Every morning the cars, vans and lorries pile into London. On this main road coming in from Essex the traffic is almost entirely one-way, an endless stream of red lights disappearing into the mist, albeit at a snail's pace when there are road works, which there usually are. You have to ask why they do it, when the rate of travel is painfully slow, and the risk of parking fines, arbitrary penalties for things like stopping in those criss-cross junction boxes, and the odd chance to get caught on a speed camera, add up to the absolute certainty of extra expense, stress and annoyance one way or the other. Driving in the city centre is so unpleasant that it's hard to see why anyone would voluntarily opt to travel this way. Door to door convenience and keeping warm and dry come into it, but can it be worthwhile? Of course heavy gear, goods and machinery need to come in a vehicle but most of those cars carry no passengers and nothing heavier than a briefcase. It's not just the shortcomings of public transport. The 26 cars, six commercial vehicles and one airport bus in this photograph probably carry no more than 60 to 80 people, which is less than half the official capacity of a Victoria Line carriage (181 people, 32 of them seated).
There's a story that in rural parts of Europe, people getting on to an empty train will look for someone to sit with: they actually prefer to sit together. Not here though, where everyone's first priority is to grab a bank of four seats and a table all to themselves, spread out their bags and gadgets, and then resent someone else coming along and hoping to sit there. Amazingly, I'm told there are plenty of London commuters who make the journey by road because they prefer to sit in the perceived safety and isolation of their car for however long it takes, rather than be cooped up with a crowd of strangers. No wonder the traffic isn't moving.