As most of you will know, I work in the international transportation sector. We are the evil people who cause global warming, kill cute fluffy animals and cause the icecaps to melt very quickly. Without us the world would be a better place in which to live – however travel would be much harder and you wouldn’t be able to buy much in the shops.
Over the last 10 years environmental matters have become more and more important to our sector and society in general. We are held up as being the “bad guys” and, with the exception of 4×4 drivers and farting cattle, the major contributor to climate change.
I agree with my environmentalist chums that something needs to be done, and quickly. However we are not the only ones responsible for the situation. The biggest culprits are the people who supposedly make decisions on our behalf – the governments.
The EU is trying to force member states to allow 80m/t lorries, at 60ft+ in length, onto our roads. The Germansd have already said Nein but the UK Depratment of Transport seem to think it a good idea, as do some sections of the road haulage industry. In their minds it will mean fewer truck clogging up our already congested road network. There is a very bigf problem with this argument.
This assumes that all truck movements are 100% utilised. Unfortunately the current utilisation rate is only 60%. Therefore the majority of trucks moving around at any given time are not maximising their carbon efficiency in the way planned. The argument was also used previously when 45ft trailers were introduced onto our roads. They were to lead to fewer truck movements and a great utilisation of the national fleet.
In addition the government have set overly ambitious targets to reduce “greenhouse gasses” by a minimum of 20% by 2020 but have done little to achieve this. We should be looking at alternatives to road transport and diesel vehicles. The best alternative is rail but we do not have the capacity, or political will, to make the most of this.
Our rail network needs regular, prolonged investment to upgrade it for the 21st century. The problem is that it is too fragmented to do this. Priority is given solely to passenger traffic and freight is treated as the ugly sister of the industry. The investment could come from the private operators but the government will not allow them to do this – everything has to go through Network Rail and the government actually controls everything that happens.
The privatisation of British Rail was a complete balls-up by the Conservative government – yes, you did hear that correctly. Yet the mess they made was nothing compared to the mess made by the current government. What should be a privatised industry is actually controlled by civil servants who have no experience or idea of what running a railway entails.
Everything is now controlled directly from Whitehall, even down to the train lengths and timetables. The current problems on First Great Western (FGW) are not just the fault of the operator but also the government who told them what trains they could run, the no. of carriages and the type of train they could have. They cut the train lengths on the Cardiff to Portsmouth service that has caused uproar and forced FGW to reintroduce 3 carriage trains on the service.
The government don’t seem to want a modern rail network that can work to reduce carbon emissions and congestion. Network Rail (NR) want to plan for new High Speed links to be ready for 2020 but the government won’t let them. NR also want to introduce more electrification on the network, especially to Bristol on the Western route, but the government won’t let them.
There are former lines that could be reopened to ease congestion but the government doesn’t have the ambition to do this. They are happy to build more roads and introduce road pricing but not to invest sufficiently in providing alternatives to the car and truck. After all, the less vehicles on the road then the less tax income.