Modern means of Transport – an Open Speech
There many ways that can reduce traffic either in the planning stage or implementation stage. Recent developments in transport by land, sea, and air, have been made necessary by the modern, ‘high-pressure’ age in which we live, and made possible by scientific and technological development. Since the war, most modern countries have electrified their railway systems, motor cars have become fast, comfortable and reliable, the bicycle has largely been replaced by the motor scooter. The hovercraft, floating with equal ease over sea or land by means of its compressed air jets, is becoming a useful method of making short Zealand journeys. The nuclear-powered ship or sub-marine can travel on or in the water for months on end-without refueling. The helicopter can hover, take-off and land vertically, in a jungle clearing, on the deck of a ship, or on the roof of a building. And in the sphere of fast air-transport, the jet-engine has revolutionized speeds and heights at which aircraft can travel, and so made the crossing of oceans and continents a matter of hours. While in the grandest sphere of all, that of outer space, the rocket-propelled space-craft can orbit the globe or reach the moon, enabling humans to land there.
The advantages of these power-war improvements are obvious. The pace of modern life, internationally as well as nationally, required swift communications. In an age, when even the minor affairs and troubles of even obscure countries are given immediate and world-wide publicity by the radio-telephone, and, television through links such as ‘Telstar’ and ‘Early Bird,’ has made it possible for statesmen and politicians to travel swiftly to conduct talks and ‘on-the-spot’ investigations. Domestic issues once settled locally, or by the sheer passage of time, nowadays, rapidly become internationally explosive. Without the jet plane, U.N. mediators would be powerless. Industrially and commercially, swift travel is no less important. Personal business deals between, say. U.K. and U.S.A. can be finalized within one day – and with all the benefits of personal contact, and ‘off-the-record’ discussion. The pressure of time on people who can afford foreign travel and holidays is such that they often have only a few days to relax in different surroundings. Swift travel is, therefore, a modem trend of tourist trade overseas. And within a country, tourism is greatly helped by the modern car, or the motor scooter, both as a cheap method of seeing the countryside and also as an advance on the bicycle for the lower-income group commuter. Commuting for the rich, nowadays, is even carried out by helicopter; whereas the scooter moves through the traffic jams, the helicopter can fly over them! And who knows what scientific revelations will be made, when a man is able to travel confidently in space and see for himself something of the mysterious universe in which he lives?
But modern transport also has something on the debit side, much of this being due to its actual or potential misuse. The satellite, space-ship, or jet plane can all be used for international spying and for releasing nuclear bombs as well as for peaceful purposes. The fast planes quickly transport troops and equipment to trouble-spots, but international friction is increased when two hostile nations make of the domestic issue of a minor country the battleground of their own ideological disputes. It is a sad irony that many advances in modem transport have been forced on major countries by diplomatic competition and mutual mistrust.
Internally, modern transport has played havoc with many modern cities. It is said that there are as many private cars as taxpayers in Singapore. In most countries, traffic congestion is an ever-present imitate; peace is banished by over-crowded roads and the wear and tear on the nerves by high-speed traffic. But the car remains a ‘status-symbols’, the bigger and faster it is, the more status’ a family thinks it has.
Philosophically, the idea that material possessions and progress can be equated with the human advance in the true sense is rubbish. We all like traveling fast from ‘A’ to ‘B’ – but, in the words of the old war-time British poster – ‘Is your journey really necessary?’