20 December, 2010

High Speed Rail - A rather large "White Elephant" in a small country?

For a Government advocating Localism, de-centralisation and devolution of power to local government and communities, I am astonished that it should also promote an exceptionally expensive high speed railway that reinforces London's central role within UK in stark contrast to these policies and only reduces journey time to Central London by a mere 30 minutes for the relatively few people having access to the service when compared with the total number of taxpayers expected to contribute to it.  Moreover, this does not make any sense at all while there are far more important priorities to attend to during these times of austerity and economic uncertainty with a fast approaching energy crunch already on the horizon.  What is the Business Case for this and who prioritises how tax payers money is best spent in the National Interest?
This has the stench of another enormous “White Elephant” about it similar to that of the MOD’s requirement for new but obsolete and vulnerable aircraft carriers without aircraft or affordable aviation and marine fuel oils to operate with at some near point in time post peak oil which, according to the International Energy Agency, occurred in 2006.
Our politicians seem to be completely out of touch with the real world and the issues confronting the 21st century.  19th and 20th century military and economic models no longer apply and current events have shown that unlimited growth dependent economies based on leveraged credit (fractional-reserve banking) are unsustainable in a world with finite resources.  Global resource depletion of all kinds is already impacting economic growth potential worldwide thereby threatening a century of international conflict.
In the immediate years ahead, we need to focus on the following:
  1. Massively reducing climate changing emissions, possibly with the assistance of geoenginering, while  developing sources of renewable energy including Spaced Based Solar Power in collaboration or partnership with Japan or any other world power.
  2. Developing, scaling up and deploying energy storage facilities that enable efficient and dependable supplies of renewable clean energy.
  3. Electrifying all forms of transport – dependent on future capacity of secure base load renewable energy supplies  and availability of Rare Earth Metals essential to green technologies.
  4. De-carbonising the current “just in time” food supply chain which is extremely vulnerable to peak oil.  A government 2005 report revealed that food miles within UK amounted to a staggering 30 billion kilometres or more per annum which is unsustainable in the medium to long term and clearly needs urgent attention.
  5. Developing new methods of sustainable self-sufficiency in local food production, storage, food preservation and distribution.
  6. De-centralising, diversifying and automating manufacturing capabilities as well as building capacity beyond already congested industrial and manufacturing areas in order to facilitate re-localisation.
  7. Improving, extending and electrifying existing rail networks to facilitate overnight long haul freight and re-localisation.
  8. Doubling existing passenger rail network capacity by adopting UK fabricated double-decker carriages similar to those found in France and Sydney, Australia.
  9. Improving interconnects between road, rail, air, sea, river and canal transport systems resulting overall in a more integrated, energy efficient and optimized national transport network.
  10. Deploying nationwide high speed fibre optic networks that enable global multimedia communications including video conferencing that dramatically reduces the need for business or personal travel and facilitates remote industrial, manufacturing and research capabilities.
  11. Ensuring full productive employment and that a greater share of the national wealth is more evenly distributed throughout UK to improve social welfare and provide for a rapidly aging population.
  12. Ensuring an end to hubris and national wealth being squandered in questionable overseas military campaigns, unnecessary mega-projects or bailing out insolvent Bankers.
  13. Compensating prudent savers, and in particular pensioner's savings, for the unexpected loss of interest income arising from Government emergency measures to rescue reckless financial institutions from insolvency while sheltering overextended borrowers from a similar fate by imposing historically low interests rates and printing money to underwrite the unknown full extent of remaining toxic loans on bank balance sheets.
The dreadful state of the UK economy and finances has come about because of inadequate regulation of UK Financial Services by successive Governments and incompetent Government Financial Services "watch dogs"!  It appears that past Governments turned a "blind eye" to the excessive risks attached to extremely lucrative activities of a few amoral business and finance elites engaged in short term speculative investments which generated extraordinary capital gains and thus tax revenues that in turn seduced our Governments into supporting the interests of the elite at the expense of the long term interests of the people they were supposed to serve and protect.  The inevitable financial catastrophe that followed in 2007/8 almost caused the total collapse of the UK banking sector were it not for a massive injection of public funds.  Recorded history dictates that they should have known better.
"Business as usual" is no longer sustainable.  It is time for radical change and long term investment in people and the things that society really needs, including re-skilling of the working population so that this nation can once again become an industrial and self-sufficient agricultural nation.  Transition Town Totnes is an example of what many communities will aspire to and want to achieve when confronted with years of economic contraction as competition for and access to dwindling resources becomes increasingly restricted by rising costs beyond what most people can comfortably afford.