Long distance travel is a very relative thing; I grew up in a family that, during my teen years, would go on 8-hour road trips to an event of some fashion and basically spend more time in the car than at the actual destination. So to me, riding in a car for several hours nonstop was never a big deal in the States.
But, then again, in my time in the UK I’ve come to appreciate the small things that made road trips enjoyable in the US; things like exit ramps and actual rest stops with more than two buildings on them. Because it’s a basic reality that you can go for several miles on a road outside of the cities and not see a turn off or real rest stop for a very, very, long time in the UK.
You know this, because when you pass one by, you have to resign yourself to: tying a knot in it (and you know what the “it” I’m talking about is), praying you won’t NEED to tie a knot in it, or resorting to pulling over to the shoulder and peeing into the ditch of shame(™).
Yes, it’s a thing. Because that’s what they have in the UK. Instead of more off ramps/towns/rest stops, they have wider shoulder areas and SOS phones (yes, that is the term they use for emergency phones on the side of the road – emergency phones on the side of the road in the 21st century!) sporadically dotted along the limbless stretch of winding tarmac.
Not really much of a surprise once you realise that 93% of the UK is not urban. Moreover, the same link I just gave you goes on to say how less than half of the spaces classed as urban actually have been built on. It snakes on but the gists of it are this: all of 2.3% of the UK has actually been built on.
So the next time someone tells you that the UK is full and cannot hold anymore people, it might be good to remind them that is because the UK has flagged and slagged so far behind in their infrastructure for so long (we’re talking 40+ years of PM’s can-kicking and burying their heads in the sand, people; don’t get it twisted – they’re all guilty) that the UK has a housing bubble/crisis (that depends on who you’re asking) where now the average home costs £160k+ and I’ve personally observed a £100 or more a month jump in rents across my own region. Studio apartments, arguably the smallest accommodation one can obtain without sharing a house, used to be £240/month are now £340 or more a month – which is only made worse due to Thatcher-eqsue council home selloffs at almost ten times the rate in which they are being replaced, which is basically a roundabout privatisation of the whole thing, given that almost half of them are then sub-let back out again after being bought in London alone.
So what started out as a basic conversation about national travel in the UK has now become a blistering and downright grisly image of how ya’ll have just shot yourselves into the collective proverbial foot, I’ll say this: as damning as my assertions may well be, it can be fixed.
How? Well, right now, what we have is a sellers/renters’ market – anyone selling or renting can name whatever price they want because the demand is so high that you have to either accept it or live out on the streets. We have said market because there are simply not enough houses to go around; meaning, one way or another the UK needs to build, and more than just building – we need to build to cater to the low-to-middle income market, because those are the groups that are feeling (no surprise) the brunt of pain in the current system.
This could be achieved several ways, but for the moment (if anyone has better ideas, feel free to share them in the comments; I’d love to hear them and expand upon the notion) I’m leaning towards incentive-based building schemes – specifically, I would like to see one with a 1:1 government incentive to anyone building homes (with a value, to make it challenging, no grater than £100,000 for single family residences and the incentive only covering half of that cost, so £50,000 from the government, £50,000 from the ones owning the project). It would make for small homes, to be fair, but there definitely needs to be low limit on how much the home could be valued to ensure that it targets the ones in need.
For those building rental accommodation, I would have the incentive scheme tied to how much the of the rent cost would be for first 5 years after completion (so, for example, in the first 5 years they would have to rent each unit for no more than X amount to receive the grant – if the owner of the property fails to comply, they have to refund the total amount the government granted OR the government can repossess the property). So in this scenario, it works more like a loan
Obviously, those are very rough ideas, and as I said, the option I’m only leaning towards currently. But I’m just a job-stealing/benefit-leaching/non-integrating/scum-of-the-earth immigrant; what do I know about anything? XD