Monday, September 28, 2009

Adonis feature

I've just been watching Lord Adonis (whose name must surely be some sort of joke, right?) telling the Labour Party Conference about his vision for high-speed rail links between London, Birmingham, Leeds and Kircaldy (or something). He got quite worked up about the fact that we're so far behind every other country in Europe (well, France) when it comes to high-speed rail. Strangely enough, he blamed the Tories, despite the fact that it's been, ooh, eleven years since they were last in government, which is just about long enough to get a high-speed rail project off the ground, you'd think. Still, the important thing is, that now there's an election looming, the government have decided that enough is enough. No more excuses, this time it's really happening. High speed rail is roaring up the tracks, and it's going to put all those nasty low-cost airlines (particularly Ryanair) out of business. So yah boo sucks!

Zooming from one end of the country to the other in less time than it takes a Ryanair flight to get on to the runway is all very well, but if when we get to the other end we can't actually move because of gridlock it does rather defeat the point. I took a bus with some colleagues from one end of Baker Street to the other for to get some ice cream (I kid you not - give them a treadmill and they'll run all day long, but actually ask them to walk somewhere and they're struck by an aversion to using their legs). Wouldn't you know it, there were roadworks, and we got stuck at some traffic lights, and then some more roadworks. There was still some ice cream left when we got there, but it was a close run thing.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Driving me crazy (again)

News over the weekend that the government is to impose a price hike of two pence on a litre of fuel has caused outrage amongst the motoring community. Some outraged individual (actually I think he was something to do with the RAC Club) went on the radio to grumble about further persecution of the motorist, as seems to happen every time there's a rise in prices at the pump, pedestrianisation of a major town centre, roadworks, or bad weather.

The gist of what the guy said was that motoring is the dominant form of travel in the country (he actually said "not many people use the train" which I thought frankly laughable), and therefore drivers should be a protected species, coddled and cossetted and generally afforded preferential treatment whilst the rest of us pay the price.

It's hard not to feel a touch of schaudenfreude here, what with the announcement that, for the first time in many years, rail fares are not going to go up next year. Indeed, I'm pretty sure that the price of petrol has come down significantly over the last twelve months. The idea that the poor hard-up motorist doesn't get looked after the the government is ludicrous - the sheer amount of roadworks is testament to that. Have you see the M25 recently?

Now I'm hardly an eco-warrior - I drive a car (at weekends), own a big flatscreen telly and sometimes overfill the kettle. But surely there is an environmental argument here - viz cars cause more pollutions than trains or buses (on a strictly per-head basis) so motoring shouldn't be the cheapest option. Surely we should be encouraging more people to use public transport, or some other alternative form of transportation, and we all know that the way to a motorist's brain is through his/her pocket.

There was an outcry a couple of years back about a proposed "pay-as-you-throw" tax to try to tackle the volume of waste (specifically foodwaste) that people were producing. I thought it was a nifty idea - it would really have forced people to reappraise their behaviour and values. But it got canned because it would cause a storm of protest.

It just goes to show that people are very willing to jump on a bandwagon as long as they aren't the ones paying to keep it rolling.