Welcome to the 'New Somerset and Dorset Railway'
Thursday, September 01, 2011
the interrupted journey
Things are falling into place and have been for some time now. I'm talking about the bigger picture rather than specifically the S&D, though the end will be the same.
Britain began the industrial revolution at the end of the 18th century and railways were perhaps the most important element in industrialisation. Railways quickly reached every corner of the UK and in the cities rails spread into the suburbs and onto the roads. We were well set up for a proper sustainable transport system that could last indefinitely, a system that carried freight and passengers with equal ease. Light railways were beginning to fill the gaps.
But then some fool discovered oil and for some odd reason transport development switched to the roads, indeed it did for a few decades become the primary transport mode. But road traffic had a fatal and terminal flaw - it was dependent on a fuel source that had a finite life. It should have been clear to everyone that it was only a stop gap, a downmarket way of moving things for a short while.
But it didn't work out like that. The planners ignored that simple geological fact and acted as if road transport and the fuel that powered it could last for ever. They even CLOSED railways even though it was clear that they would soon be needed again. And the average person in the street began to believe that roads and cars would always be around, because we have short memories and like to ignore reality as much as possible.
The age of the car is now ending. Not just stopping or slowing down but ending - probably for ever. The car will never be able to compete with trains on energy efficiency. And you could even argue that with rails reaching every corner of the land as the interrupted journey is started again, and with the roads crumbling and motoring becoming out of the reach of most of us, rail will even have the edge on flexibility. As the Beeching cuts are reversed, then brand new lines built to fill the gaps, and light railways, tramways and industrial lines built to reach every business, factory and market, we'll soon forget that roads ever existed, except as quiet, unmade tracks that wind through woods and villages, somewhere to walk on a warm evening, or perhaps to take the horse out for a hack, or of course to cycle along. Nostalgia for the coming generations, shattered as a sleek and fast train flashes by.