Capitalist transport really doesn’t work

I said that I’d be reviewing government’s plan for the greening of transport and I will now offer reflections.

Although allegedly this is the first transport decarbonisation plan in the world, it does not seem to me, either original or radical.

As Norman Baker, former Lib Dem Transport Minister, says:

The government has boldly called it “the world’s first greenprint to decarbonise all modes of domestic transport by 2050”.

But he adds:

Call me cynical, but to make radical promises for 2050 is a good way to gain some brownie points from electors concerned about the environment, a good initiative to wave at other nations when they gather in Glasgow later this year for COP 26, and one that involves minimal political risk.

We learn incidentally that:

Grant Shapps, the transport secretary has a pilot’s licence and even has his own plane, which for some obscure reason he chose to register in the United States.

The Tories, it seems to me, are always happier with the United States than with Europe…

Turning to the report itself, it states:

Over the last twenty years, in real terms, the cost of motoring fell by 15 per cent. Over the same period the cost of rail fares went up by over 20 per cent and bus and coach fares by over 40 per cent. Gradually, we will change this. Starting with buses outside London, we want simpler, cheaper, often flat fares that you can pay with a contactless card, with daily and weekly price capping across operators. We must make buses and trains better value and more competitively priced

Quite so. The word ‘must’ should be replaced with ‘will’. We can only wonder why it hasn’t?

It is obvious that capitalism for transport – if it ever actually has – certainly does not work in a world of climate warming.

The report says:

We have created Great British Railways to own and control the rail system in the public interest, to make services easier to use and to grow the network. We will build on the huge acceleration of electrification we’ve already seen since 2010, and will shortly announce further electrification schemes. Rail is currently the only means of transporting heavy goods in a low-carbon way using existing, proven technology through electrification. Our electrification programme also, therefore includes relatively short stretches of track that can significantly increase the amount of electrically hauled rail freight and unlock new electric freight paths. With electrification, plus batteries and hydrogen, we can achieve a net zero emission rail network by 2050

This paragraph’s first sentence is laughably economical with the truth. But it does at least acknowledge that (what I’ve also suggested) that rail is the only green freight possibility – but it makes no mention of Freightliner.

Indeed how else is rail going to transport current freight needs?

Whilst the report states:

Our ambition is to remove all diesel-only trains (passenger and freight) from the network by 2040

Ambition is not intention and we have forests burning NOW – including, according to the FT* some of those Microsoft or British Airways carbon ‘offset’ forests. It really is a report that is remarkably laid back. For an ’emergency’ this is the Tory approximation to the currently overwhelmed NHS and Ambulance Service.

They really do not care.

It is indicative that ‘plane owner (and which of us do not?) Shapps has strangely optimistic ideas about electric flight.

Ambitious, for sure.

But what is nowhere apparent is how our current capitalist economic system is capable of successfully ‘greening’ transport.

The unsaid conclusion in the report is actually that capitalism doesn’t work…

Without government prescription and money (both of which are clearly currently being silently infused for both rail and buses) it obviously doesn’t.

The report makes no mention of the current subsidies – preferring to reach out to 2050, but current capitalism cannot cope with a capitalist transport system now – either in itself or with climate warming.

It simply doesn’t work…

*Link is not to the FT, but to an alternative news site, although the FT is where I read it, as the FT link will not now open even in ‘private’ mode… Rather like capitalist transport, it also doesn’t work.


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