The future is not bright
I am constantly amazed by the ‘accentuate the positive’ attitude of the rail industry in its forwardplanning.
Recently I sat through several days of a rail-related Public Inquiry, during which a council economic development officer presented (in passing) details about East-West rail freight corridor improvements now being actively planned by the rail authorities for
the period 2030-40.
These include rejection of the ‘Dullingham loops’ scheme (Cambridgeshire), and even the possibility of a new rail chord being constructed to avoid land constraint issues at Newmarket, all as part of the projected upgrade and redoubling of the Cambridge to Chippenham Junction line. I do wonder on what economic projections such forward planning actually takes place? I increasingly believe that it is all just wishful thinking.
Away from the insular world of rail operations, a period of unprecedented turmoil and social readjustment has just begun, the first obvious sign of which is the death of the High Street.
It will spread far and wide, covering not just traditionally ‘low-skilled’ jobs and services, but stretch across all economic areas, including the rail industry itself. It will be the biggest and most profound change since the Industrial Revolution.
The world in 2030-40 will be profoundly different to today - and permanently so. Future rail modelling needs to appreciate a possibly monumental fall in persons using passenger trains, as traditional workplaces (and indeed jobs) vanish. Incomes will also fall, making the cost of travel unrealistic - as is already happening.
And less disposable income requires fewer products to buy and less movement of such by rail. The economy will reduce to a more basic, sustainable level. Life will become very tough, for many.
In the light of such a world, any development of the rail network needs to be critically reassessed in terms of actual societal requirement. It is my contention that such a requirement will be substantially lower than the present network, including that into cities.
At the moment, the rail industry as a whole appears to be spending staggering sums in developing projects for a future that simply will never exist.
Guy Bettley-Cooke, Cheveley