Saturday, December 14, 2013

Cars Trains and Planes

Not to mention lorries or boats...

A difficulty about democracy is that unpopular decisions  being considered by the government of the day can be fudged or delayed for immediate political benefit but  to the long term disadvantage of the population at large.

The current furore about building a new railway line from London  to Birmingham and beyond is a good example. Opinion polls report a majority of people being against such a scheme. Those whose houses or lands  lie near to the proposed new track are politiking earnestly to have the scheme scrapped  ostensibly at least, on the grounds of cost. 

Meanwhile many people, doubtless including some arguing against the new railway line, have successfully persuaded the government to freeze fuel prices whereas  of course train fares are due to increase  at  rates greater than inflation from January 2014. The outcome is obvious namely the use of cars  and their fuel will increase whereas even if the number of train travelers is unaffected, the continuing  overcrowding and cost will cause  more dissatisfaction with UK  train transport. 

The logic of building the new railway lines to join up the country more effectively and ease travelling around the place by us all is obvious. I wonder where the opinion polls were taken and who was asked. I doubt if many people living in say Ramsgate or Leeds would have objected whereas the  comparatively few living near to the proposed new lines might well have done.  While the government of the day is  freezing petrol prices  increasing rail fares and perhaps failing to build new railway lines, support for the car and complaints about train transport will increase, to the disadvantage of nearly everyone.

Arguments put forward by those living near the proposed new railway track include those of  noise in their currently tranquil parts of the land.  I can sympathise but like it or not the population of the UK is expanding and  there is a logical need to cater for the people. Simply encouraging more people to use their private cars will make for more noise and pollution  whereas encouraging us all to travel more  by train will reduce noise and fuel pollution.  I do understand  the   comparatively few country side dwellers whose lives might be adversely affected  but this understanding is tempered by the probability  that when traveling to Town they will not think twice about the noise and pollution  they will inflict enroute. I appreciate too that some landowners will have their premises compulsorily purchased or lands divided which is of course unpleasant. Yet when in  our previous home we were served with a  Labour government Community Land Act notice warning of compulsory purchase for the benefit of all in the area, we eventually  had to move. The price paid as I recall was after negotiation, fair  and a new supermarket built to serve the whole  town and beyond.  

Surely the same  principle which is essentially that of the 'common good', applies as much to those  who live in the affected countryside as to those who live in affected parts of towns?

The sheer pleasure of having our local main road closed to motor traffic  for the day only some 4 months ago see

caused  so  much appreciation of the resulting  silence that some locals brought out onto the quiet street,   wine and champagne to celebrate. I entirely accept  that those who enjoy that peace wish to retain their tranquility but  this is where real government comes in. Limiting the noise and pollution caused by strangers using roads away from their homes if applied everywhere, might be interesting but there is no logical reason why some should be privileged in such matters and others have to lump it.

As for aircraft, the expansion of Heathrow is being argued over once more. Already  the noise and pollution from aircraft is dreadful for those living in say Stanwell  yet are those living near to the proposed  HS2 rail route in the Midlands  also campaigning against Heathrow expansion for those in Stanwell or in fact do they quietly get on with using Heathrow where the consequential noise and pollution is not really their problem?

There are no easy answers to such problems so strong central government is required to ensure that decisions affecting much of the UK are based on long term logic rather than short term political expediency.

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