Transport 2010, Sustrans and Haiti.

Transport 2010.
Does anyone remember this Labour project from just before the turn of the century? Radio 4 has just had a program about it and fascinating it was too.
All the right ideas – reduced road building, decreased road use, more light rail, more cycling and walking etc. etc – were included. Lots of professional and academic opinion was brought to bear. Papers were published, studies done and proposals sketched out.
Optimism was in the air. The promise of thoroughgoing radical reform was in plain view.
Nothing happened!
Here we are, a decade down line from the events, and in the year 2010, and absolutely no radical reform has taken place. In fact we now have seven million more vehicles on the road than before and cycle routes tend to be more for tourism than transport. Train usage has increased but the investment in local and high speed rail remains wholly inadequate.
Congestion charging is only active in London, where it has worked but it is now being sabotaged by Boris. All the other cities where it was supposed to happen fought shy because of local refusal to contemplate change.
From the transport perspective, the noughties look like a wasted decade to me.
So far I have not noticed any substantive policy statements from any of the usual parties. Simply dusting off Transport 2010 and updating it would be a reasonable start.
Transport is something that affects almost everybody every day and, as in many other walks of life, change is hard to bring about. Aside from a failure of political will to prosecute change I notice a distinct lack of motivating elements in the plans so far. We need people to want to change because they know they will get a personal gain immediately.
The non-ownership of a driving license could be made positively attractive if all those in that position were given cards to use on buses and trains – perhaps free transport for children and young people up to the end of formal education and pensioners and 50% off for everyone else.
Joined up transport would be very valuable. Buses and trains that coincide well enough to allow easy onward journeys would be a huge benefit. Making sure that visitors to the conurbations can return to rural areas in the late evening and early hours is essential.

Sustrans
My wife and I are volunteer wardens for Sustrans – the sustainable transport group that is one of the more effective bicycling lobbies in the UK.
With funding from a variety of sources Sustrans has boldly developed a network of cycle tracks around the UK and continues to build on its success each year. If you have any interest in cycling and you are not already members of the organisation I suggest that you check out their website.
In the years ahead I would like to see a growing emphasis on cycle ways for daily transport and commuting rather than tourism and exercise – though both are desirable.
In Tynedale it would obviously be very helpful to have a straight through run alongside or near to the A69. In many places the verges are wide enough and bits of the original road could be used in others. Haltwhistle is currently developing its role as a ‘cycling hub’ and I have added these ideas to the mix under consideration.

Haiti
The images from this benighted country following the earthquake are harrowing in the extreme. As I write this the death toll is thought to be approaching six figures and the medical facilities are completely overwhelmed.
The tone of the reporting of the aid effort does disturb me though. The reporters seem to focus excessively on the slowness of the response and the scale of the unmet need. The criticism of the aid agencies and the local services seems to take no account of the enormity of the event, the hopeless state of the pre-existing civil infrastructure and the logistic nightmare involved.
I am filled with admiration for those who, from a standing start, have poured material and human support into the country. Three million homeless is not a dissimilar figure to the aftermath of major warfare and, of course, the problem arose in seconds – literally.
After the Pacific tsunami an early warning network has been established. This has required a major international collaboration.
Perhaps, in anticipation of future disasters, whether natural or manmade, the UN could broker the prepositioning of caches of materials in strategically chosen places around the globe. To the best of my knowledge no such provision exists and that is a very strange oversight indeed.

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