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Roddy Graham's blog: 23 April - Tall transport visions from little volcanoes grow!

Date: 23 April 2010

Roddy Graham is chairman of the ICFM and commercial director of Leasedrive Velo

First, we had leaves on the line. Now, we have ash in the sky! The genuine but bizarre excuses multiply at the expense of every one. If ever there was a need for a fully integrated transport policy then this was it!

With a quarter of goods air-freighted into the country, it's not just the airlines, tour operators and hotels who are suffering from the business community. From flower growers to fruit and vegetable producers the world over, the small producers are suffering too. We've grown used to being able to purchase seasonal produce all year round. If it's not grown here at one time of the year, it is somewhere else so we are able to feed our indulgences. Times may be about to change, certainly in the short-term.

While Eyjafjallajokull has been creating unprecedented chaos in the skies over Europe and Scandinavia, the worst may be yet to come. While Canada is the next major country to suffer the fall-out, a sister volcano - Katla - is predicted to erupt in the coming months. Each time the first has erupted, the second has followed suit within six months. And we are talking here about records going back some two thousand years! 1918 was the last time Katla erupted and it does so each century.

Katla is ten times bigger than Eyjafjallajokull and has a much bigger ice cap. It's the combination of melting cold water and lava that's causing the explosions and shooting ash to high altitude. You only have to have the wind in the wrong direction and no-fly zones become the inevitable consequence.

According to a reliable engineering source, one empty airliner that was taken up on a test flight to prove things were OK returned to the ground without drama. The pilot declared that he didn't know what all the fuss was about. When the engineers examined the internals of his jet engines, they declared he had returned just in time. They were covered in a thick layer of a tarry substance and were on the point of seizing!

One hundred thousand flights have been cancelled so far and the potential havoc to come just does not bear considering, but consider it we all should.

Perhaps this is the wake-up call we've all been waiting for as a result of all our excesses - whether it's flying to New York for the weekend or buying tulips from Kenya in December from our local supermarket.

Already, as a result of the costs of transportation and the impact to the environment, there has been much talk of some manufacturing moving back from the Far East to the UK. Is this the catalyst for change together with a more critical look at the merits of business travel?

Perhaps more indeed will be accomplished at home, here in the UK, and that will place an even greater focus on a fully integrated transport system. For certain, if we start enduring regular disruptions to air travel as a result of exploding volcanoes in Iceland, then more people will turn to the train to take the strain. Governments with foresight will look at creating major rail hubs in the same way that regional air hubs have been developed. Passengers will drive or ride to those hubs by personal transport and the first steps to a truly integrated transport system will begin to emerge.

Tall transport visions from little volcanoes grow!

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