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Possible railway futures

Possible railway futures
Possible railway futures
The centuries since the birth of the Industrial Revolution have seen a succession of increasingly sophisticated transport technologies, each offering improvements in speed, carrying capacity and/or operational flexibility. Having spent this time overcoming the physical barriers to freedom of movement imposed on us by the natural world, humanity now appears to face two immense, and related, challenges: declining reserves of fossil fuels, and anthropogenic climate change. These have particular direct implications for the future of energy intensive modes such road and air transport, and thus ‘knock-on’ implications for other, more energy efficient, modes, such as rail.

Railways provided the second ‘great leap forward’ in transportation, following hard on the heels of the canal revolution, and were arguably the defining technology of the Victorian age, with their importance peaking in the early 20th century. Since then, and particularly since World War II, their role and market share have diminished in the face of competition from road and air transport, although they retain significant roles in both passenger and freight transport. The last third of the 20th century saw significant improvements in railway operating efficiency, particularly with the switch from steam to diesel and electric traction. The development of high-speed passenger rail travel in Japan and Europe reduced journey times dramatically, and enabled rail to compete successfully with air travel over distances of up to 800 km, to the extent that rail now dominates such markets as London – Paris and Paris – Lyon. In parallel with this, containerisation and the concentration on long-haul, unit-train operations greatly improved the efficiency of rail freight services, as exemplified by the burgeoning rail freight industry in North America, where insufficient network capacity is increasingly an issue.

The Foresight Programme of the UK Government’s Office of Science and Innovation recently commissioned a report entitled Intelligent Infrastructure Futures, for which four scenarios were developed of how society might be in 2055. These scenarios are: ‘Perpetual Motion’, ‘Urban Colonies’, ‘Tribal Trading’ and ‘Good Intentions’, each having its own implications for the future of transport. This paper considers the implications of each scenario, and of the underlying/overriding issues of ‘peak oil’ and global warming, for the possible significance and role of rail transport in meeting our transport needs in the mid-21st century.
Armstrong, John
5fafa91e-39c1-4d1d-a331-564558aaa638
Preston, John
ef81c42e-c896-4768-92d1-052662037f0b
Armstrong, John
5fafa91e-39c1-4d1d-a331-564558aaa638
Preston, John
ef81c42e-c896-4768-92d1-052662037f0b

Armstrong, John and Preston, John (2007) Possible railway futures. Transport - The Next 50 Years, New Zealand. 25 - 27 Jul 2007. 21 pp .

Record type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)

Abstract

The centuries since the birth of the Industrial Revolution have seen a succession of increasingly sophisticated transport technologies, each offering improvements in speed, carrying capacity and/or operational flexibility. Having spent this time overcoming the physical barriers to freedom of movement imposed on us by the natural world, humanity now appears to face two immense, and related, challenges: declining reserves of fossil fuels, and anthropogenic climate change. These have particular direct implications for the future of energy intensive modes such road and air transport, and thus ‘knock-on’ implications for other, more energy efficient, modes, such as rail.

Railways provided the second ‘great leap forward’ in transportation, following hard on the heels of the canal revolution, and were arguably the defining technology of the Victorian age, with their importance peaking in the early 20th century. Since then, and particularly since World War II, their role and market share have diminished in the face of competition from road and air transport, although they retain significant roles in both passenger and freight transport. The last third of the 20th century saw significant improvements in railway operating efficiency, particularly with the switch from steam to diesel and electric traction. The development of high-speed passenger rail travel in Japan and Europe reduced journey times dramatically, and enabled rail to compete successfully with air travel over distances of up to 800 km, to the extent that rail now dominates such markets as London – Paris and Paris – Lyon. In parallel with this, containerisation and the concentration on long-haul, unit-train operations greatly improved the efficiency of rail freight services, as exemplified by the burgeoning rail freight industry in North America, where insufficient network capacity is increasingly an issue.

The Foresight Programme of the UK Government’s Office of Science and Innovation recently commissioned a report entitled Intelligent Infrastructure Futures, for which four scenarios were developed of how society might be in 2055. These scenarios are: ‘Perpetual Motion’, ‘Urban Colonies’, ‘Tribal Trading’ and ‘Good Intentions’, each having its own implications for the future of transport. This paper considers the implications of each scenario, and of the underlying/overriding issues of ‘peak oil’ and global warming, for the possible significance and role of rail transport in meeting our transport needs in the mid-21st century.

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More information

Published date: July 2007
Venue - Dates: Transport - The Next 50 Years, New Zealand, 2007-07-25 - 2007-07-27
Organisations: Transportation Group

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 53056
URI: https://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/53056
PURE UUID: 582afbf0-2094-4f44-81d4-6a7e06db6005
ORCID for John Preston: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0002-6866-049X

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 24 Jul 2008
Last modified: 14 Mar 2019 01:42

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