Thursday, February 23, 2006

Save Our Miles

Anger as Kinock demands metric signposts
Daily Express
Thursday February 23, 2006
By John Ingham
Transport Editor

All Britain's road signs should be converted to kilometres within three years, former Labour leader Neil Kinnock said yesterday.
His demand sparked outrage - and did not even receive backing from the European Commission.
Lord Kinnock, who spent 10 years as a Commissioner, declared that sticking with our imperial measures contradicted Britain's image as a "modern, multicultural, dynamic" country.
He backed a 66-page report by the UK Metric Association which called for signs to be converted. It put the total bill at £80 million, adding, "The change-over could be carried out economically and safely within three to five years."
Last night Lord Kinnock was accused if selling Britain short - after having opposed the country's entry into the European Union in the 1970s.
He faced a backlash from motoring organisations, politicians and pressure groups amid warnings that a change-over could reduce road safety. Critics claimed that the bill would be £1 billion.
The head of the AA Motoring Trust's road and transport policy, Paul Watters, said a quick change-over could lead to an increase in speeding prosecutions.
He added: "A move to make UK road signs metric will take far longer than five years. Any precipitous change-over will create confusion, danger and anger, particularly where misunderstanding leads to prosecution for traffic offences, such as speeding. The cost of changing road signs will far exceed that predicted in the report."
Shadow Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said: "There is no appetite for a change. The huge amount it would cost would be far better spent on actually improving our road and rail systems."
The RAC Foundation's executive director Edmund King said: "Lord Kinnock does not seem to be in tune with what motorists are thinking. We have not had one single call from a motorist asking for road signs to be in kilometres.
"Motorists akready spend too much time staring at speedometers instead of the road ahead because we have such strict enforcement of speed limits.
"The fact that on most car dashboards the kilometre per hour are in much smaller print might well make them look even harder."
A Commission spokesman said: " At some point the UK will have to state a date for changing but we are not pushing for it. The ball is in the UK's court."
The Commissioner responsible, Gunter Verhuegen, added: "I am not pressuring the UK to go metric. I have a lot of sympathy for the pint and for the mile in the UK. Really, what is the problem?"
Last night a spokesman for the Department for Transport said the mile was safe.
He added: "There are absolutely no plans to do this whatsoever. We estimate that changing all the signs would cost more than £700 million. We have much better things to spend taxpayers money on."
Tony Bennett, of Active Resistance to Metrication, said: "The most advanced country in the world, the United States, uses miles. One of the most successful European countries, the UK, has not adopted the euro or kilometres. So why don't we leave things as they are?"
In the report Lord Kinnock declares: "Forty years after Britain first started to go officially metric, there is one important area in which we are still living in the imperial past. We see this in the muddle of measurement units in use in the United Kingdom.
"Our road signs are perhaps the most obvious example and they contradict the image - and the reality - of our country as a modern, multiculteral, dynamic place where the past is valued and respected and the future is
approached with creativity and confidence."
The UKMA pointed out that Britain is already officially metric, including price labels, school text books and building plans, but road signs remain imperial.
It said: "This forces British people to know and use two incompatible systems, metric and imperial, with all the confusion, mistakes, waste and incomprehension that results.

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