David Benton wrote:split from buy back trains thread . Lets expand this to cover all alternative energies , and energy consumption of trains etc .
The main advantage of electrification, as Sir Peter Parker, head of British Rail in the 1970s, observed is that electricity can come from many sources, whereas diesel trains are more or less limited to oil products. Parker campaigned to get more electrification, but didn't achieve the amount he wished for.
France has a large amounts of electric lines - all the main lines and the energy comes almost entirely from nuclear. Switzerland has a completely electrified network and originally it was powered by hydro (danger there of possible droughts from climate change) and now from hydro and nuclear.
A couple of years ago a prominent head of one of the Rail Industry's numerous forums, a former Army Director of Logistics, said that hydrogen fuel cells may be the solution for lines not heavily enough trafficked for full electrification. Fuel cells give the advantages of electric trains without needing the overhead. Unfortunately his remarks were taken up by the Ministry which used them as an excuse to delay more electrification. In reality fuel cells are not ready yet.
Suddenly they are changing policy and hinting (no more) that a full electrification programme may be about to emerge. I hope so. The Great Western and the Midland lines are the most obvious next candidates. One problem of course is a shortage of the engineers needed as the electrification team was broken up after the ECML was done, whereas it should have been kept in being to do different lines in turn.
Parker already knew in 1973 that railways were more flexible than private cars and other road vehicles. I doubt if private cars will be a big part of life in the post-oil age. I see from today's Observer that already it is hard to sell houses in the low density suburbs away from a rail station. The article suggests that some of these suburbs may decline into slums in the near future. I think they should be either bulldozed or have the density of housing increased to the point that a tramway or trolleybus is viable.
My last trip to Florida showed what has happened. Orange farms had been built on but with houses from which only extensive driving can allow people to live there. Also huge numbers of strip malls, each with a Wal-Mart, and other chain shops, all looking the same. A ruined landscape.