Monday, 1 December 2014

The Many versus The Few

View from the A303 (looks better than this in reality)
It might seems strange, but some British road planners have just faced the kind of dilemma beloved of Star Trek - and have made a decision I find quite sad.

Anyone who has watched shows like Star Trek, Buffy, Battlestar Galactica etc. (basically any ensemble show where the characters' lives are put at risk) will be familiar with the 'Many versus the Few' dilemma. Our heroes get in a situation where they really ought to apply the dictum 'the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few'. It's what Mr Spock usually wants to do. But in this case, the 'few' at risk are their comrades, and so they invert the rule and put the lives of many at risk to save a few. (This is, of course, related to the trolley experiment I've referenced before.)

What has this to do with road planners? I have just read that the go-ahead has been given to construct a tunnel so that the A303 is not visible from Stonehenge. The result will be that visitors to our local ancient monument (though not the best - don't forget Avebury!) will have a more 'authentic' view as they look over the much-farmed Wiltshire landscape from the roped-off perimeter of the stones. What no one seems to have noticed is that this also means that Stonehenge will not be visible from the A303 - and I think that's a real pity.

Seeing Stonehenge appear as you pass it by is, for me, one of the greatest driving experiences in the UK. I have regularly rerouted a drive to make sure I go along this stretch of the A303 just to see it. Particularly near sunset in summer it is a wonderful sight. And, of course, far more people get this amazing experience as a result of driving past than ever take the trip to the visitors' centre to plod around that perimeter barrier.

So what they have decided to do is sacrifice the experience of the many for the experience of the few. Is it justified? Possibly. But my suspicion is that they never gave any consideration to the benefits of the majority. And that is a shame.

Health and safety requires me to point out that if you are a driver, you should only allow yourself a passing glance of Stonehenge - but the passengers can drink it in as long as they like.

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