Philip Hammond MP, Secretary of State for ‘Transport’, gave a speech this morning to the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham. In it he outlines very big plans. Very big plans indeed.
I used to love Thunderbirds when I was a child and I’m now positive Philip Hammond did too as it‘s the only way to explain his childish policies. Its futuristic World was one of bombastic visionary schemes – huge supersonic aircraft carrying thousands of passengers, Mega Atomic Power Stations, Pink Rolls Royce’s zooming along empty wide fast motorways. In Hammonds World we see Mega Super Fast High Speed Rail Links, Ultra Low Carbon cars zooming along efficient road infrastructure, all powered by Atomic Power Stations.
Dr Mayer Hillman in his brilliantly pragmatic book How We Can Save the Planet outlines how a popular misconception to global warming is that we can somehow develop our way out of the problem. That technology will save the day like some sort of International Rescue. Mr Hammond’s speech this morning contained the following,
But the idea that the only solution is to force people out of their cars is pessimistic, outdated, Labour dogma. This Government is supporting the ultra-low emissions technologies that will see the carbon output of cars plummet over the next two decades.
Drawing fuel, not from petrol pumps, but from an electricity grid which Chris Huhne is determined to make one of the greenest in Europe. The Coalition has signaled its commitment to de-carbonising motoring by confirming, ahead of the spending review, grants for R&D and generous consumer incentives for every ultra-low emission car sold.
Putting our trust in technology, and our country at the forefront of the green-motoring revolution. The first new-generation electric cars will appear on Britain’s roads early next year and the first volume British-built electric vehicles will roll off the production line in 2013.
So motoring can again become part of our future transport planning, as the greening of the car saves it from extinction and that means we can end Labour’s indiscriminate war on the motorist as we focus on the real enemies – carbon and congestion.”
These words are as astounding as they are absurd (and I’m sure many blogs today will be picking them apart) but the worst aspect of his speech is in what he didn’t say – You may be wondering where walking and cycling feature in all this. They are after all the most cost effective, clean, easily available forms of transport we have. The fact he made no reference to these transport modes at all in his speech (supposedly extolling the virtues of sustainable transport) is as telling as it should be alarming.
In an earlier blog post I discussed how the set up of Cycling England was flawed and its passing could be regarded as a good thing. However I wrote that in the hope that cycling would be brought back in-house within the DfT and receiving a more deserving share of the transport spend. Even if cycling does move back, the future looks very bleak indeed in the wake of such an obviously car-sick Government Department. The fact that walking and cycling improves the nation’s health, produces no carbon or noise pollution, allows people to engage with their surroundings and neighbourhoods and is the most effective way to get through towns and cities seems to be lost on dear Hammond. Also the fact that infrastructure is cheaper with a better rate of return. And that walking and cycling is more fun and the increased fitness makes you better in bed (that last bit is my opinion but I’m sure you’d all agree).
When Thunderbirds was created, it was a brave new World; the Apollo missions were under way, new materials were being discovered, soon one could fly from London to New York in three and a half hours – and look elegant puffing on a cigarette whilst you flew beyond the clouds. In Thunderbirds World you didn’t need to walk or cycle anywhere as technology could take you to wherever you wanted to go. That World has long gone in a plume of supercharged 4-star exhaust fumes but clearly left a mark on our dear Hammond who clearly loves all the science involved.
Which is why the Coalition cut funding for scientific development and research. Oh well, I’m sure the motoring lobby can step in to help. FAB!