Thursday, August 06, 2009

Climate change: Ambition

The UK government has announced that it plans to drive the domestic airline industry out of business, replacing short-haul flights within the UK with a high-speed rail network. It's an ambitious plan, but a good one - and the real question is why it has taken them so long. As the Guardian's map [PDF] shows, the UK is a laggard when it comes to high-speed rail, thanks largely to privatisation. France and Germany's major cities are already connected by high-speed routes, and it has had a dramatic impact on travel modes within those countries. The effect is even greater in Spain, where the opening of a high-speed link between Madrid and Seville has reduced the airline industry to a bit-player on that route.

This is the sort of government driven modal shift we need in order to tackle climate change and the eventual problem of peak oil. Unfortunately, it would require a massive investment, made worse by our geography (you can't take a high speed train down the Raurimu Spiral, and you can't drive one across Cooks Strait). But with emissions rising, the oil running out, and the threat of people being priced out of intercity transport in the future, its something we should start thinking about now.