This suggestion comes under the heading of logical ideas which are never likely to go any further. About a year ago, I wrote a piece on obesity and longevity, where I equated longevity with a healthy, energetic and sparse upbringing. I expect you will have heard of the billions to be spent in the short term amounting to something like £50Bn by 2050, on eradicating obesity, and the fact that they are already designing beds like fork-lift trucks because the nurses can’t cope with patients of the weights they are tending to become today. I know from personal experience and experimentation, and also from observation, that once the weight is on one, it is an uphill task to get it off, and Christmas doesn’t help. The speed of life is a strong contender for being the main cause, with lack of time to be selective of food that is fresh, to cook it, and to clear up after, it is so much easier from a packet, and to hell with the additives, another contributory factor. All this hurry and having to work harder for the new lifestyle induce stress which in turn creates comfort eating, another cause.
Very expensive TV Health campaigns are being proposed by government, which, in other cases, don’t seem to have had much effect anyway. Driving in the rush-hour causes frustration and therefore stress, so, instead of spending money on exhortation, why not put more money into public transport, get rid of the school run, and make public transport so attractive in every way it will not be economical to use the car on a daily basis?
The Pros and Cons. The cost will be excessive, but it is needed anyway to reduce the carbon footprint and to ease congestion, so why not now? I hate walking for purely health reasons, I like a purpose, so walking to and from public transport will give incentive and on sunny days, maybe make me walk even further – I did it as a child. The installation will disrupt traffic, but only for a short while. I don’t want to be carrying huge quantities of shopping from supermarkets, so I will have to change my shopping habits, and even encourage the smaller shops to return in our district, like in the past – however, there will be real negative pressure from the bigger out-of-town outlets. People will want to use their cars in bad weather, but if this proposal makes any sense, the two car family will be a thing of the past, so shopping logistics will change and the major times could well be in the evenings, nearing the weekend. Money now being squandered on ever larger roads, parking, and traffic law enforcement could be diverted to a better rail network, with subsidised fare charges. One reason our transport system is so poor is because it is inadequate, expensive, and poorly run. If everyone used the system as they did pre 1950, and pre Beecham, it might justify subsidising from national taxes because all would benefit. There is no way that would be fair today, as we are taxed heavily on our personal transport. The switch will be inevitable, but controversial.
What type of transport? It is a case of horses for courses, depending on the time of day, the length of the route, the passenger numbers and the location. In inner cities I envisage robot, regular, small car units at quick intervals, centrally controlled, with a single-price-token fare, on interlocking routes, so all parts of the city are accessible from anywhere, merely by changing ‘cars’. Wuppertal, in Germany had a version of this system pre WW2. In large towns, it would probably need a variety of buses, large and small depending on requirements. This, would increase the manpower required, but with less traffic on the roads, schedules would be easier to keep, and quick turn-rounds possible. Rural services would improve out of all recognition.
I use public transport when I can, it is relaxing. On longer journeys one can read if actually seated, but to get more bums per carriage, the gap between seats is now so narrow it is only comfortable for small ladies and children. Comfort will have to be a priority if the system is to be accepted. Will it happen? It must for so many reasons, but will it be properly integrated? That is the real question. The car industry will suffer, but we no longer manufacture so only the traders and fixers will suffer. Government will lose taxes in billions, but will be able to justify recouping for a worthy cause. We will be healthier and feel virtuous at the same time – only if it happens.