Thursday, March 02, 2006

Years of life left in it!

click photo to enlarge
In 2001 the average lifespan of a car in the UK was 14 years. Looked at a different way, the average age of all the cars actually using the roads is 7 years. I was reminded of these statistics when I looked at this photograph of a "Progress Twin Car" tram that I took in Fleetwood, Lancashire, last summer.

This particular vehicle is one of a number built by English Electric between 1958 and 1962. Aged about 45 years old, this tram is by no means the most senior of Blackpool Corporation Transport's fleet, which dates from the 1930s to the 1980s. Yet, it is still giving sterling service along the Fylde coast and pleasing many with its stylish lines and splendid new paint scheme.

Many enthusiasts have cars as old as this tram, and the sight of a veteran or vintage vehicle on one of its outings often draws admiring glances from passers-by. But, it is interesting to consider whether the undoubted cost and environmental benefits of keeping a tram in active service for 40, 50, 70 or more years would also be achieved by routinely manufacturing cars that lasted for a lot longer. I read the other day that 85% of the energy used in a car's lifetime is accounted for by the fuel to propel it. The remaining energy use relates to manufacture, servicing and disposal. Perhaps the fact that the fuel economy of cars is increasing means that the benefits of long-life cars are less obvious. Which is a shame. I for one would like to feel that I could buy a vehicle that would last my lifetime! Maybe modular design is the answer so that key components can more easily be replaced or upgraded, but I can't see manufacturers opting for that anytime soon.

I only occasionally point my camera at vehicles. When I came to photograph this tram its length was a serious constraint on the choice of shot. But the way the light was falling, the three-quarters view was self-evidently the best option: it shows the front and sides and therefore gives the best overview of this venerable vehicle with many more years of life left in it.
photograph & text (c) T. Boughen