How decimalisation succeeded while metrication stalled

The media like nothing better than an anniversary, so it was predictable that the 40th anniversary of “decimal day” – 15 February, 1971, when the UK finally gave up its archaic and inconvenient coinage and currency – would get a good airing.  Some commentators have even recalled that decimalisation was originally supposed to be complementary to metrication, with both operating to roughly the same timetable.  So it is interesting to compare the slick and successful operation to decimalise our currency with the incompetent bungling of metrication.

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“Half of that mince, please”

Two brief anecdotes illustrate the difficulties still being experienced by customers because neither the Government nor “consumer advocates” will try to help them adapt to metric units in the supermarket.

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‘Optimism bias’ falls from favour

In November 2005, the UK Department for Transport (DfT) produced an estimate of the cost of converting road traffic signs for speed and distance measurements to metric units. Optimism bias accounted for between 26% and 33% of the total overall cost. Now, the usefulness of optimism bias is being questioned.

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Southwark goes back to the 1980s

The London Borough of Southwark appears to relish its role as the setting for the BBC’s 1980s retro series Ashes to Ashes, which was filmed on location in the borough. Just a few hundred metres from filming locations, which were dressed to take off a quarter of a century and appear as they were in the 1980s, Southwark has been busy spending public money removing universally understood metric road signs and replacing them with imperial ones that fewer drivers will understand. Continue reading “Southwark goes back to the 1980s”

DfT prefers imperial units to pedestrian safety

Signs indicating the emergency escape routes in tunnels are of critical importance to the safety of tunnel users, given the particular hazards of fire and smoke within tunnel environments. Sadly, the government’s irrational position on units of measure even extends to these safety critical signs, as illustrated by the different units being used by the same authority on adjacent tunnels.

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DfT imperialists waste more taxpayers’ money

The Department for Transport, who once described metrication of road signs as “a waste of taxpayers’ money”, have themselves been condemned by a House of Commons Select Committee for wasting £71 million on building 66 motorcycle testing stations in order that learner motorcyclists can take the manoeuvring elements of the driving test at the requisite 50 km/h (kilometres per hour), which would be illegal on quiet residential roads in urban areas where tests used to be conducted in the UK. Continue reading “DfT imperialists waste more taxpayers’ money”