Except on Wednesdays, on Wednesday I have to get up early and go to the office, this is not usually too much of a chore and takes around 90 minutes each way.
Today was different, I made a small five minute diversion to collect a colleague to whom I was giving a lift and then due to a little problem near the M6/M61 junction spent a fun filled three hours sitting in traffic crawling along the M56. At least I had company instead of being on my own.
Before I did the return journey I decided to check the traffic news sites. Oh dear now the M60 was stuffed, I altered the route and only had to queue on the M56 for twenty minutes or so. I dropped my colleague off at his place (avoiding the worst bits of the M62/M66 junctions by use of a rather convoluted back route) and proceeded to queue on the M62 for a while for no apparent reason.
Basically I have spent almost seven hours in the car today to do a 150 miles or a little over 20 miles per hour average. I was just going to rant about the dreadful lack of any redundancy or resilience in the UK road system which often grinds to a complete and utter halt if there is a single failure.
However a different thought has wandered across my travel weary mind. It has occurred to me that this average speed is faster than anyone could reasonably expect to do this trip for the majority of human existence.
In 1810 and indeed for all time before, your best possible speed by good horse, for 150 miles, would have been two days (and your horse would have probably been very poorly afterwards) This assumes your horse could do the 75miles (120km) each way in times consistent with modern world endurance trials... across a mountain range! Yes the Pennines are only tiny but even so!
A hundred years later, in 1910, the British railway network was nearing its zenith in most measurable terms. The influence across the north of England was profound and pushed the industrial revolution ever faster towards its climax before the first world war. Even at this point in time my best reading of the available timetables says I would have needed to change trains four times each way, purchased eight separate tickets from six different companies and taken around nine hours to make the journey allowing for hanging around on platforms.
Another fifty years on, in 1960, the trans-pennine car journey would have been on poorly maintained trunk routes through the decaying cores of the declining post-industrial northern cities. The route would probably have involved the A646, A59 or the A58 which at this time were not the well maintained (if slightly shabby) roads of today but instead were dangerous twisty and, from the looks of the archive photographs, positively heaving with traffic. On these pre-motorway strips of tarmac the 150 mile round trip would have taken in excess of seven hours (even today's mapping systems suggest over four and a half hours would be needed)
So instead of being frustrated that my commute took an extended period today I have instead decided that I shall enjoy the fact it was faster and certainly more comfortable than at any time in the past. Well that and I need to get the cars air-conditioning fixed ;-)