Railways and the Environment
form of transport is entirely free from impacting on the environment. In rural areas
particularly, just walking through the countryside causes erosion of pathways and trails
which costs hundreds of thousands of pounds annually to put right. Cycling, too, despite
its smaller point-of-contact with the ground, contributes to this erosion, albeit to a
But it is the emission of noxious gases from motorised forms of transport that places the environment under greatest threat.
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Responsible for causing or aggravating respiratory complaints, these gases are also cited as
causing depletion of the protective ozone layer and contributing to the 'greenhouse'
Trains and buses are more efficient at reducing the harmful effects; but only if they are well used; empty or with poor loadings, the benefit of their high carrying-capacity/pollution ratio is lost.
Now the United Kingdom government and local councils are taking a proactive stance against the private motorist, to encourage greater use of public transport.
Many local authorities are making it more difficult or more expensive for the private motorist to venture into the centres of our towns and cities, with higher parking fees, or by giving over part of the highway to bus lanes, increasing the density of traffic in the remaining lanes. London has the Congestion Charge, which drivers of vehicular traffic have to pay to enter the central area. Another English authority (Leeds) allows cars carrying at least one passenger to use a special lane, with severe penalties for lone motorists who use the lane in an attempt to beat the traffic jams.
Meanwhile the government has put a stop to any new motorway building, pending a review, and are seeking to divert some of the money to enhancing the railway network.
For its part, Network Rail - the company which maintains most of the track, signalling and stations on the national rail network - and the train operating companies are increasing the number of stations with Park and Ride facilities, so that motorists from outlying areas can drive to the stations and complete their journey into the centre of town by train.
A new initiative in 1999 saw the introduction of Freedom of Wales Flexi-Pass (now Explore Wales) tickets, which give unlimited travel on trains and buses as well as discounted or free admission to many tourist attractions in Wales, including ten preserved railways.
Similar strategies are being employed by many sections of the tourist industry.
One such is the Greenway initiative supported by the South Pembrokeshire Action with Rural Communities (SPARC) forum, which seeks to encourage green tourism in this very green area of the Welsh countryside. With the aim of persuading visitors to leave their cars at home and utilise public transport when holidaying in the area, packages are available which gives reduced-fare travel to stations in South Pembrokeshire, and discounted accommodation which ranges from farmhouses, small guest houses or larger hotels. Once in the area, there are further initiatives which enable visitors to explore the region by foot, bicycle (cycle hire is available) or by train or bus. There are a number of official cycleways, and a variety of walks of various lengths - such as the Landsker Borderland Trail, or the footpath to the coast from Penally station especially created for disabled visitors. There is also a scheme whereby long-stay visitors can be collected from Whitland station, taken to their overnight accommodation and, in the morning, provided with bicycles or information about walking routes for them to complete the next of their journey. At the end of their week's or fortnight's holiday, they are again taken to the railway station for their journey home. Details of the scheme are available from railway stations serving West Wales, or from SPARC at The Old School House, Station Road, Narberth, Pembs, SA67 8DU. Tel; +44 (01834) 860965
Preserved railways are playing their part, as well.
As an example, for many years the Talyllyn Railway has filled the boilers of its steam engines with water tapped from the river, used solar cells to trickle-charge batteries which power signalling equipment, and used a local sustainable forest as its source of timber.
But the most eminent example of environmental protection and enterprise can be found at Centre of Alternative Technology. Located a few miles outside Machynlleth on the Cambrian Coast Line, the Centre is at the forefront of experimental schemes to make more efficient use of the world's resources. Not even the discharge from the visitor toilets is allowed to go to waste!
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Copyright © 1998/9/2000/1/2/3/4/5/6/7/8/9/10/11 /12/13/14 by Deryck Lewis. All
Page created January 28 1998. Last update May 18 2014
The author may be contacted at WalesRails