“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” Henry Ford (1863-1947), American Industrialist
Did Henry Ford actually say that? There doesn’t appear to be any evidence that in fact he did. But, nevertheless, the quote is credited to him and it represents an early cry for innovation and its benefits. Today it is difficult to avoid bumping into the fruits of innovation wherever we go and, frankly, the human race seems to adore the products of such innovations; the more the merrier. It seems that, as the age of the Model T Ford car began to dawn, New York was overrun by horses… and their by-products.
There was a whole industry surrounding the use of horses as a means of transport. It is estimated there were ~100,000 horses plying the streets of New York City; just imagine the quantity of food these horses needed each and every day. It takes less imagination to visualise the effects of them depositing ~1200 tonnes of manure in the streets every day, which of course had to be removed by an army of workers, summer and winter alike. Of course it didn’t stop there. Apparently, on average, 40 horses died each day and had to be swiftly removed before putrefaction set in, followed by the build-up of flies, the smells and the risk of disease. It was Henry Ford and his like who would solve this problem with their innovation – the motor vehicle. But the car brought with it its own by-products, which we are well aware of. It is even claimed that there were more horse-related deaths per head of the population then than there are car-related deaths today1. This I find very difficult to believe. But never mind, it was innovation and it was the future.
More than a century later, in Lund, we find ourselves in a dilemma. Lund is a beautiful example of a small city whose shape took form progressively over the previous one thousand years and its footprint is well-contained but the layout of its innards is rather formless, built as needs required within the ship-shaped city boundary. The buildings are handsome and the streets are paved, not with gold, but with cobblestones. No one is encouraged by the geography, nor by the road surfaces, to drive in Lund and, even when walking, there is no “as the crow flies” route between A and B. Look for the sun and “follow your nose” is by far the best advice. So how does such a university city – the city of ideas – go forward and yet not destroy the heritage that makes the city so attractive to live in? There is much evidence of how it has done this through the use of land on the outskirts of the city. We see this with Ideon, with Astra Zeneca (now Medicon Village), with Gambro (now Baxter) and with Tetrapak (still, remarkably, Tetrapak). The modern urge to constantly change names is a subject that perhaps I will return to one day…
However, to the North-East of the city, ~4km from the cathedral lies the area of Brunnshög where very significant development is occurring. This development involves the construction of MAX IV and ESS, two world-leading science infrastructures for the study of materials. Materials, from pharmaceuticals and electrical conductors, are so important in the development of modern life as we strive for energy sustainability, to counter climate change and to address the health issues that we encounter as the population ages. Sitting nicely between these two large facilities is Science Village Scandinavia, which, in many ways, will be the heart of the new development. The many thousands of researchers who visit Brunnshög in the coming years to use these leading science facilities will experience their first stop at Science Village. The majority, coming from outside Lund, will make landfall at Sturup or Kastrup airports and find their way to Lund Central station. What then? Well, after intensive debate and lobbying of the funding bodies in Sweden, notably the Swedish government, Lunds Kommun, supported by Region Skåne, took the courageous decision to build a tramline between Lund C and Science Village thus ensuring a smooth transfer from airport to research centre. No longer a need for faster horses…
In early spring the ground-breaking took place and since then construction work has been ongoing at an impressive pace. A ceremony to mark the event was held halfway along the planned tramline, close to the LTH area (Lunds Technical Högskola) on a bright spring day, hosted by Lund’s own son, Johan Wester. The backdrop was so realistic that it was easy to think that the trams would be running that same afternoon.
The event was formalised by a number of the leading players; pictured below are Emma Berginger, chair of the Technical Board of Lunds Kommun and Karolina Skoog, Swedish Minister of the Environment.
Of course, to give an added air of jollity, the student band of Helsingskrona Nation were there to entertain the crowd with their many favourite tunes, including a good sprinkling of Abba classics. The sun came out as if to bless the whole affair and Lund sausages (lundaknake) were served together with kanelbullar (cinnamon buns). We are in Sweden after all.
Down in the city the excavations are in full swing and the track of the tramline is becoming clear. The heavy machinery is working its way up to Brunnshög, shown below near Clemenstorget. The trees that sit along the line of the tram from Lunds C in Clemenstorget itself have been carefully lifted out (no mean feat!) and transplanted on the Science Village site where they are thriving in their new habitat on Vindarnas Park together with the ~ 30,000 trees and bushes already planted there last year.
As I write, the first rail for the tramline is being put in place. Clearly this story will go on so I will lay down my (proverbial) pen for today as I reflect that there will be no need for the wagons and workers to remove the horse manure from the streets of Lund. We will have to find other fertilisers for the roses.
24th October 2017