Thursday 19 September 2019

Radio: M50 mess is yet another car crash in Irish planning

The AA's Conor Faughnan.
The AA's Conor Faughnan.
Darragh McManus

Darragh McManus

Another day, another traffic problem. Fresh from the mayhem occasioned by Luas cross-city, there's a controversy brewing over the M50, whose new payment system, we heard on The Pat Kenny Show (Newstalk, Mon-Fri 9am) could involve "multi-point tolling".

To unpick the threads, stand-in host Jonathan Healy brought on Conor Faughnan of the AA: Irish radio's go-to guy whenever anything to do with roads is in the news. This makes him quite overexposed - Healy even joked about Faughnan having probably spoken about this topic eight or nine times already.

But in fairness, he remains a knowledgeable and competent contributor. And it's not Faughnan's fault there aren't more like him, qualified to discuss this stuff.

Anyway, the crux of the matter, he informed us, is this: it's all about "demand management". The M50 has reached capacity; they can't widen it, they can't make it a double-decker motorway.

So the authorities do what they usually do: tax it. This reduces traffic, yes, but as Faughnan pointed out, these drivers still have to get from A to B. Taking them off the M50 merely diverts them somewhere else, e.g. suburban roads and residential streets.

He added: "What problem are you solving, if you don't have an alternative for the individual user? What do you achieve?"

In the end, he reckoned, "nothing else will work" other than investing in public transport. We have to get people out of cars - otherwise, Faughnan concluded, "you're just tweaking".

Word of Mouth (BBC Radio 4, Mon 11pm) has been one of my favourite shows for years. Running since 1992, it's consistently enlightening, surprising and informative, and really very charming in that understated, softly-spoken Radio 4 way.

The programme is about English and how it's spoken, covering everything from acronyms, slang and poetry to the etymology of words and how the language has changed down the years, and continues to change. It's manna from heaven for logophiles (that means someone who loves words, which you might know if you also - well - love words).

This week they examined the best ways to sign off an electronic communication: email, text, WhatsApp, whatever. We used to end letters with terms such as "yours faithfully", but the online age has changed all that.

Co-hosts Michael Rosen and Dr Laura Wright spoke to Emma Gannon, who wrote an interesting, kind of depressing book about growing up in the digital age: Ctrl, Alt, Delete.

The main "take away" from their chat, for me, was this: the more important you are in life, the more brief and peremptory you can be in communications. Or, you know, rudeness, as that's also known.

They cited Hillary Clinton, whose leaked emails were, Emma said, "very blunt" - full of barked orders like "update me" or "is this done?" Meanwhile, I had to laugh at one listener who signed off emails with "regards"…but added the prefix "kind" when she "needed to be passive-aggressive" with someone.

Also on Radio 4, You & Yours (Mon-Fri 12.15pm) looked at a faintly surreal new phenomenon in fashion: "dadcore". According to Balenciaga's top designer, "there is nothing more beautiful than a young dad out with his kids", and the way they dress has become a hot trend on the catwalk.

Reporter Harry Kretchmer visited a London park to meet some papas. One guy, he told us, was wearing trainers, tracksuits bottoms, "a variety of layers" and "something slightly smarter on top". He looked, Kretchmer told him, like he was wearing "pure dadcore". The man dryly replied, "Yeah - obviously I follow the trends from Balenciaga pretty closely."

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