The essential railway: a lateral interpretation of the functions of urban railways

Debate about the future of public transport is sometimes terminated by an apparently unchallengeable opinion that the automobile is omnipotent. There is also a view that a natural progression of technologies favours modes of transport other than rail. This paper is an attempt to lay a foundation for a perspective on rail-based urban transport which points towards the human system functions which railways fulfil, and the reasons why certain essential features of railways have been 'functional' for societies and economies. Railways historically serve a range of intended purposes, including creation of wealth, protection and advancement of political interests and maintenance of government administrative systems. In addition to these intended effects, railways have created functionality beyond transport systems. Perhaps the best-known would be the establishment of common standard time. Many cities and industries now would lose significant functionality as systems were their railways to close. This functionality is detectable in quantitative terms as system characteristics like employment but it is also theoretically possible in more human, almost but not quite individualistic, terms as human need for socialisation, certainty and security concepts which have broad application. The paper proposes that the notion of system functionality at the human level is worth addressing. With the help of some socio-cultural theory, this analysis might be extended towards consideration of externalities in transport planning.

Media Info

  • Pagination: 7p.
  • Monograph Title: Rejuvenation and renaissance: CORE 2010: conference on railway engineering, 12-15 September 2010, Wellington, New Zealand

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Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01517093
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Source Agency: ARRB
  • Files: ATRI
  • Created Date: Mar 4 2014 8:07PM