Large-scale, long-distance transport infrastructure - the arteries of globalisation

Globalisation needs large-scale, long-distance transport infrastructures - motorways, high speed rail links, airports, shipping terminals. These are the arteries through which the goods of Big Business flows. All are heavily subsidised by the taxpayer, while city side streets, country lanes, the routes that serve and link local communities, are left to fall into rack and ruin. The large-scale links literally pass the local communities by, but it is the local communities that pay the externalised costs of pollution and unfair competition from subsidised imports that flood in and destroy local markets.

The US has the world's most highly developed transport infrastructure. Globalisation begins and ends in the US.

Local road schemes, motorway extensions, often seem isolated local events, and are promoted as such. They are not. Newbury, Twyford Down, the Birmingham Northern Relief Road, Glen of the Downs (County Wicklow, Ireland) are all part of the EU Trans-European Road Network, a network drawn up by the European Roundtable of Industrialists (Big Business lobbying forum that sets the EU agenda).

Glen of the Downs road widening scheme will, in a country infamous for its traffic jams and pace of life, be part of the Arklow-Dublin road, linking Larne with Paris. The Glen is a beautiful broad leafed forest between the Sugar Loaf mountains in north county Wicklow. The scheme will destroy oak, beach and hazel and cut down 2000 trees. The Glen of the Downs was proposed as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and should enjoy the protection of European Law, however, bureaucratic cock-ups failed to register the area. Glen of the Downs has seen Ireland's longest running road protest.

A bypass was built around Lincoln. It was sold to the local people as the end to town centre traffic congestion. It cut a swathe through the countryside and left an ugly scar on the limestone escarpment, dwarfing the historic Norman Cathedral and Castle. The bypass has done nothing for town centre congestion, which daily approaches gridlock. A glance at the map shows the real purpose of the bypass, it provides a continuous link from the Humber Bridge, through to the South and the Midlands. A continuous route not lost on road hauliers. Infill is already starting to take place between road and town. An inner route, built two decades earlier is lined with retail parks, including a cinema complex and two drive-in McDonald's (the town will soon boast four McDonald's, all apart from the one in the town centre, drive-ins).

Newbury was another town bypass. Following completion it has failed to resolve town centre congestion, infill is already starting to happen. Construction of the bypass damaged or destroyed sites of historic and natural interest. A look at the map shows a continuous route from the container port at Southampton through to the Midlands and the North.

At Newbury protesters fought with highway contractors. The protesters may have lost the battle but they appear to have won the war. Newbury was a turning point, post-Newbury the roads programme in the UK has been scaled down to almost zero. But it looks like with the announcement of several new road projects that the Blair Big Business consortium known as the Third Way is about to cave in to the paymasters who pull the strings and resurrect the discredited road building programme.

Shipping terminals are built on mud flats and estuaries, prime sites for wildlife and nurseries for fish. Associated developments like oil terminals are often part of the same development.

On the south coast of England extensions to a container terminal will destroy mudflats and generate additional heavy lorry traffic, plans to extend the harbour near Ruigfoord (outside Amsterdam) were the scene of the first big action by Groen Front! (Green Front!, Dutch version of Earth First!).

In Southampton a convoy of lorries trundles day and night through the town to the docks. The traffic passes through Twyford Down, destroyed to make way for a motorway. The traffic funnels in to Twyford Down from London and the South-East, and down from the North and the Midlands.

Dibden Bay is a 500-acre deep sea port planned for Southampton Water on the edge of the New Forest. Apart from the damage to the New Forest it will damage five SSSIs, a Special Protection Area under the EU Birds Directive, a Ramsar site (international wetland designation) and a proposed Special Area of Conservation under the EU Habitats Directive. A Hants and Isle of Wight Nature Reserve will be subject to compulsory purchase and used for dumping silt. The 24-hour operation at Dibden Bay will generate more than 3,000 heavy lorry movements a day, 1.4 million container movements a year.

Since the 1960s air transport has grown rapidly - world passenger traffic 9% a year (double the rate of economic growth), freight 11%. The number of passengers passing through UK airports has grown from 22.5 million (1966) to 146.8 million (1997). DETR expects the number of passengers passing through the UK to grow by 87-192% from 1995 to 2015, figures from British Airways predict similar growth rates 5-6% per annum (1994-2010). London alone is expected to find the capacity for an extra 100 million passengers a year by 2015.

Anyone living near an airport knows only too well the problems - noise, safety, pollution (aircraft and associated ground traffic).

In Farnborough (Hampshire, England) a business airport to serve Europe is being steamrollered through in spite of strong opposition from local residents. Currently, a redundant Ministry of Defence airfield, home of the Farnborough International Airshow, is being used for commercial flying. The operation is unlawful (it lacks planning permission), but the local authority turns a convenient blind eye. Rather than act for the local community, the local authority is more than happy to work hand in hand with the airfield operators TAG (a foreign registered company controlled from a tax haven) and British Aerospace (suppliers of military equipment to oppressive regimes like Turkey and Indonesia and nominated by The Daily Telegraph as the least ethical company operating in the UK).

Aircraft release their emissions at high altitude, a major factor in climate instability and global warming. IPCC attribute 3.5% of global warming to air traffic, with the contribution expected to rise to 4-15% by the middle of the next century.

Air transport lies outside of the Kyoto protocol.

One of the reasons for the huge surge in air transportation is the level of subsidies, low tax regimes and the failure to pay for its externalised costs. Airline fuel is tax free. Within the EU externalised costs amount to 4.6% of EU GDP (16.4 billion euros/year) with direct and indirect support and subsidies running at 45 billion euros/year. Even modest proposals to address this imbalance have been rejected by the International Civil Aviation Organisation.

Cheap flights have led to mass tourism - 80% of passenger traffic is leisure, ticket prices have fallen by 30% (1986-96). Mass tourism (and the global media) have led to a globalisation of culture, McDonaldisation and Coca-Colonisation. Mass tourism has led to the prostitution of Mediterranean culture, in Thailand prostitution is the tourist industry.

Web Resources


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Gaia index ~ global networks ~ global corporations ~ tourism
(c) Keith Parkins 2000-2001 -- January 2001 rev 5