Taking Stock - November 28, 2011

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IF you’ve been driving around Blackpool over the last year or so you’ll no doubt have come across a pothole or two.

And, with winter on the way the doom and gloom merchants are busy telling us the problem is only going to get worse.

These lumps and bumps, according to motoring pressure groups, are costing drivers millions of pounds in repairs, and costing the taxpayer just as much to repair.

But why, I ask, have things got so bad?

Cold weather is nothing new, and I’d have thought, after more than a century of road building, we’d have come up with a way to stop the cracks and mini canyons appearing.

We are, after all, a nation of engineers who have changed the world.

British ingenuity gave us the industrial revolution – steam-powered mass manufacturing.

Travel was changed forever when some clever chap decided to bolt a kettle to some wheels and gave us the railways and the world shrunk forever when a certain Mr Brunel built his first iron-hulled ship.

Concorde – that was us, and the world wide web.

And, despite what you might hear, we’re still at it.

Take Formula One as an example.

The races might take place in some of the world’s most exotic locations (and Northamptonshire), but the cars, well, they tend to be dreamed up by a bunch of boffins in Milton Keynes.

And we’re still world leaders in aviation, too.

Britain has the second biggest aerospace industry in the world – and builds the biggest aircraft in the world too.

Yes, the A380 might be put together in France, from parts made in Germany and Italy, but we’re responsible for the most important part – the wings.

Every single one of these monsters, half the width of a football pitch, is hand-built on the glamorous outskirts of Chester.

The engines are ours too, put together by that most British of endeavours – Rolls-Royce.

So you see, there really is more to be proud of than a few bagless vacuum cleaners and a wind up radio.

So why then are we in such a pickle over potholes?

Well, maybe the answer lies in another great British institution.

What the pothole needs is a good old bit of spin.

We Brits, or at least those we’ve elected to represent us, spend thousands every year on lumps, bumps, rumble strips and annoying smiley faced signs – all in the hope they will convince drivers to slow down.

But wait, isn’t there something else which does precisely that, for absolutely nothing.

So, maybe the time has come to see potholes in a different light.

They’re not an expensive menace to our motoring ambitions – think of them instead as low budget traffic-calming.