Welcome to the 'New Somerset and Dorset Railway'
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Following on from yesterday's post re 1970s style council dinosaurs, it's clear that not only is a paradigm shift in transport planning required but that it's also fairly imminent. The mixed messages sent by those responsible for transport matters at all levels is a clear indication that things are changing. But of course we are in the VERY early stages of the energy crisis, which has been somewhat masked by the global recession, which is on the verge of becoming a double-dip recession or even a depression. This has helped to preserve fuel stocks and inventories as well as diverting people's attention elsewhere.
To my mind the paradigm shift will take two major shapes. The first will be the understanding that never again will it be so easy - or cheap - to use masses of energy. This will lead to a whole new attitude to energy use which will be based on efficiency and conservation, as well as the search for sustainable and renewal energy. This is being done in a tiny way already, though under the mask of 'tackling climate change', which carefully avoids the much scarier Peak Oil issue.
The second change will be in our attitude to road transport. We are already using cars less, but the biggest change will be the wholesale switch of freight from road to rail. This won't really happen until we're firmly ensconsed in the first stage of Peak Oil awareness, as stated above. There will then be a scramble to switch freight traffic to rail, which will soon run up against the constraints of limited capacity, lack of freight vehicles and locomotives, and the urgent need for a wholesale rebuilding of the network plus the introduction of dedicated freight lines and private sidings. This will be the moment the rail revival really takes shape!
Once this happens people will, after a few golden years of quieter roads thanks to no lorries and fewer cars, question the wisdom of throwing large amounts of tax money at maintaining the road network. Any shortage of funds will lead to massive infrastructure damage as potholes appear. Any interruption in fuel supplies - inevitable in an energy constrained world - will lead to more and more people switching to the certainty of rail.
We see paradigm shifts all the time. The unthinkable suddenly becomes the everday. Who would have thought a year ago that Plan B would switch from the potty-mouthed urban rap of Who Needs Actions When You've Got Words to the sweet soul of The Defamation of Strickland Banks?