TRAVEL IN WALES (continued)
Contents of this section
In the years between the wars people flocked to the coastal areas. Hotels and boarding
houses flourished by offering accommodation for the family. Holiday camps like Butlins,
though they acquired an image of enjoy yourself or else, with their programmes of
organised fun, they undoubtedly were popular with families who wanted to escape from
the regime of having to look after and entertain their children. Caravanning had
started before the Second World War but on a small scale. After the war because of
the shortage of housing many caravan sites came into being catering not only for
holidaymakers but also for larger caravans that were almost immobile once placed
in position. More and more luxurious models which had every appliance for cooking
and storing food were a far cry from the make shift pre-war wooden and ply wood 'vans.
Campers who relied on the protection of a canvas tent endured a more spartan way
of life. Less restricted in where they sited their fold up home, these campers carried
their belongings in the side cars of motor cycles, in panniers on the sides of their
cycles, and, of course, in ruck sacks on their backs. The Welsh countryside still
offers many places of scenic beauty, which can be explored on foot. The restriction
is the vagaries of weather in Great Britain.
back to the
There was growing prosperity after the war, in spite of the losses of Wales's
once dominant industries like coal mining and steel manufacture. People began to
have their own cars and wanted to be able to travel where fancy took them. Road building
blossomed with the motorway network which made road transport even more attractive
than the railway. The M1 was the first motorway in Britain, many years after the
autobahns in Germany and freeways in America. South Wales benefits from the M4 extension
with the road bridge over the Severn. Other bridges and tunnels in Britain have tolls.
Our motorways are free at present, but each new road that is opened costs the government
millions of pounds. Adding more and more to pollution caused by exhaust fumes and
congestion grows in every place where local traffic competes with the mass of heavy
vehicles trying to pass through narrow streets.
Once roads only had to cope with the occasional stagecoach and horse drawn carriages.
Pedestrians wandered where they wished, but now it is a struggle to survive.
Traffic lights came, to replace the arm waving policeman, Belisha beacons and black
and white marked road crossings gave refuge to walkers wanting to cross the road.
Now there are so called pelican crossings with lights that are controlled by pedestrians
themselves. Even more vexing to the motorist is the lack of sufficient parking areas
in towns where space is limited.
Hypermarkets away from town centres offering easy and free parking have reduced the
amount of trade that small shops once enjoyed. This is a problem that merits discipline
on the part of everyone not only the town dwellers but also those who live in the
less populated places.
Bus transport is a worthwhile alternative for they can carry far more people wishing
to shop in town. We are cajoled and enticed, especially at busy holiday periods like
Xmas, to leave our cars at home. Rail travel has diminished where long distances
are covered. Fares have increased and although the modern diesel and electric trains
are as fast or faster than steam locomotives, the convenience has diminished where
access to main line stations is concerned. Coach travel is cheaper and modern vehicles
have on board videos and toilet facilities.
But here again the motor coach is susceptible to temptation on the part of operators
where speed sometime overcomes the need for safety.
back to the
Wales has many small airfields. Some were a legacy of wartime use by the R.A.F.
Cardiff Airport has international status, not as busy as Heathrow or Gatwick but
it does offer opportunities travel abroad. Private flying in Great Britain, though
popular, does not have the development that has taken place in larger and more wide
spread countries like the United States and Canada. Helicopter travel is becoming
more available for business people who have to commute from their industrial bases.
back to the
What of the future? Time travel like that suggested by H.G.Wells in his book
'The Time Machine' or later by the Welsh author Islwyn Ffowc Elis in his novel 'Wythnos
yng Nghymru Fydd' (A Week in Wales of the Future) published first in 1957. Elis prophesied
in one version of his Wales of the future, that vehicles in large towns would be
controlled automatically by a computer which would taken account of other traffic.
He had visions of atomic power engines in his vehicles something that at present
is fraught with difficulties. Although satellite navigation systems are now available
in the 1990s as yet the proposed automatic control of buses in special lanes has
to find acceptance.
A retrograde step it would seem is the re-introduction of tramways in some cities.
The tracks are routed through special clear zones so that the carriages do not compete
with other traffic. More countries have developed underground railways or metros,
but tunnelling below ground is extremely expensive yet in large cities like London
this is possibly the only way to extend the movement of commuting office workers.
In the olden days in Wales people did not move beyond the valley in which they were
born. Miners and quarry men walked to work. Nowadays a new way of working at home
called 'teleworking' is available. Modern computer operation does not need more than
a telephone link for worldwide communication over the Internet. Many workers do their
daily tasks at a V.D.U terminal, without moving from their home. Managing their working
hours to suit other activities such as looking after children. Shopping can be simply
looking at a screen showing what is for sale. Ordering is just selection of an item
and paying by quoting a credit card number.
These are alternatives in restricting the need for movement of people but one cannot
imagine any great reduction in the demand for travel. The explosion of global population
numbers and the demand for third world countries to catch up with the economies of
richer countries, will exacerbate the demand for fossil fuels which must have a finite
source. Friends of the Earth warn of the consequences of global warming from the
release into the atmosphere of ever increasing amounts of pollutants.
back to the