De Oude en de Nieuw

2 Aug

De oude en de nieuw… the old and the new coexist peacefully in the Netherlands. I alluded to this idea in my previous post about my visit to Rotterdam where modernist architecture in the rebuilt city sits happily alongside traditional Dutch building styles. Images of old Holland – the sails of windmills and wind-pumps turning, barges drifting on a vast network of inland waterways – appear centuries ahead of their time, viewed in retrospect. As you arrive in the country from the sea, the vast wind farms that confront you seem emblematic of the Dutch approach to energy-generation and transportation.

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Moving freight by water in the Netherlands

In many ways the Netherlands feels much more civilised and progressive than the insular Saxon kingdom in which I live. Government policy in the UK seems to be heading backwards with respect to the environment. The apparent abolition of the tax regime designed to encourage the production of low emission vehicles, the removal of subsidies for domestic solar panels, the obstacles the planning system places in the way of onshore wind farms, the enthusiasm for fracking…

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Electric cars charging in a Rotterdam street with those ubiquitous bicycles in the background

Meanwhile, back in Rotterdam, cyclists are everywhere and electric cars charge in the streets. It’s a blend of old and new approaches to transport, but focused firmly on the future. Here again, the Dutch appear to be years ahead of the British in their thinking.

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Electric sports saloon recharging. Look carefully – the bikes are there again.

State-owned public transport, clean and efficient, inexpensive for the citizen to use, forms the third element of the Dutch approach to getting around and between towns and cities. In Rotterdam, there is a genuinely integrated transport system, overseen by RET and NS and consisting of trams, buses, metro and trains. “Hier veranderen voor tram, trein en bus,” the pre-recorded voice merrily announces as you approach the next metro station. The situation could hardly be further removed from that in the UK where priority is entirely focused on the private motorist and private ownership of transport provision. Roads are congested and public transport is dilapidated and inefficient.

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A gleaming metro train arrives in Delfshaven station

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The old and the new combine in a celebration of Delft earthenware at Delfshaven’s modern metro station

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Trams in Den Haag – oh, yes, and in the right hand margin, women on bikes…

So while the Dutch embrace a cleaner, greener future, the British, it would seem, are going to hell in a handcart, or at least, nowhere fast in a filthy train carriage. De oude en de nieuw

All text and images © PSR 2015

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2 Responses to “De Oude en de Nieuw”

  1. Mari Biella August 3, 2015 at 12:47 pm #

    ‘Going nowhere fast in a filthy train carriage’ sounds like the perfect analogy for British life, Paul! Here in Italy it’s more like ‘on permanent lunch break’ or something…

    • Paul Sutton Reeves August 3, 2015 at 4:26 pm #

      Ha ha! At least you have good food and weather. Thanks for commenting, Mari.

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