Make it so

There is an extremely hoary and ancient joke that someone asked how to get somewhere. Ah I would not start from here.

The Triptych

Transport systems are part of processes that enable people to live well together – civilisation.1 Three core domains are needed to create civilised ways of being:

  • Buildings
  • Life between buildings, and
  • Transport networks

But they must never be separated, they are a triptych. They only work together. Like a three-legged stool, if anything is faulty it all collapses. There are historic issues about how we have done things, how we do things now and how we plan to do things that are not necessarily logical and coherent. 

The kluge2 is a classic way of getting things to work, often very valuable but maybe things in complex adaptive dynamic systems might be different?3 It is not obvious that the governance and professional structures we have reflect or acknowledge the existence of the above domains, for example “Life between Buildings”4 sometimes being a transport related responsibility, at others planning related. But problems are liminal. They involve transitions and rites of passage, like purchasing tickets, using entrance gate technology, lifts and ramps at stations and boarding and leaving trains. Where there are conflicting ways of thinking or conflicting objectives, or conflicting governance agencies and rules, these may not be being acknowledged, thought about and managed.

Holistic Government

Demos5 have written:

“The core problem for government is that it has inherited from the nineteenth century a model of organisation that is structured around functions and services rather than around solving problems.

Budgets are divided into separate silos for health, education, law and order and so on. The vertical links between departments and agencies in any one field and professional groups such as the police, teachers, doctors and nurses are strong.

The horizontal links are weak or non-existent.”

Air Safety Management

Another transport sector has developed some interesting proposals to tackle the above silo issues6:

“European Aviation Safety Management

The system in Europe for ensuring aviation safety is mainly based on a set of rules .. which have been developed after years of experience. This reactive system was effective for many decades in delivering not only a very good safety record for aviation in Europe but also one that has steadily improved.

However, as the aviation system has grown more complex, regulatory compliance as the mainstay of safety has reached its limit. To maintain the current low level of air accident fatalities, the European Union must ensure that the rate of air accidents continues to decline in order to match the continued growth in number of flights.

Both at international and European level, the need was recognised for moving towards a system that is evidence-based and proactive and provides for a systemic approach to safety; in other words, the introduction of the ‘Safety Management’ concept.

Aviation accidents are often the result of a chain of events, meaning that often they cannot be attributed to a single cause. However, this also means there are multiple opportunities to prevent them before they occur and if any link in such a fatal chain is removed, then an accident may be avoided.

Therefore, beyond accident investigation, the crucial element in preventing aviation accidents is reporting and careful analysis of all events and failures, even the smallest, in daily operations, which may indicate the existence of potentially serious safety hazards that may lead to accidents if not corrected.

Occurrence reporting takes a system-wide and data-driven approach to accident prevention and recognises that moving beyond blame, except in certain defined situations, is essential in enhancing safety in a proactive way – these notions have been confirmed through decades of safety and human factors research.”

Inclusive Design

As well as looking in detail at everything as above in the aircraft transport safety process, not only from a safety perspective but also from an inclusive perspective, maybe the gestalt, the overview, the environment should also be considered at the same time? Are we thinking through properly all relationships and asking are there not synergies?  A chain is only as strong as its weakest link.7

A core concept of the disability world is the idea of barriers. These may be physical, institutional, intellectual and attitudinal. The idea of an equality impact assessment is to think through clearly what issues someone might face and what physical, legal and behavioural changes may be appropriate.

Thinking carefully about someone over their life cycle and on a day to day basis, and looking carefully at what happens, how and why, and how it may be different is very valuable.

My experience is like the curate’s egg. There are parts of the movement and transport systems that are impressive; other parts – especially streets and roads are in a backwater. It is not obvious that all the players have even received the message that “Houston, we have a problem”.

For example, for rail, what precisely is being moved onto, along and off the metal tubular spaced structures that connect places? Rolling stock are the wheeled containers that move along the iron rails which come in various shapes and sizes and have a variety of propulsion processes.

What and who goes in or on the rolling stock includes people, people and the stuff and other people they have with them, small stuff, medium sized stuff, large heavy wet difficult complex stuff.

These “sets” require different moving and handling and transferring and transition and storage processes – parents with buggies and shopping, waiting rooms and tea rooms, cycle storage, wheelchair access from street to platform to train. 8

Good solutions from other sectors exist and are well tried and tested, but appear not to easily transfer. What seems to be missing are whole system perspectives9, and looking at what already is and asking how might that be tweaked?

Railways are already moving and handling the complexities caused by people and the stuff they need, immediately and in the future, and in fact pre Beeching had a huge variety of tools for these tasks. 

What seems to have happened is that this huge brilliant “tangled bank”10 of an ecosystem was wiped out and now has very few remaining species. What should have happened is that the badly overgrown garden should have been tended and managed, not cut down. One does not close down veins in a body.

Rail has huge capacities to move things and people, far more than the inefficient individualised small-scale processes of road “carriages”. What happened to containerisation? Why hasn’t it been scaled down? Why are there not standard sizes of luggage, of baby buggies, of packaging?

Instead of wasted journeys because people are not in, why not use some car parking spaces for local secure stores per street and parts of streets?

Why do we not have local super caretakers, porters with general responsibilities to look after geographical areas? These logically could be railway staff so that responsibility for an entire journey of a person, a thing or both together is managed together over the whole process, including the management of the space between buildings. I understand this happens in Japan

Electric assist Cargo trikes and similar as in Zermatt would work from the railway station distribution hubs to the local secure stores (at bus and tram stops?) on timetabled circular routes, like the Swiss postal service, and also able to take people.

Skilled workers would be able to hire the equipment and tools they require from the local railway distribution hub using just in time systems, and have it delivered to where it is needed when. Why do we have vans moving chaotically around our cities? The computerized processes are well developed and rail is obviously a key part.11

Arguments about using the goods lift are easily resolved by cosmetic and health and safety processes as required.

Why are inclusion and moving and handling things separate? They are common sets with specific issues to address as required, not separate subjects. Why does there not appear to be the synergy with appropriate design details for variances in needs?

Instead of spending considerable sums on inclusion, why are not the same processes used, tweaked as required, for example with timing, control, and cosmetic processes to separate activities as required?11


1.       Rose, J. F. The Well-Tempered City » Jonathan F. P. Rose. Available at: 

2.       Marcus, G. Kluge, The Book, by Gary Marcus. Available at: (Accessed: 6th December 2016)

3.       Gleick, J. Chaos: making a new science. (Penguin, 1988).

4.       Life Between Buildings | Island Press. Available at: (Accessed: 15th January 2016)

5.       Perri, 6. Holistic Government. Demos (1997). Available at: (Accessed: 3rd February 2016)

6.       Safety Management – European Commission. Available at: 

7.       Oecd & Ocde. Improving Transport Accessibility for All. (2006).

8.       Durdle, C. Transforming the access experience of Disabled People – Clive Durdle’s Blog. Available at:

9.       Meadows, D. H. Thinking in systemsEarthscan (2008).

10.    Darwin, C. The Origin of Species: By Means of Natural Selection, Or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. (Cambridge University Press, 2009).

11. – Bicycle Culture by Design: Massive Passenger Increase After Bikes Allowed Free on Trains. Available at:

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