Sunday, 19 December 2010

Baby You Can Drive My Car … If You Can Afford The Petrol

"Two thirds of drivers are cutting back on journeys, cutting back on other expenditure, or cutting back on both.” To anyone even vaguely ‘green’ this quote sounds like a dream come true. What sort of cunning incentive can the authorities have devised to drag people out of their cars?

The quote is from a lobbyist who benefits from increased car use and he actually means it to sound negative - as in fewer car journeys are a bad thing. Click here for the full story about how the latest petrol price rises are apparently putting people off driving.

Living in the Highlands, albeit reasonably close to the main Metropolis and with a trunk road tearing through the middle of my wee town, sometimes a car is the only way of getting about. But if we’re serious about cutting carbon emissions to minimise our impact on the global climate we’ve got to make some tough decisions. Just because you live somewhere rural and remote does that entitle you to pollute the planet?

Rather than faffing about with populist nonsense like fuel price reductions for islanders those in power should be doing all they can to provide clean alternatives. Better public transport and investment in electric and biogas cars.

It’s December which means the new train timetables are out (although they’re as much use as a chocolate fireguard at the moment - I appreciate the severity of the snow and ice but every winter almost every day the Inverness-Aberdeen line is disrupted due to ‘frozen points at Inverurie’ or similar) and the route I use most often is a great example of Scotland’s feeble excuse for public transport.

The earliest you can get into Inverness, the Highland Capital, the administrative hub of the north with its useful connections south, is twenty to eight. Useless. The latest you can leave the city is 9.20pm. So don’t go having notions of taking in a film or eating out. Bizarrely you can get into Inverness by train at midnight from Aberdeen and go the other way at 5am. I have witnessed these ghost hour trains and they’re usually completely empty. Apart from little old bemused me.

What’s more the ticket prices are going up again, apparently to fund investment in the system, but nothing is planned to benefit my area. You can travel into Inverness from the north or south - places like Aviemore and Tain - for pennies thanks to a commuter scheme but if you’re coming from the exotic Far East (Nairn) it’s over a fiver for a return and sometimes as much as £7.

And just to rub in how much environmentally responsible travel you’re missing out on, Scotrail have a widget on their website that tells you the carbon cost of your journey compared to going by car.

When the trains are on time and running at a time convenient to us and don’t cost a complete fortune The Toddler Who Must Be Obeyed and I have jumped on for a few hours’ diversion in Inverness. The train ride itself, although only 15 minutes, is a great adventure. There are other passengers to annoy or make smile; there’s the thrill of TWMBO getting to hand the ticket to the conductor for him/her to put an indecipherable squiggle on; there’s the hilarious lingo about ‘uplifting belongings from vestibules’ and ‘taking cognisance of the slippery underfoot conditions’.

If you have a toddler you really can let the train take the strain. As long as it’s a short distance!

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