui Smith).  TfL is run by Daniel Moylan, pp. Boris Johnson.  Even the Flyover itself was built by Ernest Marples’ civil engineering company, albeit back in 1961.

I hope someone asks hard questions at the next MQT.  Nine hours for a minor single-vehicle accident is seriously taking the piss – by way of comparison I was only held up for half an hour on the Severn Bridge yesterday by a two-vehicle smash that left oil spread across three lanes.

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