SPENDING a last couple of hours with the family before I head to London on the Virgin West Coast service to Euston.
And do you know why I’m catching the train instead of the plane? Because it’s more environmentally friendly? No. Because, as a former rail minster, I should? No. Because it’s quicker? Obviously not (not usually, and not yet).
I catch the train for the same reasons that millions of others do: because it suits me. I get the chance to read, to write, to watch DVDs, to relax. That’s how I like to travel. There is absolutely no altruistic motive involved.
And that’s the key to encouraging more modal shift. There’s no point in appealing to people’s concern for the environment – far too few people will change their behaviour on that basis to make a significant difference. More people will switch from air to rail if, and only if, their quality of life will improve as a result. If it makes financial sense, if it gives them more time to be productive, if it suits them – that’s the basis on which people make most major lifestyle choices.
As it happens, I’ll be returning to Glasgow by air, because the train won’t be a viable option by the time I set out on Wednesday evening. No doubt that will be criticised by readers of this blog who think I should be putting concern for the environment before the desire to spend the night in my own home with my family. So be it.
Back in June, I happened to mention in a post that I was driving home from London. Almost immediately, Roger Ford (writing as his pseudonym, Captain Deltic), editor of Modern Railways, and the Fact Compiler (of the Railway Eye blog, posted comments to the effect that, as railways minister, I shouldn’t be driving, I should be using the train.
Defensively, I pointed out in reply that I was also the minister responsible for the Highways Agency. In hindsight, what I should have said was, that like millions of other Britons I own a car and I enjoy driving, so why on earth shouldn’t I drive when I feel like it?
Preaching to car owners about the evils of driving isn’t going to make people change the way they travel; making the alternatives more attractive and convenient will.
PS: I just noticed that this is my 500th post. Hurrah for me…