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On this day in 1963: the Beeching cuts were not a cut or axe; they were butchery

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Declaring half of the British railway network as uneconomic and underused, Dr Richard Beeching’s shortsighted report tolled the death knell for the UK’s leadership in rail transport. The same dogma and lack of vision blights our transport system, economy and environment.

The railway network in Great Britain is the oldest in the world. At its peak before the first world war, the network had around 5,000 stations and 23,000 miles of track. While considerable effort was put into trimming the system’s least used lines between the 1920s and 1960s and the modernising of the rolling stock from steam to diesel and electric engines in the 1950s, annual losses had mounted to £104m by 1962. The system at that time consisted of 18,000 miles of track.

Today the network consists of 2,552 stations, 9,789 miles, is the 18th largest network in the world, is one of the busiest in Europe and the fifth most used on the planet.

Beeching’s report, The Development of the Major Railway Trunk Routes, proposed the closure of a further 4,500 miles of trunk lines and focus on nine main routes for future investment and development.

The failures of Beeching’s reports were two-fold. The rail network is just that: a network – interconnected and dependent on each of its parts.

Trunk lines acted as feeders to mainline or railhead stations. Once the trunk lines had gone, commuters were just as likely to continue journeys by car to their final destination rather than park at a railhead station and switch to a mainline train to finish their journey. The savings from the cuts were tiny and losses continued to mount.

Secondly, operating in the 1960s at a time when environmental thinking was in its infancy, he could not have foreseen the damage that the growth in personal car traffic would do. Nor could he see how the rising prices of fuel and insurance would eventually end our love affair with the internal combustion engine.

There was also a failure of political leadership. The transport minister, Ernest Marples, was a powerful business magnate associated with the Marples Ridgway construction group, which built motorways. When opening the M1 motorway he said, “This motorway starts a new era in road travel. It is in keeping with the bold scientific age in which we live. It is a powerful weapon to add to our transport system”. No bias or vested interest there, then.

Critically, the board that reviewed the Beeching proposals contained no one with any previous knowledge of the railway industry, but many executives, who would see the private benefit from the subsequent sale of unused vast swathes of land and valuable urban structures.

This same mix of vested interest and technical ignorance is guiding our energy policy. The parallels are terrifying, with a third of ministers linked to anti-climate industries and leading politicians denying the scientific consensus on climate change.

The cuts gradually came to a halt in the 1970s.

Margaret Thatcher was minded to push forward the proposals of a Beeching colleague, Sir David Serpell. His plan A would have closed 84% of what was left of the network leaving just under 1,700 miles and reducing passenger miles by 56%.

Had that plan succeeded the only lines that remained would have been London to Cardiff via Bristol, London to Edinburgh via Birmingham/Liverpool/Manchester and Glasgow and London to Newcastle via Leeds. Obviously, some lines in the south east would be maintained.

An outcry from rail users and MPs prevented the government from taking up the proposal, but several minor and duplicate lines were subsequently closed.

We can only imagine the parlous state of our roads nationally and the economy in the south west and Scotland had Maggie agreed to the proposal.

Passenger numbers picked up through the mid to late 1980s, reaching a 20 year high in 1988 and rising ever since.

Rail passengers (click to enlarge).

It is often said that since privatisation, numbers of passenger have grown rapidly.

This is misleading. As described above, the growth began in the 1980s. Privatisation has done more to hamper growth, degrade the network further (leading to the eventual collapse of Railtrack) and create a dysfunctional timetable between Train Operating Companies.

The impact of Beeching’s butchery has been far-reaching and disastrous.

We lost forever our leadership in rail transport just as passenger numbers were about to rise nationally, but more importantly, globally. Britain invented the railways but has no domestically owned manufacturer of this form of transport.

The road network had to expand to cope with the growing number of road users. Freight also moved onto the roads meaning the existing roads degraded faster leading to semi-permanent road works.

Rural communities and the poorest became isolated as low cost mass-transit options vanished.

As we argued in The budget speech we want to see, we see rail as a key part of our national economic renewal and weapon in our fight against climate change. Renationalising the network commands overwhelming public support. Alternative ownership structures could be explored, where those who use and work on the railways could own the service through some mutual structure.

Accelerating Eastcoast Mainline’s re-privatisation, which has contributed £600m in premiums and profits to the state’s coffers under public ownership after the failure of two private franchise operators, runs contrary to the public good or public opinion, and smacks of ideology over common sense.

We could reclaim our role as a world leader in rail transport if we chose to.

Beeching was unrepentant about his role in the closures, “I suppose I’ll always be looked upon as the axe man, but it was surgery, not mad chopping.”

No, he was a butcher.

Further reading: 

HS2: an ‘engine for growth’ or a ‘fast train for fat cats’?

Rail investment will speed up journeys and lower emissions

Unsustainable rail price rises for 10th successive year

FirstGroup’s west coast mainline: burden or benefit?

Simon Leadbetter is the founder and publisher of Blue & Green Tomorrow. He has held senior roles at Northcliffe, The Daily Telegraph, Santander, Barclaycard, AXA, Prudential and Fidelity. In 2004, he founded a marketing agency that worked amongst others with The Guardian, Vodafone, E.On and Liverpool Victoria. He sold this agency in 2006 and as Chief Marketing Officer for two VC-backed start-ups launched the online platform Cleantech Intelligence (which underpinned the The Guardian’s Cleantech 100) and StrategyEye Cleantech. Most recently, he was Marketing Director of Emap, the UK’s largest B2B publisher, and the founder of Blue & Green Communications Limited.

Economy

How Going Green Can Save A Company Money

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going green can save company money
Shutterstock Licensed Photot - By GOLFX

What is going green?

Going green means to live life in a way that is environmentally friendly for an entire population. It is the conservation of energy, water, and air. Going green means using products and resources that will not contaminate or pollute the air. It means being educated and well informed about the surroundings, and how to best protect them. It means recycling products that may not be biodegradable. Companies, as well as people, that adhere to going green can help to ensure a safer life for humanity.

The first step in going green

There are actually no step by step instructions for going green. The only requirement needed is making the decision to become environmentally conscious. It takes a caring attitude, and a willingness to make the change. It has been found that companies have improved their profit margins by going green. They have saved money on many of the frivolous things they they thought were a necessity. Besides saving money, companies are operating more efficiently than before going green. Companies have become aware of their ecological responsibility by pursuing the knowledge needed to make decisions that would change lifestyles and help sustain the earth’s natural resources for present and future generations.

Making needed changes within the company

After making the decision to go green, there are several things that can be changed in the workplace. A good place to start would be conserving energy used by electrical appliances. First, turning off the computer will save over the long run. Just letting it sleep still uses energy overnight. Turn off all other appliances like coffee maker, or anything that plugs in. Pull the socket from the outlet to stop unnecessary energy loss. Appliances continue to use electricity although they are switched off, and not unplugged. Get in the habit of turning off the lights whenever you leave a room. Change to fluorescent light bulbs, and lighting throughout the building. Have any leaks sealed on the premises to avoid the escape of heat or air.

Reducing the common paper waste

paper waste

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By Yury Zap

Modern technologies and state of the art equipment, and tools have almost eliminated the use of paper in the office. Instead of sending out newsletters, brochures, written memos and reminders, you can now do all of these and more by technology while saving on the use of paper. Send out digital documents and emails to communicate with staff and other employees. By using this virtual bookkeeping technique, you will save a bundle on paper. When it is necessary to use paper for printing purposes or other services, choose the already recycled paper. It is smartly labeled and easy to find in any office supply store. It is called the Post Consumer Waste paper, or PCW paper. This will show that your company is dedicated to the preservation of natural resources. By using PCW paper, everyone helps to save the trees which provides and emits many important nutrients into the atmosphere.

Make money by spreading the word

Companies realize that consumers like to buy, or invest in whatever the latest trend may be. They also cater to companies that are doing great things for the quality of life of all people. People want to know that the companies that they cater to are doing their part for the environment and ecology. By going green, you can tell consumers of your experiences with helping them and communities be eco-friendly. This is a sound public relations technique to bring revenue to your brand. Boost the impact that your company makes on the environment. Go green, save and make money while essentially preserving what is normally taken for granted. The benefits of having a green company are enormous for consumers as well as the companies that engage in the process.

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Energy

5 Easy Things You Can Do to Make Your Home More Sustainable

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sustainable homes
Shutterstock Licensed Photot - By Diyana Dimitrova

Increasing your home’s energy efficiency is one of the smartest moves you can make as a homeowner. It will lower your bills, increase the resale value of your property, and help minimize our planet’s fast-approaching climate crisis. While major home retrofits can seem daunting, there are plenty of quick and cost-effective ways to start reducing your carbon footprint today. Here are five easy projects to make your home more sustainable.

1. Weather stripping

If you’re looking to make your home more energy efficient, an energy audit is a highly recommended first step. This will reveal where your home is lacking in regards to sustainability suggests the best plan of attack.

Some form of weather stripping is nearly always advised because it is so easy and inexpensive yet can yield such transformative results. The audit will provide information about air leaks which you can couple with your own knowledge of your home’s ventilation needs to develop a strategic plan.

Make sure you choose the appropriate type of weather stripping for each location in your home. Areas that receive a lot of wear and tear, like popular doorways, are best served by slightly more expensive vinyl or metal options. Immobile cracks or infrequently opened windows can be treated with inexpensive foams or caulking. Depending on the age and quality of your home, the resulting energy savings can be as much as 20 percent.

2. Programmable thermostats

Programmable thermostats

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By Olivier Le Moal

Programmable thermostats have tremendous potential to save money and minimize unnecessary energy usage. About 45 percent of a home’s energy is earmarked for heating and cooling needs with a large fraction of that wasted on unoccupied spaces. Programmable thermostats can automatically lower the heat overnight or shut off the air conditioning when you go to work.

Every degree Fahrenheit you lower the thermostat equates to 1 percent less energy use, which amounts to considerable savings over the course of a year. When used correctly, programmable thermostats reduce heating and cooling bills by 10 to 30 percent. Of course, the same result can be achieved by manually adjusting your thermostats to coincide with your activities, just make sure you remember to do it!

3. Low-flow water hardware

With the current focus on carbon emissions and climate change, we typically equate environmental stability to lower energy use, but fresh water shortage is an equal threat. Installing low-flow hardware for toilets and showers, particularly in drought prone areas, is an inexpensive and easy way to cut water consumption by 50 percent and save as much as $145 per year.

Older toilets use up to 6 gallons of water per flush, the equivalent of an astounding 20.1 gallons per person each day. This makes them the biggest consumer of indoor water. New low-flow toilets are standardized at 1.6 gallons per flush and can save more than 20,000 gallons a year in a 4-member household.

Similarly, low-flow shower heads can decrease water consumption by 40 percent or more while also lowering water heating bills and reducing CO2 emissions. Unlike early versions, new low-flow models are equipped with excellent pressure technology so your shower will be no less satisfying.

4. Energy efficient light bulbs

An average household dedicates about 5 percent of its energy use to lighting, but this value is dropping thanks to new lighting technology. Incandescent bulbs are quickly becoming a thing of the past. These inefficient light sources give off 90 percent of their energy as heat which is not only impractical from a lighting standpoint, but also raises energy bills even further during hot weather.

New LED and compact fluorescent options are far more efficient and longer lasting. Though the upfront costs are higher, the long term environmental and financial benefits are well worth it. Energy efficient light bulbs use as much as 80 percent less energy than traditional incandescent and last 3 to 25 times longer producing savings of about $6 per year per bulb.

5. Installing solar panels

Adding solar panels may not be the easiest, or least expensive, sustainability upgrade for your home, but it will certainly have the greatest impact on both your energy bills and your environmental footprint. Installing solar panels can run about $15,000 – $20,000 upfront, though a number of government incentives are bringing these numbers down. Alternatively, panels can also be leased for a much lower initial investment.

Once operational, a solar system saves about $600 per year over the course of its 25 to 30-year lifespan, and this figure will grow as energy prices rise. Solar installations require little to no maintenance and increase the value of your home.

From an environmental standpoint, the average five-kilowatt residential system can reduce household CO2 emissions by 15,000 pounds every year. Using your solar system to power an electric vehicle is the ultimate sustainable solution serving to reduce total CO2 emissions by as much as 70%!

These days, being environmentally responsible is the hallmark of a good global citizen and it need not require major sacrifices in regards to your lifestyle or your wallet. In fact, increasing your home’s sustainability is apt to make your residence more livable and save you money in the long run. The five projects listed here are just a few of the easy ways to reduce both your environmental footprint and your energy bills. So, give one or more of them a try; with a small budget and a little know-how, there is no reason you can’t start today.

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