By Jonathan Morris
I had intended on getting away from it all, work I mean. After my 36 hour journey via train, boat, then yet more trains, everything seemed surreal. I saw farm animals from the train window and they looked happy (contented, communicative, friendly even) and I felt that this would be no ordinary weekend. I arrived in Nantes, Cardiff's twin-town exhausted, but relieved that I had finally got there.
After a perfect night's sleep, I decided to visit the city centre, not by train or boat, but using the tram. I thought that there isn't anything unusual about trams, they are just a bus running on rail tracks. Many people see trams as being from the past rather than the future. Part of Blackpool and the former Communist countries, all a bit old fashioned really, but how wrong people can be.
Nantes' tram system forms part of an ultra-modern 'Integrated Transport System'. Two tram lines criss-cross the city, both passing through the main square Place du Commerce. Along the routes there are bus services which serve the areas adjacent to the lines and connect up with the tram service. Not only do they connect, but they do so on time. If you get a bus to a tram stop you will only have to wait a maximum of five minutes to catch a tram to another part of the city and vice versa.
You might think that a service like this would be expensive to use, but this is not so. Tickets cost about £1 and allow unlimited travel on the whole network for up to an hour. Season tickets and special reduced fares can make the service cheaper still. The system is also highly accessible to disabled people because the trams are designed to accommodate wheelchairs and pushchairs.
Nantes' ITS forms a reliable, efficient, people-friendly form of transport throughout a city in many ways similar to Cardiff. The ITS also actually seems to be effective in curbing traffic congestion. The city centre of Nantes was never clogged with traffic as is so often the case in Cardiff, and the ITS was very popular with young and old alike.
My train pulled into Cardiff on a drizzly Monday night, again I was exhausted from my long day of traveling. Getting onto my bus home, I thought why hasn't Cardiff got an Integrated Transport System? I am still thinking the same thing.
By Stuart Pritchard
On Friday 3 May, in the hazy morning sunshine of Brynmawr, an intrepid group of volunteers disguised as wildlife hijacked the main road and set out on a gruelling 65 mike trek through glorious countryside.
The group of about 30 people wound their way through the beautiful Clydach Gorge, picking flowers, singing songs, and generally saying "ooh" at the views. This stage of the walk highlighted the destructive A465 duelling scheme, resulting in the current road being expanded from three to five lanes, which would decimate the gorge.
The walk wound its way through Pontypridd and Cwmbran along the Brecon to Monmouth Canal. Despite the accommodation in Pontypridd being invaded by drunks (not members of the party) and a tricky day for the support vehicle navigating the narrow country lanes of Gwent, the party successfully reached Newport in reasonably high spirits.
Here the walkers met up with the SWWARM cycle ride from Bristol and heckled the Deputy Lord Mayor of Newport because of his views on the M4 Relief Road. The happy throng then set off towards the coastal path, cheered on its way by a passing crucifix-wielding anti-Chinese Christian fundamentalist.
Bank Holiday Monday was an opportunity to see at first hand the Gwent Levels, the area which would be affected by the proposed M4 Relief Road. The panoramic views across the Severn Estuary provided a fitting backdrop for the campaign against the road scheme. The walk showed the area as a living, working landscape hemmed in by the industries of the estuary: the Cardiff Bay Barrage, Lamby Way Landfill Site, Avonmouth Docks, the Severn Bridges, and the Hinkley Point nuclear power stations on the horizon. This emphasized the need to protect the threatened rural communities and open spaces.
SWWARM ended with a chin wag over a few drinks at the residence of the Lord Mayor of Cardiff. Not at all a bad way to end an enjoyable, if tiring, weekend. A few brave souls continued to the benefit gig at Clwb Ifor Bach where Railroad Bill and Pumpkin Orchard provided the musical backdrop for people to leap around in agony as they realised, too late, that blisters and dancing are mutually exclusive.
If this wasn't enough campaigning, several foolhardy costumed Friends of the Earth members descended on Cardiff city centre and the Welsh Office the following day, frightening children and civil servants alike. A scroll was presented to an official detailing our objections to unnecessary road schemes.
Thanks are due, in particular, to John Stewart of ALARM UK, Amanda Martin of Save Our Severnside, and Friends of the Earth Cymru staff and volunteers. Last but not least, thanks to all the walkers who gave up their Bank Holiday weekend in supporting the cause, and for the tireless efforts of Phil Ward from Cardiff Friends of the Earth who made it all happen.
By Phil Pinder
The prospect of destroying 15,000, possibly BSE-infected cows, each year has allowed the discussion of the use of the carcasses as fuel for electricity generation when they are burnt. The carcasses have about two-thirds of the calorific value of coal. The only problem is the large numbers required. Based on a report in Review magazine, May 1996.
Some trains in Sweden will shortly be taking power from a windfarm. Swedish Railways and the National Railways Administration will be fed power from the SydKraft power company's grid network. This will power the newly electrified Malmo to Ystad line. From Modern Railways, March 1996.