World cup disappointment once again for England and the familiar post tournament scrutiny of the team and manager now follows. However, whilst our lack of success on the pitch made all the headlines, an arguably equally news worthy success off the pitch got little notice. Gautrain commenced operation on its first section of track between OR Tambo Airport and Sandton, Johannesberg in time for the World Cup. This high speed rail link is operated by trains designed and manufactured in Derby and controlled by a signalling system designed in Plymouth.
In periods in which financial belts are severely tightened, innovation and entrepreneurism tend to flourish. This is not to say that such activity easily develops. In fact the firm that provided the trains and signalling for South Africa, Bombardier Transportation, has itself had to shed many jobs. However, there are some incredibly creative minds in our country, and I am thinking here specifically about the transport sector, which need to be championed. People of our age like Andrew Ritchie of Brompton bicycles, Dr Martin Lowson inventor of Ultra (see Personal Rapid Transit system at Heathrow), Gordon Murray F1 designer and now small car designer, and Dr Alex Moulton of Moulton bicycles to name but a very few. When I wonder, can we expect a transport solution from Sir James Dyson?
Lack of invention and creativity on the pitch we might have, but we have it in droves off it. It’s just that, unlike the football, we don’t much like to talk about it.