Daily Archives: June 15, 2009

The oxymoron of the iron-way

j70_68222That title above sounds horribly like the poem Malcom submitted (and Derek Mahon so wisely rejected) for Icarus. Let’s see if he can do better this time, near fifty years gone.

Who’d-a-thunk it?

ATOC (the Association of Train Operating Companies) is getting a fair coverage for its suggestions for new stations and re-opening branch lines. From such a source this is an unexpected breath of sense.

Providing for a minor building society rescue, or a few smart bombs, or the lawyers’ take from a  couple of “public enquiries” of the Bloody Sunday type) could have real social and environmental benefit:

… just over £500 million [could] reconnect a million people to the rail network by giving them stations within walking distance. Lines would reopen only where they serve communities of at least 15,000 and where trains could run without any subsidy.

Sounds eminently reasonable. Moreover:

In addition to the 14 lines where the costs would be at least equal to the economic benefits, the report identifies 20 more lines whose reopening could be justified on employment grounds.

Would the French flinch?

Given that business plan, the French Government would already be signing the cheques.

The lines would never have been ripped up in Germany or Italy.

Meanwhile …

The Irish Times reports that:

IRISH RAIL is considering replacing the Waterford to Limerick Junction services with a “rail bus” – a hybrid vehicle which can run on road and rail.

The vehicle, which has double sets of wheels, is one of a number of cost-cutting options on the route which has passenger traffic of only 54,000 people a year.

The Irish transport gurus have been far more active in considering, and implementing light-rail system than many others. Even in the benighted US of A, real progress in mass transit is still happening (consider the New Jersey light rail system around Newark).

In the UK trams and similar systems are regarded as outrageously expensive. Only in London’s Docklands has a full development been allowed to happen, and to continue (Blasted Boris permitting) its growth. Elsewhere (Manchester, Tyneside, Nottingham, Croydon … ) what has emerged so far is a spatch-cock operation, with further development severely restrained.

One of those revived links proposed by ATOC is reconnecting Wisbech. That was once the terminus of the revolutionary Upwell tram, above. (Revolutionary? Well, the wheels went round!).

Linking Wisbech to the network effectively means the link to March, and thereby to Ely and Peterborough. Reinstating under 8 miles of track.

It’s all — mainly — still there: the last train, carrying pet food, ran in this millenium. It was formally closed as recently as 2007!

Wisbech, poetically the site of the (ahem!) Clarkson memorial.

There’s an easy one, Lord Adonis!

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