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Topic Title: Transport 2020
Topic Summary: where are we going?
Created On: 02 December 2008 06:03 PM
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 02 December 2008 06:03 PM
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lsharpe

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Joined: 28 September 2001

The end-of-year issue of 'Engineering & Technology' includes the editors' forecasts for Christmas 2020. These were intentionally short and light-hearted, but I would be interested to know what readers think transport will look like in 2020. And what are the decisions that we need to get right in the short term to make sure it doesn't all go horribly wrong in future?
The magazine piece only looked at moving people, but thoughts on the movement of goods would be welcome too.

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Lorna Sharpe (IET transport editor)
 30 January 2009 11:23 AM
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z315870

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The oil price may have fallen in the second half of 2008, but I think it's only a matter of time before it comes back to bite us. We've been dependent on oil for so long that if the supply starts to become prohibitively expensive, it's going to be a really nasty surprise for those of us that didn't see it coming.

At the moment, most of our freight is transported by road. Sometimes that's unavoidable, but it does mean that it's all completely dependent on oil. Rail freight in its current format is not much better, because most of the time it's hauled by very inefficient 2-stroke diesel locomotives from America.

However, if we look back to the 1950s, the railways moved a lot more freight and there was a huge infrastructure, bigger even than the passenger infrastructure, for the loading and unloading of goods. British Railways was the single biggest road vehicle fleet owner in the country - and provided a door-to-door transport service for freight.

If we are serious about reducing dependence on oil then there are four things we could do to get freight off the roads and onto rail:
1: Increase railway capacity - if high-speed passenger lines are built, then the conventional lines they leave behind may have spare capacity for freight, for example. A railway equivalent of the A14 road, running from the Midlands to Folkestone, would be a good idea too.
2: Electrify more of the railway network - and the DfT is looking into this at the moment. Yes, I hear the familiar argument that coal generates most of our power at the moment, but if we take our short-term blinkers off for a second, the obvious advantage is that coal can be replaced with something more sustainable in future and with electrification in place, we have the infrastructure to take advantage of it.
3: Remodel logistics - instead of a couple of "trunk" routes, use the railway network as the trunk, moving it much closer to the end destination of goods.
4: Make rail attractive for goods delivery - with fast class 1 light freight services to all parts of the UK rail network, and a "last mile" road transport service included. If this "last mile" really is a short distance, then electric vehicles could be used instead of diesel vans, further reducing CO2.

Do I think any of this will really happen? Given how fragmented the railway industry is at the moment, I think it would take a very special set of circumstances for there to be enough concensus to run a sustainable, economical, aggregated service. However, if we are serious about reducing oil dependency, I think that large-scale action of some kind is needed!

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Dr Joe Silmon PhD MEng CEng MIET
Committee Member, Railway TPN
 13 April 2009 08:35 AM
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ess1uk

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time to start thinking about where you will keep your horse?
 11 May 2009 07:29 AM
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mmcgregor

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To encourage people off the roads and onto rail, a number of issues must be recognised.

There are 6 times as many road users as rail users, so if policy makers want a 10% reduction in car usage, there has to be a 60% increase in rail capacity, and the trains have to be going conveniently close to where the cars users wanted to be.

Rail pricing in the UK is prohibitive. I was recently in Holland, and a train journey from Amsterdam to Rotterdam was a mere 17Euros for 1st class. How come? Instead of being priced off the roads, we need to be encouraged onto the rails, i.e. carrot as well as stick.

Some people use their cars because of the boot capacity. Luggage space on trains seems to be decreasing, making the rail experience somewhat of a nightmare.

Local car journeys are a problem for which rail is not a solution. The problem of more frequent local journeys has been caused somewhat by out-of-town shopping, pioneered by Asda in the late '70s. They are only accessible by car (shuttle buses do not solve the problem of large shopping bags). Unchecked competition practices have meant the decline of town centre shops, so now people need a car just to get any shopping done. In the long term, local journey reduction can only (in my view) be achieved by major rethinking about town centre design. Council planners need to discourage large supermarkets and out-of-town shopping, while encouraging a vibrant high street. They also need to realise what large house building companies have done over recent years. By only wanting to build large (profitable) developments, town centre housing stock is not being renewed, and we have expanding housing estates on the peripheries of towns, where the residents still need cars to go shopping.

This is perhaps the hardest problem to solve. The local journey transport problem is not solved by alternative choices, but by changing our local transport requirements, i.e. where we live, and where we want to go.

Some cities have decided that trams are the future, electricity - non polluting - must be good, yes? But the massive installation costs have to be recouped. Expensive fares are counter-productive. A better solution (if only they had thought of it) would be trolley buses. Just as clean (at the point of use) and cheaper to install. The only disadvantage in the number of people transported per vehicle.

I hope you found this helpful and insightful, rather than just a tub-thumping rant.
Mike McGregor

Edited: 11 May 2009 at 07:31 AM by mmcgregor
 27 August 2009 07:15 PM
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ess1uk

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high speed rail??
only for some it seems
 22 September 2009 12:00 PM
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cmap

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I am also of the opinion that high speed rails are the best solution for future transportation. The only problem I see is to encourage the people to use this opportunity. Maybe the oil price will be so high that people do not have another opportunity as to use the speed rail.
 31 October 2009 01:06 PM
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tomsmith

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My recollection is that rail freight took a hammering when strikes made it too unreliable. Who would risk such dependency again? And some former marshsalling yards are now housing estates.
 31 October 2009 01:41 PM
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jencam

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Originally posted by: mmcgregor
town centre housing stock is not being renewed


But can it be renewed? Liverpool has many square miles of inner suburbs filled with old low value (approx £30k) terraced houses that are derelict / semi-derelict / short term privately rented / used only as springboards by first time buyers. Any attempts to impose large scale demolition and redevelopment is met with resistance because it's destroying the hard work of our Victorian forefathers or because replacing them with modern houses with gardens will permanently destroy the character of the city. The reality is much of this housing is sadly unwanted, and more importantly, unwanted by families with children who want suburban houses with gardens that Liverpool is lacking. Even sentimental southerners who live in suburbs and shires are up in arms at proposals to level another street in Toxteth or Kirkdale.
 02 November 2009 09:28 AM
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JohnWalkerTranslink

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A couple of comments in response to Joe Silmon's post.

Firstly to reiterate mmcgregor's point, "There are 6 times as many road users as rail users, so if policy makers want a 10% reduction in car usage, there has to be a 60% increase in rail capacity, and the trains have to be going conveniently close to where the cars users wanted to be". And this applies just as much to people transport as it does to freight transport.

Secondly, some recent research in Germany indicates that only 10% of road freight can sensibly be shifted to rail ("Market analysis for shifting goods from road to rail by means of combined transport in Germany" by Agnes Eiband, presented at the Young Researchers Seminar 2009, Torino, Italy, 3-5 June 2009). Presumably the same applies to UK freight.

All this means that whatever the problems caused by road freight, they cannot be solved by moving freight to rail.

This is not to say that we shouldn't invest more in rail - we certainly should - only that it isn't a panacea - and that we should invest more in all forms of transport infrastructure.
--------------------------------------------------------
John Walker (Automotive & Road Transport TPN)


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JohnWalkerTranslink
 02 November 2009 04:46 PM
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OMS

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This is not to say that we shouldn't invest more in rail - we certainly should - only that it isn't a panacea - and that we should invest more in all forms of transport infrastructure


No we shouldn't - we should invest in better distribution infrastructure and understand what we need to ship from where to where. Personally, I want the milk for my breakfast cereals to come from a cow withing a few miles of home - not be shipped around the UK until it gets to me 2 days later with a huge carbon footprint. Think about it - if we actually make that type of transport difficult, awkward and expensive then there may well be opportunity for growth at a local level

Regards

OMS

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Failure is always an option
 22 December 2009 10:53 PM
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ess1uk

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make all planning for new wharehouse developments include provision for rail access, a trick missed in Peterborough where the Ikea is next to the ECML but no rail connection
 14 October 2011 11:22 AM
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RwegasiraM

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More surface transport and possibly rail will use Hydrogen which is likely to involve more Hydrogen power stations built, renewable biofuel energy and ethanol?? as part of the norm linked with evironmental, economic impact.
From customer facing side - likely to have more automated machines with more customer information systems translated into more languages and dialects.

M A Rwegasira MSc BSc (Hons) IEng MIET

Edited: 14 October 2011 at 11:59 AM by RwegasiraM
 13 September 2012 07:46 AM
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gomes45

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Can anyone tell me about car parking system and cost in New York, United States?
 25 September 2012 03:15 PM
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acsinuk

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It seems strange to me that crossrail, Thameswater, and even the National grid are all burrowing tunnels under London but the M23 tunnel towards the M1 has not yet even been thought about! If this link were put in not only would it unload the M25 but just think of the amount of fuel that would be saved. We might even be able to put in a junction in at Clapham Common and Marble Arch and erect large toll booths charging £20 per entry to discourage people from queuing up and to reclaim the cost of the tunneling.
We also need to build a coastal highway across all of our pretty inlets. If the flow between the heads is greater that 20 mph then a barrage can also be built and the tidal energy extracted as electricity. In many cases this will more than pay for the project within about 10 years.
CliveS
 26 September 2012 03:53 PM
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haguetim

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There needs to be a breakthrough in electrical storage to make EV technology work, 5 to 600 miles per charge . Until this happens we will be stuck with carbon based fuel sources, or maybe more research into Hydrogen perhaps?.
 03 October 2012 05:43 PM
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acsinuk

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The problem is that electric cars run on grid electricity which is mostly gas generation and only 60% efficient. Modern cars are nearly that efficient and if you need to use the heater in the winter more efficient than the grid and cheaper overall if you adjust for tax.
CliveS
 04 October 2012 09:48 AM
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rogerbryant

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One of the biggest challenges for a future passenger and freight transport infrastructure is to produce an integrated system. There is no point in building high speed passenger lines and freight trunk routes if they are so difficult to use that no one will bother.

For the passenger sector the journeys should be as seamless as possible. If I want to go from my village to a factory 200km away I should be able to buy one ticket that covers this. The bus from my village to the local railway station should connect with a train to the next town in less than 10 minutes, that train should connect with a high speed or intercity line in also in less than 10 minutes and at the other end there should be a connection again within 10 minutes. This can be achieved, as can be seen in several mainland European countries and does not require nationalization of the complete network. What it does require is political will and commitment to integrate the existing structure and then build new connections over time to fill in the gaps. The existence of feeder routes to the trunk routes is a vital part of an integrated structure and even though these may not be profitable in their own right they contribute to the overall profitability of the system.

Similar comprehensive thought is required to improve freight transport and here a variety of solutions will need to be looked at. One important concept is, as OMS said, looking to more local production and distribution especially in the case of food and drink. The cost of oil and hence road haulage will continue to rise and in this case the huge centralised factories and distribution centers may no longer be cost effective. For longer distance transport the system again needs to be as seamless as possible. Containerised freight works well for larger loads and longer distances, but more local handling points are required to reduce lorry distances. Hupac (lorry on a rail wagon) works well over longer distances, such as the alpine crossings, but I think it requires a larger loading gauge than in Britain. There is an opening for a smaller container system, possibly something like the containers used for air cargo, which does not require the infrastructure for standard shipping containers. 2 or 3 m3 and a maximum weight around 3 tonnes would be better for local distribution. Once again this would require the political will to start using the existing infrastructure and then work towards filling in the gaps initially by adding rail links to major freight distribution centers.

The key question for me is "is it possible to have the political support for such a long term infrastructure with a two party political system" ( the same applies to electric power and other utilities). Most of the countries who have invested in this infrastructure have coalition governments, which although slow to operate do give stability.

Best regards

Roger
 05 October 2012 02:06 PM
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Ipayyoursalary

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Originally posted by: rogerbryantThe key question for me is "is it possible to have the political support for such a long term infrastructure with a two party political system" ( the same applies to electric power and other utilities). Most of the countries who have invested in this infrastructure have coalition governments

That explains why this coalition have repeatedly kicked critical decisions into the long grass of 2015 with endless inquiries & reviews : Heathrow expansion, shale gas fracking, new nukes etc.

As long as childish scaremongering and sanctimonious green posturing dominates rational decision making in the LibLabCon, this will continue.
 09 October 2012 10:50 AM
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acsinuk

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I agree with you. The politicians listen to all the pressure groups instead of thinking positively about the good of the people. At the moment we have huge unemployment so we are overtaxed. SO lets get to work and build a coastal highway across all those fast flowing estuaries so that we can generate clean green tidal barrage energy by starting immediately with the likes of the Severn.
CliveS
 16 May 2013 10:40 AM
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eviejones

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time to thinking what yor are going on. now days policies hit our wheather. global warming change the world climate.
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