An article from Do or Die Issue 5. In the paper edition, this article appears on page(s) 99.
Two recent reports published by East Sussex Transport 2000 and distributed by Alarm UK
With these and other publications, Alarm UK and Transport 2000 claim to be putting forward an agenda which solves the problems of the car culture in an environmentally friendly way. These need to be looked at from the point of view of the people who opened up the debate on transport, and thus made the success of the new rail lobby possible; i.e. us! We who put ourselves physically on the line to stop the roads and forced the industrial development juggernaut into a dialogue with the rail lobby.
The proposals include:
l. Electrification of large parts of the rail network not already electrified.
Electrification merely moves the pollution to power station chimneys and nuclear dumps. Up to 70% of the energy generated is wasted either at the power station itself or in transmission.
2. Raising line speeds.
Energy efficiency of all types of engine falls drastically as speed increases above a certain threshold. The speed at which most trains now travel is at or above that threshold most of the time. Further increases, while making the train more ‘competitive’ against the car, will waste more energy. A better solution would be to enforce the speed regulations which already exist for motorists, or preferably radically reduce them.
3. Reinstatement of lines now closed.
Anyone who has walked along disused railway lines will know that they are often linear oases across deserts of monoculture. In many places these wildlife corridors link up the last remaining wild areas, whose very existence relies on these corridors (1). Quite a few of the ecosystems we have succeeded in saving would be seriously degraded if this course of action were carried through. For anti-road campaigners (2), to be advocating their destruction is absolutely ludicrous, and shows a worrying inability to understand basic ecology.
4. Building of new railway lines.
I hope this does not need elaboration.
5. Other measures to increase the speed and frequency of rail traffic.
Increasing the speed and frequency of the rail network will increase demand. This is the purpose of the plan. Some, but not all of this demand will transfer from roads. This is seen as a GOOD THING. The same logic that says traffic will increase as roads are "improved" must also admit that as traffic leaves the road for the railway, so more traffic will appear to replace it. The national road building plan was based on projected future growth in traffic, not present use. Having successfully refuted the basis on which the DoT made these assumptions, they are now moving this future growth onto the railways. They maintained that the future growth would be caused by a new capacity in the road network. They rightly pointed out the folly of road building as a never-ending spiral, but now advocate the same strategy for rail.
This document is written entirely in the language of the economists. The only concession to the real world is when they propose cutting corners off a curvy route to increase train speeds. They say: "...but such work would only be carried out where it can be done with very little environmental impact." We've heard these weasel words before, yet many people still seem to fall for them. The people of Transport 2000 and some within Alarm UK have used the groundwork WE prepared with our physical presence, stopping the work and causing so much bother that the government were forced to approach the "environmental" lobby to regain the credibility they had lost. WE used physical force to gain the advantageous position.
I didn't put myself through the traumas of being attacked with two-ton shovels and thugs in yellow jackets with gland problems so that these self-appointed pseudo-think tanks could negotiate away my reason for doing it. When I said 'no more roads', that's what I meant, and a railroad is a road. The solution is not more anything, but less consumption.
(1) Editors note: See article on biodiversity fragmentalisation elsewhere in this issue.
(2) Describing the Alarm UK London office and Transport 2000 as anti-road campaigners may be a bit rich - both have made statements professing that they are not against all roads! It must also be remembered that Transport 2000 is not an environmental group, but an industrial lobby group funded by the rail unions.