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Philosophical point

Antony Oliver's Comment in last week's issue proposes some pretty basic starting points for civil engineers, some of which look a tad suspect in the foundation zone.

The central contention is that transport is good. As a statement, this begs many more questions than it answers. The word "transport" might be eventually defined enough for us to get to grips with discussing it.

The word 'good' would, I guarantee, generate endless and irresolvable controversy.

The piece surely exemplifies the proposition that transport can be both "good" and "bad" at the same time?

Our Chelsea-tractor is good in as much as it is useful to us as a family, and it is good in emotional ways, causing us to feel more secure in our world. But those considerations don't blind us for a moment to the fact that at a more general social and environmental level it is a bad idea.

We can only solve our problems locally. The inventor of the motorcar surely cannot have been expecting that he would later be responsible for a Tesco phenomenon? Nothing is simple when it comes to either "transport" or "goodness".

Providing transport for those who need to travel seems locally good but this does not preclude us from thinking about the goodness of the necessity for so much travelling. "Transport is bad ... travel less!"

There, a slogan to add to the growing pile?

There is a paradox at the heart of the transport question, which Antony identifies. It cannot be argued away because it is a logical and necessary paradox.

MALCOLM COX (M), South Brent, Devon, alcolm@cox4051.freeserve.co.uk

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