We spotted this colourful artwork the other day in Hastings. I started to wonder how green is it to scrap cars habitually when they are only ten years old.
I understand the arguments about safety and emissions, but there must be a balance with the waste of metals that comes with dumping a vehicle that is still relatively new.
Anybody know the answer to that one?
Old Oak Common - a big hole in London's infrastructure
Hats off to Terry Farrell for challenging some of the perceived truths about travel and communications and for questioning Foster's Thames island airport proposal.
In an article in Planning in London he argues that big ideas, like the new airport, are expensive and take a long while to come on-stream, while smaller projects can solve the problem in the short term, without compromising the big idea. He calls it incremental planning and I'm sure he's got a point.
He's also to be applauded for putting forward a very neat solution for increasing access to Heathrow by linking the check-ins to a new High Speed 1 and 2 interchange at Old Oak Common. When I was doing a masterplan for Swindon more than ten years ago we were told that there would soon be check-ins at Hayes to link Heathrow directly to the West Country Lines and to the Reading-Swindon Silicon Vale. That never happened. Though it was a condition of the construction of Terminal 5 to reduce car access to the airport I see no signs that this has worked.
But I think both Farrell and Foster are missing something in their future gazing. The premise of both schemes is that air travel will continue to grow. This assumption should be questioned.
I was advising the Gatwick Diamond Development team the other day. They almost fell off their chairs when I asked the question, "What if air travel decreases in the future?" But it's a question we should be asking.
Air travel is one of the most carbon extravagant things we can do. Just one trip to the USA every year will cancel out any benefit you gain from living in a state of the art eco-house (1). As carbon taxes kick-in then air travel will be hit more than most. As governments expand the high speed rail system around the UK and Europe, more and more people will (I hope) decide to go by train. That option just isn't here at the moment. It could well be that internal flights become prohibitively expensive. And I'm never convinced that a jerky flight between close locations isn't the mugs way of travelling anyway. Show me a comfy carriage and a view of the countryside any day and I'll show you a place where I can work, send emails and relax!
The assumptions are that everything will always get bigger. This is the sub-text of Terry Farrell's article. But I just don't think that an unfetteredincrease in air travel is either desireable or inevitable. If you work on policies to reduce air travel to the minimum and increase travel by other means (good old modal shift), then the projects that government needs to support would be quite different.
All that money could be spent on a series of smaller interventions, including the Old Oak Common interchange, and would mean spreading the benefitsto a wider public. Even though Mayor Boris Johnson supports the airport scheme, his opponent, Ken Livingstone does not. With mayoral elections coming up this spring, we may find that Farrells solutions will curry favour with a new administration.
The clincher for me is that it's easier to get twenty smaller schemes on the go than one big one. Given the history of developing airports in this country, anyone who puts all their regeneration eggs into an airport basket is in my view - just that - a basket case!
I think we can be pretty sure that world populations will continue to rise. The need for travel and communications will also rise, but whether that has to be linked to air travel is not definite. For starters lets try to encourage people not to take internal flights, but to travel by train instead.
1. BioRegional assessments of occupants in BedZed found that those who travelled by air cancelled out the benefits of the housing.
10th January was the 149th anniversary of London's first underground line, and the first time in the world that trains had gone underground in a city. I rode the route yesterday, with commuters and tourists who, of course, had no idea that they were riding into history.
The route went from Paddington Station to Farringdon, and was intended to be an extension of the Metropolitan Railway right into the city. Even today the route has three rails in some cases so that tube trains and commuter trains can arrive at the same platforms. (Tube trains are wider.)
In the week that government announces the HS2 high speed line to Birmingham, I wanted to remind myself of how 19th Century travellers might have felt with their new high speed line. Of course the old trains were steam trains and it seems that passengers did complain about the steamyness of the underground platforms. The engineers went to great efforts to design a series of ducts that would dispel the steam. They designed beautiful brick chutes at Baker Street (as well as Great Portland St and Euston Square) which let steam out and let sunlight in. These have been blocked up now, but the refurb at Baker Street did put lights into the chutes, which gives something of the impression of the original platforms.
However many passengers were content to travel on the new steamy route. In the first few months 26,000 people used the line and in an attempt to relieve overcrowding extra rolling stock had to be brought in from the Great Western Railway.
Tunelling skills were not so advanced in those days. The line was built with cut and cover. The old drawings showing clearly how a trench was constructed and then temporary timber supports would be placed until the brick arches could be built.
The problem with this method of construction was that it was very dissruptive to those on the surface. People compained that the New Road, now Euston/Marylebone Road, was out of use for months. But it was only the fact that this road existed which allowed the route to be built. It would have been far too expensive to pull down great swathes of London houses to bring the line into Farringdon.
As it was the engineers went to great efforts to disguise the ventilation shafts. Supposedly, a five foot thick facade was constructed in Leinster Gradens to simulate a house, but which in fact masked a ventialtion duct.
Baker Street Station still has many of the original features. It was sensitively refurbished in 1982 and a set of interesting panels were erected in the advertising spaces which illustrate the construction.
So we haven't changed very much in 150 years. Opponents to HS2 want fast and efficient transport systems - as long as we can't see or hear them! And they certainly don't want the construction work to disturb them in any way. The headline on the Ham and High, Camden's local newspaper this week said, "HS2 will cause ten years of chaos to Camden." I expect that they said the same thing about that pesky new underground railway in 1863!
Pity the poor commuters who's train fares will rise tomorrow by an average of 5.9%. And remember this is just an average and just for this year. The government has announced that fares will go up by RPI+3% next year and again RPI+3% in 2014 as well. If RPI is 3% for the next two years then that would mean a staggering 16% cost rise over three years.
This year the government has changed the rules.Some commuters, like those unfortunates who travel from Chester to Crew, will have to suffer an increase of 10.6% this year and heaven knows what that increase will be next year.
The rational is that government and the Association of Train Operating Companies both want to increase investment in our ailing railway system. We'd all agree with that. But government has decided to fund a few, very high costs schemes like Crossrail, Thameslink and the new High Speed Link. So the man who lives in Chester and works in Crew seems to be unfairly subsidising large and important schemes down south, rather that see his own train services improve.
This is a difficult connundrum for the government who can not be blamed for the mistakes of the past. All recent governments have failed to invest sufficiently in our rail system. The myth that private enterprise will do it is long dead - stopped in its tracks ('scuse the pun) - by the recession.
There is something we can do. The Campaign for Better Transport is hoping that tomorrow commuters will text, tweet or email the treasury to tell them how much their own fares have increased and say what that means to them personally. Check out the website FARE FARES NOW.
I think one of the problems the government have is that they are obsessed with speed, rather than regularity of service. Of course we don't want slow trains, but so often the cuts in any form of public transport lead to fewer services across a shorter working day. But the trend is for people to work more flexible hours. Commuter fares do encourage people to travel outside peak hours, but they do nothing to encourage other low carbon initiatives like tele-working once a week, for example. Also some enlightened employers consider train travel time to be work time. You can tap away on your lap-top as well on an Intercity train, as you can at your desk. Train travel should be recognised as part of the working day in the way that driving a car can not be.
The national need is not to shave a few minutes off any one particular train journey but to reduce traffic on the roads during peak hours and to reduce carbon emissions. Policies don't take that into consideration at the moment. For example it's cheaper to fly from London to Manchester or Scotland than take the train. That's just plain stupid!
Please don't stop using trains, but perhaps just get a bit better at finding the cheapest fare.
Here are my top ten tips for cheap train travel:
As always on matters of trains, my friend Mark Smith has an excellent cheap fares advice page on his wonderful website The Man at Seat 61
Thanks to the County of Arlington Commuter Services for a timely suggestion for my New Years Resolution. Their website gives excellent long and short term encouragement to keep fit, save money and reduce your carbon footprint. Short term it provides a free book and a T shirt,(sorry only if you apply in person at their transit offices). Long term benefits are trackable with the website and a blog gives support for anyone who wobbles.
One member of the Arlington group, Peter Beers, wrote in to say that since he's started cycling to work he found he was more productive and happier. He has estimated that he's saved driving 10,000 miles last year and has lost 50lbs in weight.
Since the programme started in Arlington, almost 7,000 people have registered and 126,000 brochures, maps and schedules have been given out. The authority has extended their message by signing up partners - employers and other companies - between them they have organised 183 events.
For those of us who live in Europe I've taken the data from this site to make a really simple ready reckoner which you can use yourself. Try it and see - and do tell me if it works for you. All you need to do is make a simple pledge on one or two of your regular journeys. Regular journeys are important because they will mass-up to a lot of miles and thus a lot of calories over time. I suggest that if you don't happen to live in the County of Arlington that you get a buddie to work with you, so that you can take advantage of that all important support. I've enrolled Mr Coffeeinthesquare to be my buddy. We are both going to record out progress.
Happy New Year everyone and good luck!
[Posted with iBlogger from my iPhone]
[Posted with iBlogger from my iPhone]
I visited Freiburg over the New Year and the information I picked up was very rich. You will see quite a few blogs on the new developments there over the next few weeks I guess. Something one of our traffic engineers said before I went away made me think quite a bit about street widths. Here is a tram in a really narrow street in Antwerp. So don't tell me that you need a really wide street for a tram! (You know who you are.)
We’ve been looking for Eco-busses to go with our eco town for several months now. You would think that it would be quite easy to buy or hire a bus but when you ring the manufacturers you get a rather luke-warm response. Perhaps we are asking the wrong questions?
Anyway finally we have found an operator and a company who seem interested. Yesterday we went to Dennis busses in Guildford with Countryliner and were treated to a tour around the works and the gen on all their busses.
We are looking at a very new model which uses 25% less diesel than normal models, the rest of the power being produced by electricity generated from brake power. Andy Boulton, Dennis’s sales manager is a real enthusiast and let slip that he owned quite a number of busses himself! We fell in love with some of their classic range, especially a beautiful little 22 seater from the 20’s complete with moquette upholstery and etched glass lights. We also heard about Plymouth Park and Ride, which has the most luxurious busses – the Enviro 400’s (not as green as the ones we are considering) but it’s the interior that interested us. Leather upholstery and in seat audio! This definitely means I’ll be off the Plymouth some time soon to check them out. By all accounts the service, which runs every 7 minutes from 6.30am to 8.30pm has been a phenomenal success. What’s interesting about both the classic bus and the Plymouth bus is that someone had spent time thinking about the interior. A lot of work goes into the exterior – modern busses have to have a smile! And the operators are of course interested in the engine and the drive. Pru Leith once told me that when you design a restaurant it’s the table arrangement, the plate and what’s on it that is the most important to diners. I suspect that for bus passengers it’s the seat (and possibly the view) that is most important – yet how often have you sat on an uncomfortable seat – with a view of a blank plasticy wall in front of you. And how often have you had to suffer the inconvenience of looking inwards or backwards – both uncomfortable especially on windey roads?
Of course the reason that bus interiors are so clunkey these days is that they have lowered the floor in order to get disabled access. The lovely little 22 seater from the 20’s had a completely flat floor – but of course you had to climb up two or three steps to get into it. Thanks to Brian Georg's Flickr site for these images.
We are looking at a very new model which uses 25% less diesel than normal models, the rest of the power being produced by electricity generated from brake power. Andy Boulton, Dennis’s sales manager is a real enthusiast and let slip that he owned quite a number of busses himself!
We fell in love with some of their classic range, especially a beautiful little 22 seater from the 20’s complete with moquette upholstery and etched glass lights.
We also heard about Plymouth Park and Ride, which has the most luxurious busses – the Enviro 400’s (not as green as the ones we are considering) but it’s the interior that interested us. Leather upholstery and in seat audio! This definitely means I’ll be off the Plymouth some time soon to check them out. By all accounts the service, which runs every 7 minutes from 6.30am to 8.30pm has been a phenomenal success.
Plymouth some time soon to check them out. By all accounts the service, which runs every 7 minutes from 6.30am to 8.30pm has been a phenomenal success.
What’s interesting about both the classic bus and the Plymouth bus is that someone had spent time thinking about the interior. A lot of work goes into the exterior – modern busses have to have a smile! And the operators are of course interested in the engine and the drive. Pru Leith once told me that when you design a restaurant it’s the table arrangement, the plate and what’s on it that is the most important to diners. I suspect that for bus passengers it’s the seat (and possibly the view) that is most important – yet how often have you sat on an uncomfortable seat – with a view of a blank plasticy wall in front of you. And how often have you had to suffer the inconvenience of looking inwards or backwards – both uncomfortable especially on windey roads?
Of course the reason that bus interiors are so clunkey these days is that they have lowered the floor in order to get disabled access. The lovely little 22 seater from the 20’s had a completely flat floor – but of course you had to climb up two or three steps to get into it.
Thanks to Brian Georg's Flickr site for these images.