Tag Archives: pollution

World of Plastic

Sometimes dismissing the old while embracing the new does not make for real progress. It is change without improvement.

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There are so many examples in everyday experience that you would think that everyone was aware that pursuing the new was not necessarily a route to a better life.

Take the use of plastics. As a London commuter in the 1990s the majority around me were drinking bottled water out of single-use bottles. The branches of W H Smith in the main stations must have sold millions of bottles over the decade. Then the attitude was only the old or deluded were not smart enough to adopt this essential lifestyle improvement. Water shipped in – ideally from some exotic location – was de rigueur.

Similarly no one brought their own bags with them when shopping. Carrying your own bags was even considered as labelling you as a potential shoplifter. Everyone was given nice clean, shiny, disposable plastic ones when checking out. It avoided the hassle of carrying a reuseable one. It was the modern convenient way to go. Again it was only the old fashioned that declined to follow such new ideas.

How different in Grandad’s childhood – milk and pop in re-useable, returnable bottles; groceries in sturdy bags and household junk collected by rag-and-bone men for recycling. A process that has been replaced today by a never-ending stream of single-use plastic bags being pushed through letter boxes all around the country every day of the week. Not very eco-friendly!

Certainly plastic has become an essential material in the 21st century – but we now need to be a bit more old fashioned and wise in what we use it for …

Model Solution

Electrification of the Midland Main Line railway route – connecting London, Leicester, Derby, Nottingham and Sheffield – was first proposed in the 1970s. But only the southern section to Bedford was implemented. Plans for the rest of route were abandoned in the 1980s.

By 2009 a reassessment of the rail electrification options concluded that the Midland Main Line (MML) had the best business case of the remaining main lines coming into London. But the Great Western Lines (GWL) to Wales and the West were selected instead. But that is another story.

HornbyInterCity125In 2012 it was announced that MML electrification from Bedford to Sheffield would be completed by 2020. However this project was paused in 2015 and the completion date pushed back to 2023. Then in 2017 the uncommitted elements of the project were simply cancelled – leaving a wiring gap from Kettering to Clay Cross in Derbyshire even when current work has finished.

Then in February 2018 came the news that the Government wants every diesel train in Britain to be scrapped by 2040. A policy that would require all routes to either be fully electrified or to have developed and implemented some new and non-polluting power sources. [Or the route is closed?]

Given that slam-door InterCity 125 diesel units were first introduced over forty years ago – and are still in main line service today, the prospect of battery or hydrogen powered trains replacing all the UK’s diesel units within twenty-two years seems far fetched. It does, after all, require the development and manufacture of new designs of locomotives and powered carriages. A prospect made even more unlikely by the fact that there is not enough money to complete our proposed electrifications even when using existing technology.

Only in the world of model railways do InterCity 125s run solely on electricity – so perhaps the Government should call in Hornby to advise …

Better Together?

Back in October 2015 the EU’s Motor Vehicles Technical Committee proposed giving car-makers the green light to exceed the current limits on nitrogen oxide emissions by 110% from September 2017 and then by 50% from January 2020 onwards. Now that proposal is set to be written into EU law – despite a petition from a group of 20 European cities signed by over 125,000 people.

MadInHat1So we will shortly have the crazy situation where the EU executive is prosecuting member states whose air quality is not up to standard while authorising car-makers to increase the level of pollution their vehicles can legally emit.

Currently the EU is prosecuting Germany, Portugal, Italy, Spain and the UK over their excessive nitrous oxide levels – while also targeting more than half of the 28 EU members for excessive concentrations of particles produced by diesel engines and industrial emissions. Conditions that were almost entirely created by major car and truck makers – many of whom are European.

Meaning that the EU is attacking the victims – the regional and national authorities not responsible for building these vehicles – while giving motor makers the go-ahead to legally sell vehicles with higher pollution levels.

This mad hatter approach has been made worse by the fact some (all?) car makers have been easily fooling the misguided EU emissions checks for years. A process that is still under-reporting emissions by using unrealistic test conditions that are much removed from real-world driving.