Thursday, 27 May 2010

Time to put the trains sets away boys!


The other day, some of Bradford’s finest – including the wonderful John Pennington and Andrew Mason – presented a plan to link the two stations in Bradford City Centre so as to create a link between what were the Midland and GNR networks. And very fine it looks too – might enhance the city a little although it beats me how making is easier to pass through the city would regenerate the place.

But these proposals – plus the jolly plans to open up old railways (somehow I doubt that will mean Cullingworth getting a rail link again) and build new super-fast links between the big cities – got me to thinking about railways. More particularly, to considering why we bother – spending more money on our heavy rail network is just pouring money into a splendid dead end.

The problem with railways is that they require expensive infrastructure that only trains (and certain trains at that) can run on. And this is made worse by the fact that (a common trait in public transport) trains go from one place you don’t want to be (a smelly, untidy, often unsafe station) to another place you don’t want to be.

Quite frankly, roads are more flexible, can take a greater variety of traffic in greater volumes, are cheaper to build and maintain, cannot be held to ransom by operators and suit the dynamism of the modern economy. Railways – other than as commuter transport into an out from employment nodes – are a Victorian anachronism.

And looking to the future the benefits of roads will become still clearer as road vehicles become less polluting with the advances in hybrid engines, electric vehicles and fuel cells destroying the environmental arguments against this form of mass transport. By all means invest in urban mass transit and light rail systems designed to move large numbers of folk over short, congested distances but leave off driving new railways through the countryside in some rose-spectacled, harking back to a bygone age. Railways may look good, you may like them but they are not a solution to modern transport problems.


1 comment:

Racing Hippo said...

In order to take a train from home to where you want to be, there's always an additional journey at either end. If you're lucky, it'll be walkable (hope it's not raining!) but more often than not, the busses don't even go there so you end up in a (n expensive) taxi.
Might just as well have taken the car door-to-door.