Welcome to the 'New Somerset and Dorset Railway'
Saturday, January 30, 2010
the need to travel
It's not easy to predict how we will travel in 20 years' time, but I think it's quite safe to say we will still travel. There are a few no-brainers - car travel will be much diminished due to the escalating cost of oil and the absence of any real alternatives, civilian air travel will be all but over, rail travel will have expanded enormously, most freight overland will move by rail. These are easy things to predict.
But will we still travel as much? Probably net travel around the world will decrease, mainly due to the winding down of cheap air travel, but I suspect that within the UK we will still travel as much. Visiting new places, taking regular holidays, weekends away, the geographic spread of families, all these things will keep the demand for leisure travel up. Many bus and coach routes, especially long distance ones, will vanish and their passengers switch to rail.
We'll probably commute less, as more and more of us work for smaller businesses from home. We'll see far more freight trains on the railways, and this will be one of the biggest pressures on capacity, more than making up for any losses in commuting.
I travel abroad about four times a year, flying from Bristol airport, ten minutes up the road. I know that I'll only be able to do this for a few more years, so I'm making the most of it. I visit other countries mostly for the new experiences, not for the weather, though that is a bonus. Next month we're off to Barcelona (trams!), in June to Slovakia (more trams!), in August to Switzerland (trams and light railways!!) and in November to the Caribbean (no trams, no trains but, apparently nice weather, beaches, swimming with rays etc). I've always travelled a lot, and hopefully always will. I really do think travelling is now hard-wired into most of us, and the tribulations of Peak Oil won't unravel this, though it will doubtless change the way we travel. In twenty years' time I won't be going to the Caribbean, except perhaps by a cruise liner leaving from Southampton, but hopefully will still regularly travel to mainland Europe over what will, by then, be a superb high speed electrified rail network, more than making up for the loss of all those cheap air routes.
And as our weather improves thanks to global warming the New S&D will once again fulfill it's role as a holiday carrier, bringing millions from the Midlands and North to the seaside resorts between Southampton and Weymouth.