Tag Archives: eu

In which the EU nudge the coalition* to quietly save a lot of lives

To transport nerds like me and Tom, something stood out in Simon Birkett’s Street Talk about air pollution in London:

When you map air pollution levels in central London you get an only very-slightly fuzzy road map, of course. But that other thing — you see the other thing, more polluting than anything else on the map?

You can see it when you look at the whole city — three things that aren’t roads clearly stand out:

Well one of them is obviously Heathrow Airport, way out west, but those other two…

It’s those old Intercity 125s, high speed diesel trains on London’s remaining major non-electrified railways** — the Great Western into Paddington, and the Midland into St Pancras. You might also spot a lesser line, the Chiltern to Marylebone (Waterloo, Euston, and King’s Cross also still get a very small number of diesels, but not enough to leave any obvious trace on the map).

Makes one wonder how bad the air is in Bristol and Cardiff, where all the trains are diesel.

For most of the day, Paddington hosts half a dozen or more old Intercity 125s each hour from the Westcountry and South Wales. That’ll change when lines to Bristol, Cardiff and Oxford go electric over the next few years. The long distance trains will either be electric, or bizarre hybrids that will burn fuel only where the power lines run out on a few routes.

The £1 bn electrification of the Great Western lines is being sold by Philip Hammond and the DfT almost entirely as an investment to improve speed (always the obsession with speed!) and capacity — the electric trains will accelerate faster, cutting perhaps as much as a fifth from the journey time when combined with other line upgrades. (Trains to Swansea will have to be bizarre hybrids, carrying the dead weight of fuel and engines all the way from London, because the final few miles beyond Cardiff won’t be electrified on the grounds that there are other physical constraints on journey times between Swansea and Cardiff — always the obsession with speed!)

But crucial to the electrification project are EU carbon emissions and air pollution regulations, both of which are tightened again next year: they make it more expensive to build and buy compliant diesel engines, and they mean that money is thrown away on mitigation and fines, costs which seal the case for electrification. Without such regulations pushing up the cost of diesel, the current occupants of the Treasury would never have agreed to spending the money on wires.

And yet the fact that electrification will reduce the incidence of childhood asthma and horrible deaths from respiratory diseases in Cardiff and Bristol and West London doesn’t seem to be something that the government wants to boast about. To boast about solving air pollution would require first that the government publicly acknowledge the frightening scale of the air pollution problem — and then that they acknowledge that, without the EU, they never would have bothered solving it.

* After six Labour transport secretaries did nothing, the final one, Adonis, succeeded in getting electrification announced, only for an unfortunate general election to fall between the announcement and his being able to implement it.

** Yes, I know they are both electrified within London for some commuter services.

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Weekly War Bulletin, 4 Dec

I just looked outside to check and apparently it’s true: it snowed.  Unfortunately I can’t find a single news article about it, though, so you’ll just have to go without hearing a any news at all about snow causing transport chaos.  Oh, well, but I can’t resist a little blog post or two about just how appalling SouthEastern’s customer services were during the outage.  (I’m currently in Scotland, where the MD of Scotrail came on the news to tell everyone how hard he was working his staff, and even though the message was “find your own way home”, at least there was a message…)

But stop the presses!  The important news is that Becky Sargent, 24, from Portsmouth had an eight hour nightmare drive back from Bluewater.

Scotland was looking into some radical policies to tackle car addiction; the car lobby has succeeded in having them quietly dropped.

Bike hire opened to casual users… and crashed, of course.

In an effort to end the War On The Motorist, the government are declining to approve an EU scheme for cooperation on enforcement of traffic laws.  The scheme would allow countries to pass on fines to a Motorist’s home country for enforcement.  The UK government doesn’t want to join up because they are worried that it will cost too much to the UK.  Presumably because on the continent there are some fines of a magnitude that actually provides a serious disincentive to breaking the rules.

Not strictly on topic for AWWTM, but the opening of a new major trauma centre at St Mary’s caught my eye because motor vehicles are the single largest cause of major trauma.  It’s open just in time to take the victims of all the new M4 lane-changing pile-ups that Philip Hammond will be responsible for — indeed, St Mary’s was apparently chosen for its proximity to the M4, M40, and M1.  This is the final of four new MTCs around London, and they’re not cheap.  It’s great that the cost of NHS care is free at the point of delivery; it would just be nice if it were acknowledged at the point of tabloid hacks whinging about speed cameras, government ministers making dogma-based policies, and Motorists shouting about “road tax”.

The Department for Transport have already failed: the Health department thinks that it has been left to them to provide the nation with cycle paths.

Press release plugs massive relative rise in cycling in Merseyside.  Fails to even mention the absolute figures.

Hardened criminal Katie Price finally taken off the road, along with a killer HGV driver.

Kids in Oxford plea for drivers to slow down.

Some (overinterpreted) numbers on fines given for bicycle misuse in London.

A private members’ bill seems to move us onto Central European Time, moving our daylight hours to later in the day thus saving lives on the evening commute in the winter.  (The Scots don’t like this one, but I don’t know what the fuss is about — I’ve not managed to wake up before sunrise while here…)

I was thinking of getting some spoof parking tickets made up myself, actually…

The transport select committee have come out in favour of lowering the drink-drive limit — a change that almost everybody was agreed upon, but which Hammond recently decided against pursuing.

I’ve cycled in Yeovil and I can reassure anybody thinking of doing the same that chavs with air rifles are the least of your worries.

Insightful news: tube drivers might go on strike next year.  What was that about a no-strike deal, Boris?

Rosie Sullivan clearly has a great anti-motorist future ahead of her: holding up the traffic right from the start.

Your silly story: “bizarre incidents” as drivers in Limerick can’t work out which side of the motorway to drive on.  I don’t know if it’s still there, but the road from the ferry terminal at Cork always used to have helpful “wrong way turn back” signs for those who picked the wrong carriageway.