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  • But the road infrastructure already exists and this would allow retrofitting existing highways to change over to electric. Look at HS2 and the high level of environmental destruction it is bringing and the freight still needs shifting from rail to road for distribution from the terminals. This appears, a cheaper, faster transition that will likely face less delays and complications.

  • HS2 is a nonsensical vanity project, the UK's attempt to imitate the long-established (and likewise misconceived) high-speed rail projects in Europe, Japan, or China. Their main purpose, apart from being rooted in futurism ('the Concorde of the rails'), has always been mainly to facilitate fast business travel. I'm obviously not talking about that sort of railway.

    You treat highways as a fixed resource in what you say, but most highways built during the 20th century are already a long way into their design lives. The most obvious example of this at the moment are bridges, which in Germany, for instance, were apparently built with a design life of 30 years and are now having to be renewed in extremely costly projects. The non-bridge elements of motorways also need to be resurfaced periodically, and sometimes rebuilt, especially at junctions. Maintaining railways is considerably less resource-intensive and far more sustainable. Existing motorways should be converted to railways.

    Transportation by individual motorised modes along highways is desperately inefficient use of energy, whether it is 'electric' (read: currently mainly generated from burning fossil fuels or by nuclear fission in power stations some distance away) or not. As with greenwash generally, e.g. in the promise of solving the energy crises by introducing smaller! less polluting! more fuel-efficient! more aerodynamic! cars, overall energy use would probably increase through electrification.

    Historically, even though its development was haphazard and, of course, resisted on similar environmental grounds at the time, the railway freight system reached almost every town and city and a great many villages. It long accounted for the vast majority of transport mileage. Distribution from its terminals throughout towns and cities was accomplished by porters or by the horse and cart, e.g. from the old freight terminals of London like in Shoreditch. Even in London, the distances that had to be covered between terminal and destination were not great. Of course, this well-functioning system was dismantled by 20th century science fiction nonsense combined with corrupt interests such as those of Ernest Marples, but there is absolutely no reason to assume that it couldn't be re-established. Today, last-mile distribution would be an absolute doddle and would require very few off-rail motorised miles compared to the silly miles that lorries constantly do when being driven around the country to and from very few distribution centres (Amazon being the latest, and worst, example of unsustainable centralisation in this respect). (As it would be difficult to re-establish the old freight stations that used to exist in London, today it would be advisable for London to build a relatively inexpensive underground goods distribution railway network, a much better use of an underground railway than one for people, to London's well-established centres, which would reduce motorised road traffic very much.)

    Electrification of non-rail, no-water freight would only perpetuate the completely unacceptable status quo and delay progress indefinitely. I'm obviously well aware of what the political mood is on all these things at the moment, and I'm not holding my breath for any positive changes, but the rational case is clear.


    I do love this picture. I've seen it before, quite possibly around the time when it was taken:

  • the time when it was taken


  • Here's another (near-) 27bn road-building programme, this time in Florida. This time it's dollars and not pounds, the estimate is by opponents and challenged by the transportation authority, and it's meant to be spent on only three major new highways.­/sep/11/florida-toll-roads-to-nowhere-co­ronavirus

    The aim, as ever, seems to be to create development corridors, criticised by opponents as highly environmentally damaging in fragile ecosystems.

    Needless to say, yet more sprawl is absolutely the last thing Florida needs.

  • This is probably Egypt's closest equivalent to building a road tunnel near Stonehenge:­ep/15/egypt-cuts-highways-across-pyramid­s-plateau-alarming-conservationists

    The depressing thing is that this is actually already in progress. If archaeologists fear that the archaeological record of Stonehenge would be disturbed, this will certainly do damage to a formerly very densely-inhabited area of Egypt, albeit not as much a digging a tunnel.

    One of the most interesting archaeological facts about Egypt, for me, is that there hasn't actually been that much excavation of ancient cities. Obviously, there has been some, but most of the focus has been on ancient monuments and necropolises, which probably have a greater potential for generating tourism. Also, excavating cities is rather complicated by the fact that most of the ancient cities lie under existing cities.

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Posted by Avatar for Oliver Schick @Oliver Schick