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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.


    Seemingly the biggest story in Germany at the moment (I don't follow German news much) is that of the last-ditch attempts by protesters of stopping the continuation of the A49 motorway in Hessen. The first trees have now been felled. As often with such projects, this has a very long history, which is summarised here:­-a-49-dannenroeder-forst-retten/

    The motorway is meant to cut through an old forest, the Dannenröder Forst, to reach Marburg. Here's a small map of the intended route:

    I think this is hilly country, which will necessitate the "Bauwerke" (structures, probably mostly bridges) to cross valleys. As we know, now that the usual 30-year lifespan for German motorway bridges has mostly come to an end or been exceeded, it is very costly to maintain or replace these, and I imagine they must be building them to a longer-lasting specification by now. Still, it would be better if they didn't build them at all.

    As ever with modern roads, this completely ignores the historically-grown lines of the land and of human habitation. People used to build with nature, not against it. Fragmenting a forest like this is terrible for wildlife; you may have been following the news stories about mountain lions around LA, some of whom have been so trapped by roads that their genetic diversity has taken a nosedive, and so that various ways of building facilities for them to cross roads have been considered, e.g. culverts or a land bridge.

    With their treehouses, the protests are very reminiscent of Newbury and other road protests, but I doubt that German politicians will be very rattled by them at all (owing to its very large car industry, a large majority of people in Germany are still in favour of automobilism). Such visible protest is a matter of last resort. The opponents tried to defeat the project in court but didn't win there, so now this is all they have left. Well done to all who worked against it.

    It was a very different story in Britain in the 90s, when road protesters managed to halt for more than two decades the large road-building programme planned. Of course, a new programme was meant to be resumed under the present lamentable Government when the coronavirus crisis hit. I don't expect that it will be stopped completely, at best slowed, but perhaps there's a glimmer of hope it may not be going ahead as envisaged.

  • More idiotic road-building as part of the Tories' long-hatched plans to revive the stupid nonsense temporarily abandoned in the 90s (not suggesting that Labour, were it to come to power, would be better, as there would probably be a good deal of policy continuity in this sector):­2020/oct/25/it-feels-like-a-nightmare-su­ssex-villagers-aghast-at-road-plan

    Some people are so ignorant it's infuriating, especially when they spout the same long-refuted nonsense over and over. Step forward Andrew Griffith MP:

    Andrew Griffith, who was one of Boris Johnson’s first appointments as chief business adviser before he became Arundel’s MP in 2019, said he had worked with the government to “secure the necessary support for Highways England to proceed” with the new road.

    “It will reduce congestion, enhance air quality, improve road safety and support much-needed employment and economic growth,” he said. “Some question whether we need to improve our roads at all. Whilst I support a rapid switch to cleaner and quieter vehicles – and the UK is a leader in this respect – they will still need roads to drive upon and there is nothing environmentally friendly about pollution caused by congestion.”

    It's just frustrating when these things go in pointless cycles.

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Posted by Avatar for Oliver Schick @Oliver Schick