As I was being sped down to London on a GWR train recently I was looking at the new electrification of the West Coast line and wondering to myself how much effort was going into placing vast quantities of steel around the country and making the place a whole lot uglier.
I do understand that electric trains are more efficient and less polluting (assuming that the power stations are efficient and modern) but really, areas of beautiful countryside, already blighted by the train lines are now having all the gantries and related gubbins overlaid on top. Looking across many a valley in the UK you might miss the train lines unless a train is actually passing through, but no way are you going to miss these spiders’ webs of cable and steel.
But that wasn’t the heart of my thought. What I actually thought, thought I to myself thought I, was why are these huge tracts of land not being used for solar generation. I mean, think about it. We are covering beautiful fields with solar farms and here we have one of the UKs biggest land ownerships, and one of the largest electricity users, not joining in.
I’m not even attempting to suggest that the railways could run on their own solar power (it is probably wrong type of sunlight anyway) but surely they could offset a wadge of the cash required to operate them? Given that the railways are already fenced in, and connected to the grid, and ugly (see above!), then why not just cover them in solar cells?
Check out this February 2015 article by James Murray claiming that trackside solar could save Network Rail £150million over 5 years let alone the environmental benefits.
And while we’re at it. What about all the embankments and central reservations that come with out motorways? If the government wont pay for it (do they believe in solar or not?) then let the road building contractors have the space in excahnge for cheaper and better road maintenance!