By continuing to use the site you agree to our Privacy & Cookies policy

Your browser seems to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser.


Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.


The closing of physical transport could open the door to the future


Transport is such an amorphous term that we are often tempted to regard it as a fact of life, like death or taxes.This is a big mistake.

Transport is a living, mutating thing. It lives and breathes as we do and often, even when it appears to be stone dead, turns out to have metamorphosed into something else, even after hundreds of years of factitious service.

The first age of transport is exploration, because it is in the discovery of the otherness of other places that the idea of travelling from A to B is born.

The second age in the life of transport begins when the surveying or formalisation of the route from A to B and B back to A again has been accomplished. This applies whether the journey is made on foot, by car, by boat, by air, or any other way.

The third age of transport has arrived when infrastructure is drawn to the route to facilitate its operation and exploit its location.Typically distribution centres, tunnels, bridges, harbours, runways or pipelines come into this category - any structure that facilitates the carriage of passengers, goods and services between A and B.

The fourth age of transport comes with the multiplication of complementary feeder routes so that A to B and back again becomes enmeshed in the omni-directional network of other routes, existing or proposed.

The fifth age of transport comes with the beginning of saturation, when the passenger and cargo use of the route and the network it now serves has become so heavy that it threatens to become an obstacle to traffic, rather than a destination.

The sixth age of transport comes when this sheer 'M6ism'of A-B brings about a massive search for a solution and tolls are imposed. This so-called 'Option C' solution soon leads to the additional imposition of an all-day congestion charge, which is raised until use of the A-B route has dropped to an acceptable level.

The seventh age of transport marks the beginning of its metamorphosis.Travellers now actively avoid the A-B route rather than seeking it out. Instead of being cited in tourist literature as a work of genius that inspires national pride, the route has become the butt of jokes.With the passage of time the state of maintenance of the route becomes a byword for neglect. This is the stage that approximates to the present level of road traffic management in the South East of the United Kingdom today.

The eighth age of transport continues the metamorphic process begun by the seventh. Avoidance of the route has now become a national pastime. There is increasing emphasis on microwave and satellite communication systems and telephone lines as means of conducting business in A-B land without actually going to either place. Finally, after an accident in which many people die, a Royal Commission is appointed to look into the whole matter. Sure enough, in due course, the principal recommendation of this body is that the A-B route be permanently closed and its function taken over by 'new communications technology in place of movement'.

Asked to explain what this means, a government spokesman says: 'Letters become weightless when replaced by emails.'

Thus the ninth age in the life of transport begins precisely when the medium loses its physical form and ephemeralises itself into an IMAX-quality image of B seen from A, and A seen from B.

This sort of remote command capability has been sought by the military ever since the Second World War, since when the technology has improved immeasurably.

Use it and route A-B will actually work better 'closed' than it ever did open.

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment.

The searchable digital buildings archive with drawings from more than 1,500 projects

AJ newsletters