It might seem that with North Sea oil, the energy crisis is beyond us. In fact, it's in front of us. About twenty years away at best, calculate the experts. Then wells everywhere in the world, including our own, will start to run dry. The 1977 report of the Workshop on Alternative Energy Strategies, sponsored by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, concluded that "the supply of oil will fail to meet increasing demand before the year 2000, most probably between 1985 and 1995". A recent Government paper, by the Advisory Council on Energy Conservation, came to much the same conclusion. So Britain has got to develop a transport system that doesn't depend on oil. Which is one important reason for continuing to electrify our railways. Electric trains will run on any source of energy: coal, nuclear, gas or oil. Railway electrification now means we can keep going in the future.
After the turn of the century the world's oil will start to run out. One method of transport that will run on any basic fuel is the train. Our plans for electrification today mean we can keep going in the future.
With petrol the price it is, travelling by train has never made more sense. You save precious energy. And so does the country. By comparison, other forms of transport are costing us dear. The estimated m.p.g. per passenger in a Ford Cortina is 32; in a Boeing 747, 76; and in a 125 High Speed Train, 400. The fact that our railways are sparing in their use of oil is important in today's energy crisis. The fact that they are not dependent on oil may prove vital in tomorrow's. Electric trains will run on alternative sources of energy: coal, gas or nuclear. So railway electrification now means we can keep going in the future.
Whatever alternative modes of transport we may invent in the future, one already exists. The electric train. It can run on any source of energy: coal, gas, nuclear or oil. So it makes sense to electrify more of the nation's conveyor belt before oil everywhere is in short supply. At present, only twenty one per cent of our railway network is electrified. To provide a viable means of mass transport for our fuel starved future, we need to continue the work of main line electrification. So that when the oil dries up, the nation won't seize up.