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Green Corner




An A-Z of the environment & issues

by Peter Hatswell



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M is for Motorways

Five decades have passed since the London to South Yorkshire motorway (M1) was built and I remember as a youth watching the enormous bridge and embankment constructions grow when there seemed to be little pressing need for new roads. However the country had shaken off the privations of WW2 and reasonably priced cars were becoming available, although petrol at 10 shillings a gallon (11p/litre) was a bit pricey!

The new found freedom and convenience for passenger and freight movement led to a topsy-like growth in motorways and Dr Beeching added to this by closing many of the branch lines which had been a mainstay of our transport system. Oil was plentiful and relatively cheap so little thought was given to the loss in energy efficiency and the profligate use of the world’s resources (steel, rubber, plastics etc) in making millions of new vehicles.  The Clean Air Act put paid to the yellow smogs but the pollution from road traffic, although invisible, was increasing and beginning to affect the health of the nation.

Now that demand for road travel has exceeded the supply of new roads we are paying the penalty in traffic congestion which is a waste of time, money, fuel and a drain on our sanity. Transport in 2006 accounted for 23.5% of the UK’s carbon dioxide emissions, 93% of that being from road transport and increasing at 2% per year. This is clearly unsustainable and something must be done. Experts agree that a road-charging system would be most effective against unnecessary journeys and in changing the way we live. Jobs nearer to home would help reduce commuting but in Dunstable we are building housing on any spare industrial land!

The cost of oil is the critical factor and only a quadrupling of it’s price will make any significant change to our lifestyles. We have never had it so good in terms of mobility but the planet is suffering and will make its own adjustments both to our and our children’s futures.



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