We don't often talk about sport, but some events are too big to ignore. The World Cup is one of them. And rather unexpectedly, Highways England have some World Cup news about the motorway network.
The Fifa World Cup is, of course, silly season for press releases from every organisation that can somehow shoehorn football into their usual business. But with that said, Highways England have today excelled themselves with some World Cup motorway facts.
Traffic levels on the trunk road network are expected to be down by at least a third during the semi-final match tonight - that's based on observations during the last England game on Saturday, when traffic levels from one hour before the game to a point two hours after it finished were 33% lower than on a normal Saturday.
What will be interesting to see (and here at CBRD Towers we are slightly more interested in this than in the result of the match - sorry) is whether the same will also apply on a weekday. It might not: journeys on weekday evenings are less likely to be optional, because many of those out on main roads at 7pm on a Wednesday will be commuter, commercial and goods traffic that will have much less choice about travel time. But on the other hand, with every match the stakes are higher: more people will be willing to go to greater lengths to see a semi final than a quarter final, more people will be allowed out of work early, and more people will endure changes of plan to get themselves in front of the game. Because of that, our gut feeling is that there will be an even greater effect on traffic levels tonight.
One particularly interesting observation that Highways England have made is that traffic was not noticeably heavier than usual before or after the game - which suggests that people were not travelling early or delaying their journey to fit around the match. Instead, they weren't travelling at all. That, again, is not as likely to apply on a weekday, when plans are not so easily changed. A day at work and an early commute home is more likely than not travelling at all for most people.
There's evidence, too, that Highways England have been thinking a bit less literally and a bit more laterally about the football, and they've named two "World Cup motorways". Brace yourself.
The M66 and the M18 are, according to HE's press office, exactly 52 miles apart - the number of years between 1966 and today. The M18 has seven junctions, the same as the number of World Cup matches England will play if they reach the final.
Unfortunately for Highways England, by our measurements the M66 and M18 are 42 miles apart at their closest point and their furthest extremities are 55 miles apart, so they are only separated by 52 miles if you choose to deliberately measure between two arbitrary points on the motorways that happen to be 52 miles apart.
Joylessly squashing something that's meant to be a bit of fun? Us? Never. To show we're getting fully into the spirit, here's some of our own (verifiably true, highly tenuous) facts about the two World Cup motorways.
- Lost several miles of route to the M60 in 2000, a year in which England also lost out, failing to make it past the group stages of the Euros.
- Has four junctions north of the M60, including the terminus on the A56, which does not have a junction number. Four is the number of goals scored by England in the 1966 World Cup final.
- Before the sections south of Simister became part of the M60, had a total route length of almost 13 miles - the same as the number of letters in the name "Bobby Charlton".
- Now has a total route length of 8 miles - the same as the number of letters in "World Cup". (OK, I think that means we've run out of M66 facts.)
- Is not by any sensible measure 52 miles from the M66.
- The first section, between the M1 and A1, opened in 1967, when England were still reigning world champions.
- Is the sixth closest motorway to Southgate, Huddersfield.
If we've proven anything, it's that finding links between motorways and the World Cup is virtually impossible and blog posts like this are at best ill-advised.
If Highways England have proven anything, on the other hand, it's that huge national events like tonight's semi final have a very noticeable effect on traffic levels - and if football is indeed coming home, it's probably not coming home on the M66.
If you can find any other tenuous connections between the World Cup and the M66 or M18, we'd be delighted to see them in the comments. It won't take much to beat ours.
No-one is coming home via the M66, it's always congested because it only has two lanes each way yet serves an entire commuter belt...
Turns out M18 is just another M90.
M66 relates to 1966 (the year we won)
M18 relates to 2018 (the year we thought we’d win)
Did Highways England have this mind, or is this pure coincidence?
On the traffic aspect, my missus came back from a friend on the other side of Crewe and told me it was ram packed with traffic when it is normally fairly light. Her short journey took nearly an hour when it normally is about 30 minutes, so in towns I reckon a lot of locals skived-off early
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- "'It's coming home' - be safe and marvel at England's two 'World Cup' motorways!", Highways England, 10/07/18.