Plans for having a happy holiday

WITH spring snow making life miserable for people Up North and rain creating a soggy South, it is a dilemma knowing what to do this Easter break. For those intending to get away from it all by flying off to warmer climes, the British weather in the next f

WITH spring snow making life miserable for people Up North and rain creating a soggy South, it is a dilemma knowing what to do this Easter break.

For those intending to get away from it all by flying off to warmer climes, the British weather in the next few days is of little concern to them.

But what about the rest of us they will leave behind at home? Do we crank up the central heating and settle back in a comfortable armchair to watch the world go by through the window? Or do we pack the car and head off for a different part of the country?

With the second option - which is likely to be chosen by millions - it is odds on that these plucky souls will end up frustratingly being stuck on a motorway in a stop-start traffic jam.


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While they are there, stationary and fuming, they may like to ponder on the age-old question concerning jams that form and then eventually disperse for no apparent reason.

If they cannot come up with a solution they can take some satisfaction in knowing that researchers are on the case.

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It seems that although most changes in vehicle speed and road position get absorbed by traffic flow, sometimes they combine in a "perfect storm" to create "phantom" traffic jams.

Understanding why this happens is being studied in a project supported by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (no, I'd not heard of it before either) that hopefully will lead to better traffic flow forecasting to help prevent congestion.

There is a learned doctor from the University of Bristol who has made progress in creating mathematical models for describing phantom traffic jams, or stop-and-go waves as they are known in the trade. He is due to talk about his research on the BBC One Show tomorrow (Friday).

No doubt he will mention that traffic models have been looked at in a new way using "string instability" theory to test how good existing computer-based methods are at predicting how traffic flows and queues build up and dissipate.

I bet you can hardly wait to watch the show. I think it will be better than being stuck in a jam on some distant motorway.

If you do stay at home this bank holiday weekend, just remember that Easter marks the official start of the DIY season with many proud homeowners eagerly rolling up their sleeves to tackle the improvements they have been waiting to do all winter.

But there is a reminder this week from a government-backed organisation that amateur DIYers taking on these jobs could find they cost them more in the long run, having to pay out to have botched DIY work fixed.

There is also the risk to one's well being - each year around 200,000 DIY enthusiasts visit hospital as a result of a home improvement accident. In my experience, there is little danger of injury falling from an armchair.

Maybe all this will help you decide what you want to do this weekend. Happy holidays.

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