This puts me in mind of other epic journeys; the closest Britain has to one involves wondering how long it might take to get from John O'Groats to Land's End, or vice versa, by scheduled public transport. (The significance of this particular journey is that it's conventionally regarded as the most north-easterly point of mainland Great Britain to the most south-westerly point. That said, there are locations further in each of the four major compass directions; see Dave Gorman's Sit Down, Pedal, Pedal, Stop And Stand Up tour, passim.) Without flying, Transport Direct makes finding the route almost disappointingly simple; the southbound journey can be completed in just over 21½ hours, by virtue of taking the overnight sleeper from Inverness that calls at Crewe, and the northbound journey takes a little over 24 hours because the connections don't fall nearly as neatly and you get stuck in Wick for two hours.
Transport Direct is so capable that it almost takes the fun out of trying to create the shortest routes, though if I were actually going to perform the journey then I think I would check its conclusions rather more thoroughly, not least to try to create some back-up plans in case of late running. (Or just buy an All Line Rail Rover and wing it for the rest of the way.) It's sufficiently authoritative-seeming to accept its conclusions at face value for the purposes of this purely academic exercise, though. You might be able to finesse the time a little further by checking different days of the week, or conceivably different times of the year. However, I don't believe it's smart enough to take advantage of scheduled flights, so I suppose the next task would be to try to create the quickest possible journey in either direction taking available scheduled flights into account.
2. National Rail have released a May 2009 map of the Great British rail network. It's deliberately geographically inaccurate, which is part of its charm, but still useful. (Sadly it only has two dots for little Pontefract's three stations, but there are so many other stations it misses out - for entirely obvious reasons - that quibbling about one dot for a small town is splitting a hair.)
3. London is probably the most interesting city to blog about for transport developments in my view, at the moment, but it's far from the only one with news. Manchester made a bid to fund a number of extensions to its tram network from the Transport Innovation Fund, but the bid (which also covered a number of other transport improvements) was conditional on the acceptance in a public ballot of a peak-time weekday road pricing scheme. The ballot rejected the proposal, but since then government funding (mostly local and regional) has been found to start work on some of the extensions. In Singapore, the first part of the Circle line of the MRT system has opened, a little like the East London line compared to the future London Overground loop. Extensions will follow in the near future; eventually Singapore's Circle line may become teacup-shaped, much like London's own Circle Line from December onwards.
4. Onto London as such; some time ago, I mentioned the wonderful London Connections blog, which was for a while the most interesting blog on the subject of developments in London transport infrastructure. While it was sadly brought to a conclusion last August, some of the most frequent contributors have banded together to produce London Reconnections, which is at least as good. London Connections' own former editor comments to London Reconnections from time to time, which is high praise indeed. Can't say I'm wildly thrilled about the opaque use of pseudonyms, but that's a small criticism of an excellent read. Similarly, the news page of the unofficial Croydon Tramlink site has been updated once since the very sad early passing of Stephen Parascandolo.
In other London news, there is suggestion that countdown clock-style timers may be introduced at some pedestrian crossings. I've been really impressed by these when I've seen them in other cities: Singapore, Indianapolis, Boston. Suggestions that the British timers might feature analogue clock-hands sweeping out a gradually illuminating right-hand semi-circle, replacing the standard "beep-beep-beep-beep" with a "donk-a-dink-a-dink diddle-diddle-diddly-bom (poom!)" are sadly fanciful.
5. With a delightful URL, a Finnish writer reports upon his recent trip to a conference discussing Personal Rapid Transport: driverless automated podcars that can follow a number of routes along a track. (I've blogged about the subject before.) The conference discussed the state of the art; the first modern system(s?) - and the word "modern" here tips its hat to West Virginia - are scheduled to become fact, in infant but yet fully functional stages, within the next six months. The theory is lovely and it's always wonderful to see potentially disruptive technologies come to fruition. The logic is convincing and the omens are promising; we'll just see how the unknown unknowns pan out in practice.
Please redirect any comments here, using OpenID and/or (hopefully identified!) anonymous posting as necessary. Thank you!