Transport Watch UK Focusing on UK's Traffic & Traffic Systems

Topic 23. Snippets to the Times

Sample of letters sent to The Times . Most of those were not published.  All by Paul F Withrington

See also High Speed Rail correspondence


Ref. times/cyclists 04
31st May 2012

Cyclists.

I write as the proud owner of an eight speed Sturmey-Archer hub gear affixed to an ancient touring bike complete with drop handlebars and iron hard tyres.  Whereas many may applaud the notion that tougher sentences should be imposed on drivers who “kill cyclists” (your report of  29th May), should not those cyclists stupid enough to bike about the place with no high visibility jacket, particularly at night, and with no lights, shoulder at least half the blame should they be a victim.


Ref. Mobiles 01
Date 3th March 2015

MOBILES

Francis Elliott reports that Ministers are refusing to heed calls to ban drivers who are repeatedly caught using mobiles (Drivers on mobiles won’t be banned as it would cost vote, March 2nd).  Their resolve may be strengthened by the knowledge that phone use amounts to only one in 200 of the recorded causes of fatal road accidents and to only one in 650 of the recorded causes for road accidents with lesser injuries. It certainly is time to base policy on the data rather than hysteria.

....................................................

Note to editor

See http://www.transport-watch.co.uk/facts-sheet-13-recorded-causes-road-traffic-accididents-august-2013


Ref. Convert03
Date 26th February 2015

LORRIES

Graeme Paton reports that the railway lobby group, The Campaign for Better Transport, is calling for “lorries to be replaced by trains”, (Fatal road accidents five times more likely to involve lorries, Feb 25th), an entirely unrealistic idea.

If the CfBT were serious about protecting people from road traffic and improving the environment it would join the IEA’s and our campaign for Paving over of the Tracks.  The replacement express coaches and lorries would use less fuel and emit less carbon than do the trains.  Those vehicles would occupy only a trivial proportion of the capacity available, so enabling tens of thousands of other vehicles to divert from the unsuitable rural roads and city streets which they now clog.  London’s surface rail commuters would all have seats.  Fares would be cut by a factor of between two and four.  The taxpayer would be relieved of a bill of more than £5bn annually.  Except for the longest journeys, journey time would be the same or less than by train.

For this to become a reality the near religious fervour which rail inspires has to be broken.

..................................................

Note to editor: see http://www.transport-watch.co.uk/topic-15-london-waste-battersea-and-north-marylebone


 Ref. Convert03
Date 27th February 2015

RAILWAYS A SCRAP HEAP

Graeme Paton reports Mark Carne as saying that the railways resemble a “scrap heap” (Feb 27th).   He is right.  Without vast subsidy the system would indeed be worth no more than scrap, a fat noted by Stewart Joy, Chief Economist to British Railways, as long ago as 1968. (1)

The gap between Network Rail’s income and expenditure, including finance charges, for the decade to 2018/19 amounts to £66bn at current prices. At the end of that period debt will exceed £40bn, scandalously “secured” against a worthless “Regulatory Asset Base”. (2)

In comparison the strategic road network profits the exchequer to the tune of £13bn per year and is at least twice as productive per lane-km as is the railway per track-km.

Paving over the tracks would provide all London’s crushed rail commuters with seats (3) at a fraction the rail fare.  Replacement express coaches would match the train for speed for nearly all journeys.  Countless lorries and other vehicles would divert from the unsuitable city streets which they now clog. (see (3) again)  Carbon emissions would be reduced (4) and the exchequer would profit to the tune of billions of pounds pa (5)

Pity about the sentiment.

..........................................

(1) In his book "The Train that Ran Away"

(2)Forecast by the Office of the Rail Regulator (3)See http://www.transport-watch.co.uk/topic-15-london-waste-battersea-and-north-marylebone

(4) http://www.transport-watch.co.uk/facts-sheet-5-fuel-and-emissions-trains-compared-replacement-express-coaches-and-lorries-november-20

(5)http://www.transport-watch.co.uk/topic-2-road-rail-comparisons-summary-findings and associated spread sheet

 


Ref. Speedcam25
Date 19th February 2015

SPEED CAMERAS

Labour’s policy, reported by Graeme Paton (Thousands of speed cameras to be banned under Labour, Feb 19th) is apt.  Our analysis shows that deaths per vehicle-mile were declining at 7% pa over the 15 years prior to the substantive introduction of the infernal machines.  That beneficial trend immediately collapsed to 2% - not surprising since drivers were then (a) distracted and (b) concentrating on their speedometers instead of the road ahead.  Had the previous trend continued there would have been over 10,000 fewer deaths over the years than actually occurred.  Indeed we found an almost perfect correlation between the number of fines, which by 2004 approached 2 million pa, and the extra deaths.  It appears that the more they fined us the more we died.

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Notes to editor – Speeding and phone use are trivial contributors to the recorded causes of road traffic accidents, see below

DfT table RAS 50007 provides recorded causes. Relevant data for 2011 is summarised below.  Greater detail is here. http://www.transport-watch.co.uk/facts-sheet-13-recorded-causes-road-traffic-accididents-august-2013

 

Fatal
Serious
Slight
All
Total causes
4,447
49,012
337,012
390,460
Speeding as % total causes
5.44%
2.81%
2.2%
2.3%
Phone as % total causes
0.52%
0.15%
0.14%
0.15%
 
 

Ref. Paving the railway 03
Date 17th February 2015
BEECHING AND ALL THAT
Graeme Patom’s article (Great Rail revival sees Beeching’s axed lines open again 50 years on) and your leader of Feb 17th are misplaced. 
The closure rate by Beeching was little greater than previously achieved.  The closed lines carried 1% of traffic.  There was a howl that the loss led to further losses on the main lines but there is no such signal in the data.  Instead those using the occasional one to two carriage “trains” on the feeders will have reached the main lines by car or bus.
Despite extraordinary growth since 1995 rail now carries only 3% of passenger journeys, 8.7% of passenger miles and 8.5% of freight.  Furthermore, nearly half the population uses a train less than once a year.
The growth has been bought at huge cost.  The Rail Regulator’s data suggests that at current prices Network Rail’s expenditure for the 10 years to 2018/19 will be £90bn compared with income, void of grant, of 24bn, a loss of £66bn.  The debt will then be over £40 billion. Rather than £66bn (£106bn if the debt is added) of taxpayers’ money on this huge transport museum, subsidy should stop and the railways should be paved for the relative peanut of £20bn.  Nothing could do more to cut commuter costs, improve connectivity and improve the environment whilst profiting the exchequer to the tune of tens of billions. 
Even in Central London the replacement coaches would fill only a fraction of the space available so enabling tens thousands of lorries and other vehicles to divert from, the unsuitable city streets which they now clog.  Furthermore, all but the longest journeys would be quicker than by train, speed similar, service frequency at least quadrupled.
The present mania arises because rail has become a kind of religion, quite beyond the reach of reason, fanned by such as the Campaign for Better Transport– a railway lobby group, originally funded by the unions, now disguised as an environmental group.
The loss to the nation is unimaginably vast.
..............................
Detail supporting the IEA paper is available at topic 100 on the Transport- Watch web site
(For interest the rate of return on the Boarders line is well below unity, a scandalous waste of taxpayers money). 

RAIL Paving the railway 02
Date 6th February 2015
BUSWAY NETWORK
Load Bradshaw refers to width, terminal capacity and to rail’s “expensive safety systems”.  (Letter Feb 6th)
The legendry width between rails is 4ft 8.5 inches, the same as required by carts being dragged by pit ponies 150 years ago.  However, the width between tunnel and viaduct walls is 7.3 metres, the same as the carriageway of a two-way trunk road.  Beyond the portals level widths are typically 8.5 metres.  Roads of that width, built on these superb railway alignments, would be vastly superior to the tarmacked cow trails which so often double as A-roads.
At terminals a parked train sterilises perhaps 100 metres until it can be dragged out backwards.  The express coach may move off after a couple of minutes.  It may then either replace an existing bus on a city street, or, like the train, be parked up or used for a return trip.
No expensive safety measures or signals are required on the strategic road system.  There deaths per passenger-km are similar to, or below, rail’s once trespassers, excluding suicides, are taken into account. Deaths to passengers in coach or train crashes are both very rare.
David Wallace says moving high volumes of passengers is best left to railways (letter Feb 6th).  I deal with that in my letter of the same date.
Dr Kim Howells (also 6th Feb) is right. The institutional prejudice against conversion is vast. It is fuelled by decades of extraordinarily misleading railway propaganda, elevating rail to almost religious status at enormous cost to the nation.

Ref. /RAIL Paving the railway 01
Date 5th February 2015
BUSWAY NETWORK
Sir, John Chapman, says the buses could be linked and then put back on railway tracks (letters Feb 15th).  With no linkage and steered by the drivers express coaches using one lane of a motor road may deliver 75,000 seats per hour.  That’s 50% more than the crushed peak hour railway commuters who arrive at Waterloo in trains requiring four inbound tracks. 
The coaches would motor at 60 mph.  Average headways would then be 100 metres.  The journey times from Southampton would be similar to the train’s.  Fares may halved or perhaps even quartered.
Linking the vehicles electronically would vastly increase potential capacity.  Putting them back on rails would cost a fortune and prevent any other vehicle from using the track, a track which, as a railway, is in highway terms substantially disused.
Paul Withrington
Director Transport-Watch.
Note to editor
Detail supporting the IEA paper is available at topic 100 on the Transport- Watch web site at topic 100

Ref. /RAIL Paving the railway 01
Date 5th February 2015
BUSWAY NETWORK
Sir, John Chapman, says the buses could be linked and then put back on railway tracks (letters Feb 15th).  With no linkage and steered by the drivers express coaches using one lane of a motor road may deliver 75,000 seats per hour.  That’s 50% more than the crushed peak hour railway commuters who arrive at Waterloo in trains requiring four inbound tracks. 
The coaches would motor at 60 mph.  Average headways would then be 100 metres.  The journey times from Southampton would be similar to the train’s.  Fares may halved or perhaps even quartered.
Linking the vehicles electronically would vastly increase potential capacity.  Putting them back on rails would cost a fortune and prevent any other vehicle from using the track, a track which, as a railway, is in highway terms substantially disused.
Note to editor
Detail supporting the IEA paper is available at topic 100 on the Transport- Watch web site at topic 100
 

Ref. /RAIL POL12
Date 22nd August 2014
FAIR FARES
In the Times of 22nd Aug Billy Kenber reported that taxpayers subsidise (rail) commuters by £200 a week.  Despite that I am substantially cut off from the capital because of the cost. It’s over £55 for the 65 mile return at peak times.  The pity of it is that if the railway were paved and the trains replaced by express coaches then that cost would be at least quartered, the service would make a profit and countless other vehicles could divert from the unsuitable rural roads and city streets which they now clog.  Furthermore my journey would take less time than it does by train. See note (5) – And no, the railways are not “too narrow”.  The level width on a double track right of way is 8.5 metres, or 7.3 metres in tunnels – wide enough for the carriageway of a two-way trunk road.  See note (2).  Furthermore the cost for converting the entire system would be less than £20bn [See note (3)] a mere bagatelle compared with railway modernisation. 
Meanwhile it costs the taxpayer 7 times as much to move a passenger or tonne of freight by rail as it does by road whilst road users pay the exchequer 4 to 5 times as much in taxes as is spent upon them. See note (1)
The prize, all London’s crushed surface rail commuters would have seats at a quarter of the cost of the train whilst occupying between one seventh and one fifth of the capacity available, let alone the environmental gain from removing countless lorries from London’s streets. [See note (4)]
Paul Withrington
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Notes to editor:  Go to www.transport-watch.co..uk, open and find according to the above numbered notes as follows:
Note (1): See topic 2 and find spread sheet for the factor of 7.  The spread sheet also provides expenditure of circa £7.8bn on all roads and of £2.9bn on the motorway and trunk road network in 2012.  Those sums compare with a tax-take, including VAT on fuel and new vehicles etc., in excess of £50 bn for all roads of which £13bn may be allocated to the Motorway and Trunk Road network.
Note (2) See Facts sheet 3 for widths and headroom   
Note (3) See Topic 16 for costs of conversion
Note (4) See topic 15 shows that replacement coaches would occupy between one fifth and one seventh of the capacity available at peak times – see pictures and map.  Outside the peak terminals are places of dreams.  The spare capacity would allow countless lorries and other vehicles to divert from the city streets which they currently clog; likewise in rural areas.
Note (5) at 60 mph the express coach would be slightly slower than the fastest trains but faster than the slower ones.  Additionally the service frequency would be perhaps four times as great, thereby reducing wasted time no end.  Probably the coach would motor at 70 mph.

Times/RAIL POL12
Date 22nd August 2014 
FAIR FARES - FOLLOWING THE HUGE NOSE MADE ABOUT RAIL FARE INCREASES
In the Times of 22nd Aug Billy Kenber reported that taxpayers subsidise (rail) commuters by £200 a week.  Despite that I am substantially cut off from the capital because of the cost. It’s over £55 for the 65 mile return at peak times.  The pity of it is that if the railway were paved and the trains replaced by express coaches then that cost would be at least quartered, the service would make a profit and countless other vehicles could divert from the unsuitable rural roads and city streets which they now clog.  Furthermore my journey would take less time than it does by train. See note (5) – And no, the railways are not “too narrow”.  The level width on a double track right of way is 8.5 metres, or 7.3 metres in tunnels – wide enough for the carriageway of a two-way trunk road.  See note (2).  Furthermore the cost for converting the entire system would be less than £20bn [See note (3)] a mere bagatelle compared with railway modernisation. 
Meanwhile it costs the taxpayer 7 times as much to move a passenger or tonne of freight by rail as it does by road whilst road users pay the exchequer 4 to 5 times as much in taxes as is spent upon them. See note (1)
The prize, all London’s crushed surface rail commuters would have seats at a quarter of the cost of the train whilst occupying between one seventh and one fifth of the capacity available, let alone the environmental gain from removing countless lorries from London’s streets. [See note (4)]
………………………
Note (1): See topic 2 and find spread sheet for the factor of 7.  The spread sheet also provides expenditure of circa £7.8bn on all roads and of £2.9bn on the motorway and trunk road network in 2012.  Those sums compare with a tax-take, including VAT on fuel and new vehicles etc., in excess of £50 bn for all roads of which £13bn may be allocated to the Motorway and Trunk Road network.
Note (2) See Facts sheet 3 for widths and headroom   
Note (3) See Topic 16 for costs of conversion
Note (4) See topic 15 shows that replacement coaches would occupy between one fifth and one seventh of the capacity available at peak times – see pictures and map.  Outside the peak terminals are places of dreams.  The spare capacity would allow countless lorries and other vehicles to divert from the city streets which they currently clog; likewise in rural areas.
Note (5) at 60 mph the express coach would be slightly slower than the fastest trains but faster than the slower ones.  Additionally the service frequency would be perhaps four times as great, thereby reducing wasted time no end.  Probably the coach would motor at 70 mph.

  times/ELECTRIC 13
1st March 2014
ELECTRIC DISILLUSION
Disillusioned owners of electric cars (Electric cars for sale: lots of disillusioned owners, March 1st) may be even more disillusioned to hear that the Arup and Cenex report, of October 2008, upon which the belief that the electric vehicle emits 40% less carbon than a conventional one, is based on the wild claims of manufacturers and ignores the very large energy consumption of battery manufacture.
 In contrast, Professors Cebon and Collings of Cambridge University, concluded, in their letter to Ingenia of 5th September 2010, that “The best of existing internal combustion powered vehicles generate equivalent or lower total CO2 emissions (‘Well to Wheel - WTW’) than existing EVs, at a price that is typically £10,000 lower” and that the best policy for reducing emissions would be to “Promote use of the best of existing low emission hydrocarbon-fuelled vehicles.. ” and to “Encourage development of even better hydrocarbon-fuelled vehicles”.
 Our independent calculations provide a similar result.
 We go on to say that if this electric nonsense leads to large scale production then there will be problems sourcing the lithium for the batteries (perhaps 30 million of th4em) and the environmental hazard that such materials will create.
 .................................... 
The Arup Cenex report is here http://www.bis.gov.uk/files/file48653.pdf
The Cebon/Collins letter  is here http://www-cvdc.eng.cam.ac.uk/Ingenia-letter

Ref. times/RAIL POL11
Date 21th February 2014
EMPTY TRUCKS AND VACCUOUS HEADS Not published
Phillippa Edmunds, of the Campaign for Better Transport, claims HGVs are four and a half times more likely to be involved in fatal collisions than cars (Empty Trucks, Letters 21st Feb). Instead, for the year 2012 the ratios are two and a half for fatalities (not four and a half), 0.83 for fatals plus serious injuries and 0.53 for all severities.  Those numbers are on a per vehicle-mile basis (1).  The data does not tell us whether it was the lorry which should take the blame or the relative carelessness of the other parties.
If the CfBT were serious about the environment and safety it would canvas for converting the rail system (2) to a reserved road system thereby cutting the costs born by rail commuters (3) by a factor of at least four whilst enabling hundreds of thousands of vehicles to divert from the unsuitable roads and city streets which they now clog.  No other option would be so effective in keeping traffic away from people.
Instead the agenda of this railway lobby group, originally funded by the rail unions, is to increase rail use at huge cost to the taxpayer - It costs the Government seven times as much to move a passenger or tonne of freight by rail as it does by tax profitable road network (4).
Notes to editor
(2) A typical double track railway line offers a width between tunnel walls the same as the carriageway of a two way trunk road, void of marginal strips, see http://www.transport-watch.co.uk/sites/default/files/Factssheet03%20widths%20no%20pics.pdf  and pictures here http://www.transport-watch.co.uk/sites/default/files/WIDTHS.pdf . On the approaches to towns the widths are vast.
(3) For London see topic 15 in the Transport-Watch web site, here, http://www.transport-watch.co.uk/topic-15-london-waste-battersea-and-north-marylebone
(4) Our costs to Government are derived by dividing the reported expenditures by passenger-km or tonne-km.  Our data is here http://www.transport-watch.co.uk/sites/default/files/LATEST%20COST%20DATA%20web%20%2802%29.xls    The ratios in the last column of the table summarise the whole. 

Ref. times/RAIL POL 09
Date 28th January 20134
Railway mania:
Justine Webb’s article in The Times (Trains built the US. Today they’re un-American, 28th Jan) illustrates how the railway myth grips the imagination.  Sadly the myth has no basis in reality.  Here are the facts.
The motor car has enabled a dispersed land use which is nearly impossible to serve by bus, let alone the train.
It costs the Government seven times as much to move a passenger or tonne of freight by rail as it does by the strategic road network.[i]  The latter makes vast profits in terms of tax[ii].
Over the past decade rail has required subsidies of circa £50bn not counting loans of circa £30bn guaranteed by the Government. The total, £80bn, is equivalent to £3,000 for every household in the land.
Rail carries only 2.6% or the UK’s passenger-journeys,[iii] 7.5 % of passenger-miles[iv] and 8.5% of tonne-miles[v]. 
Nearly half the nation uses a train less than once a year.[vi] Outside London a rail journey is a rarity. 
Rail is not “high capacity”.  In New York there is an express contra-flow coach lane 11 feet wide and four miles long, including 1.5 in tunnel, which offers 30,000 seats in the peak hour.  In comparison 30,000 crushed passengers arrive at Victoria Main Line in the peak hour in trains requiring four inbound tracks.  The reality is that a single lane of a motor road may offer 75,000 seats per hour – over four times the capacity of HS2.
If London’s vast grade separated multi-track rail network were paved, peak hour passengers would all find seats in 75-seat express sufficient to occupy only one seventh of the capacity available.[vii]   Fares may be cut by a factor of four, and journey times shortened except for the longest. The environmental benefit would be vast since tens of thousands of lorries and other vehicles would divert from the unsuitable streets which they now clog and tens of thousand of hectares derelict railway land would be come intensely valuable.
Stewart Joy, Chief economist to British Railways in the late 1960s. wrote in his book ‘The Train that Ran Away’, that there were “those in the British Transport Commission and the railways who were prepared, cynically, to accept the rewards of high office in return for the unpalatable task of tricking the Government an a mammoth scale, those men”, Joy wrote, “Were either fools or knaves”.  Railway propaganda prompts the comment, now as then.
One of the worst reasons for jumping off a cliff is because lemmings do that.  Likewise with "investment" in rail - more properly called subsidy, since no cash return can ever arise.
Notes:
[ii] Figure 7 of Transport Watch Evidence to the Transport Committee’s inquiry into Transport and the Economy  September 2010 (Ev w 12 Volume II) also available here http://www.transport-watch.co.uk/sites/default/files/TRANSPORT%20AND%20THE%20ECONOMY%2004doc_2.pdf
[iii] National Travel Survey table 0303
[iv] Transport Statistics Great Britain Tables 0101 and 0603
[v] Transport Statistics Great Britain Table 0401 
[vi] National Travel Survey table 0313

Ref. times/fares09
14th August 2013
RAIL FARES
Passengers travelling in to London terminals this morning will be dismayed to know that, even in tunnels, a double track rail right of way is the same width as the carriageway of a two-way trunk road, that in central London and in the peak hour our immense clunking rail network is, in highway terms, used to perhaps one seventh of its capacity if paved, that costs would be cut by a factor of four if the steel were removed in favour of asphalt, that the replacement express coaches would then match the train for journey times (except for the longest 10% of journeys), that passengers would all have seats, that subsidy would be turned to profit, that countless lorries and other vehicles would divert from the unsuitable rural roads and city streets which they now clog, energy consumption and emissions would be substantially reduced, and that endless acres of derelict railway land would become intensely valuable.
Those who doubt should imagine the road network paved with railway lines.  The place would be at a near standstill, as is the railway in highway terms.

Ref. BEECHING 01 Date 18th March 2013
RAIL and BEECHING
The lines chopped by Beeching (18th March), if reopened, would be scarcely be brought back to life.  Instead they will carry a one or 2-car, nearly empty, “train” once every couple of hours, as they did prior to closure. 
Instead these invaluable rights of way should be converted to roads.  The effect would be to enable tens of thousands of lorries and other vehicle to divert from the unsuitable historic roads that they now clog, and to enable express coaches to provide an efficient and fast public service at a fraction the cost of rail.

Ref. times/FARES 01
21st January 2013
RAIL FARES
If railways were not a religion passengers would be clamouring for the rights of way to be paved.  All of those crushed railway commuters would then have seats in express coaches at one quarter the cost of the train.
Even in Central London and in the peak hour that vast, grade separated rail network is, in highway terms, substantially disused – The passenger per inbound track would all find sets to spare in 150 75-seat express coaches, sufficient to occupy one lane of a motor road the same width as required by a train for 9 minutes.
The ten-year average spend by the Government on the strategic road network at 2011 prices is circa £32bn, or £3.2bn per year.  Dividing that by the sum of current passenger and tonne-km provides a unit cost to of one penny.  In contrast rail has extracted circa 5bn per year in subsidy from taxpayers, yielding a unit cost of 6.8 pence.  Even worse for rail the tax-take attributable to the strategic network exceeds government expenditure by at least 10bn per year
Sadly Rail is indeed a religion.
Paul Withrington Director Transport-watch
Notes to editor.
500,000 passengers enter the central London by surface rail in the three hours 7 am to 10 am.  Hence 250,000 in the peak hour is generous.  There are 25 pairs of tracks.  Hence the flow per inbound track amounts to 10,000.  150 75 seat coaches would provide 11,250 seats.  The capacity of one lane of a motor road is 1,000 such coaches,  which, if travelling at 60 mph, would have headways averaging 100 metres or close to 100 yards bumper to bumper.
Map and some pictures HERE:
Transport Committee
Philip Pank

Ref. times/cyclists 06
14th November 2012
LORRIES AND CYCLISTS.
Philip Pank, (13th) points to "cyclist's fury at new HGV limit".  The other side of the coin is that Motorists are greatly frustrated by lorries limited to 40 mph.  Consequently there is dangerous overtaking.  Similarly, the speed differentials on dual carriageways cause accidents. Cyclists, such as myself, are at hazard on any road.  That is one reason why we are a particular rarity in rural areas.  The only solution is to build cycle ways separated from the roads.  Meanwhile, why do all of us not wear florescent clothing as routine?  Instead many bike about wearing dark clothing and with no lights at night thereby courting death.  Is it possible to be more foolhardy than that? 
 Paul F Withrington

 Ref. times/RAIL POL 07
Date 5th October 2012
Railway mania:
The £300 million rail crash” to do with franchising, 4th Oct, is the tip of the iceberg   Instead  look at the billion pound bill for  the shameless promotion of High Speed Rail and the decades of equally shameless railway propaganda which has benighted the nation’s transport policies these last 50 years.  As a result half the Government’s transport budget goes on rail, which moves only 3% of the nation’s passenger journeys, 7% of its passenger-miles and 12% of its tonne-miles.
It costs the Government at least six times as much to move a passenger or tonne of freight by rail as it does by the motorway and trunk Road network.  Even in central London and in the peak hour, our immense grade separated surface rail network is, in highway terms, substantially disused. 
Sadly the numbers are no match for the almost religious mania generated by rail, a disaster for logic and policy alike.
Paul Withrington
Our published evidence to the Transport Committee’s inquiry into the “Reform of the Railways” is here

 times/RAIL POL 07
Date 17th Sept 2012
Railway mania:
Tony Lodge (letter Sept 14th) and Nigel Ogilvie (letter Sept 17th) imagine that rail can be “competitive”, but the idea hope cannot be sustained. 
It costs the Government at least six times as much to move a passenger or tonne of freight by rail as it does by the motorway and trunk Road network.  Even in central London and in the peak hour, our immense grade separated surface rail network is, in highway terms, substantially disused.  For example, if the 250,000 peak hour arrivals all had seats in 75-seat express coaches then those coaches would occupy only one seventh of the capacity available if the network were paved. Many thousands of lorries and other vehicles would then divert from the unsuitable rural roads and city streets that they now clog.  There would be a substantial saving in fuel and accidents. Except for the longest journeys the coach would match or beat the train for speed. Endless acres of near derelict railway land would become intensely valuable.
It’s a no brainer, beggared by 70 years of shameless railway propaganda, misinformation, children’s nursery rhymes and rose tinted memories of the great age steam.
Paul F Withrington Director Transport-watch
Our published evidence to the Transport Committee’s inquiry into the “Reform of the Railways” is here

 Ref. times/RAIL POL 06
Date 17th August 2012
Railway mania:
 
Philip Pank’s headline of 15th Aug reads “Passengers balk at 20% rise in fares”.  Have they not noticed that it costs the Government six times as much to move a passenger or tonne of freight by rail as it does by the motorway and trunk road network?  Have they not noticed that in the peak hour London’s vast, often grade separated, surface rail network is, in highway terms, substantially disused?
Rail’s receipts for passengers do not cover operating costs.  Hence the £16.8 billion package for control period 5, of which £9.4bn is capital, is not an “investment.  Instead it is subsidy, equivalent to wasting the lifetime earnings of 16,800 working men or to a tax hit of £650 upon every household in the land.  The tragedy is that the product will have trivial use compared that from equivalent roads.
The alternative to this vast railway expenditure is to replace the tracks by asphalt and to manage the network so as to avoid congestion.  Express coaches and lorries would then carry out the national rail function at a profit to the taxpayer instead of at the immense cost now endured.  Additionally all London’s crushed surface rail commuters would have seats at fares at least halved from the present, and tens of thousands of lorries and other vehicles would divert from the unsuitable city streets that they now clog.
Unfortunately the gap between the myths which sustain the railways and the facts beggars belief.  The truth is thereby denied to the loss of all of us. How long will we have to wait before policy is aligned to the numbers rather than to fairy stories?
 Paul F Withrington

 Ref. times/fares08
14th August 2012
RAIL FARES
High rail fares cut many of us off from London.  However, subsidy can scarcely be supported since the better off use rail four to five times as much as do the poor.  The pity of it is that those crushed, well to do, commuters could all have seats at a fraction the cost, if only the sentiment that supports rail could be set aside. 
For example, even in central London and in the peak hour, that vast (surface) rail network is, in highway terms, used to only about one seventh of its capacity.  If paved, countless lorries and other vehicles would divert from the unsuitable streets that they now clog, commuter journey times, except for the longest, would be shortened, fuel consumption would be greatly reduced, fares could be at least halved and the system would be profitable, rather than loss making.
Those who disbelieve should consider the contra-flow express bus lane serving New York’s bus terminal. It carries 700 45-seat coaches in the peak hour offering over 30,000 seats.  In contrast, in the peak hour and at Victoria Main line four inbound tracks are required to carry 30,000 crushed rail commuters.  The numbers speak for themselves.
Our published evidence on the Reform of the Railways submitted to the Transport Committee summarises.  It is available here
Other of interest see:

 Ref. Speedcam22
Date 18th July 2012
Rising death rate.
The world and the Transport Committee are dismayed that deaths by road have “risen” by 3% to a total of 1901.  However that is within normal variation.  For example, if 1900 is the long term average then by pure chance one would expect the year to year variation to lie within 4.5% of that value.  Hence a 3% difference is nothing to be remarked upon.  In any case it could be due to the weather.
Paul F Withrington
Note to editor.
Here is the maths. The standard error on the mean of a series of random events is given by the square root of the mean.  The 95% confidence limits are then within two standard deviations of the mean.  Hence, with mean deaths per year of 1,900, the upper and lower bounds are within plus or minus 87 or 4.5% of the mean.  Putting it otherwise, if there is no trend then we would expect the number of deaths to be either more than  87 above or more than 87 below the average one time in 20.

 Ref. RailPol 05
Date 16th July 2012
£9.4 BILLION ON RAIL
The £9.4 billion, “investment” package for rail is equivalent to the lifetime earnings of 9,000 working men, or to £360 for every household in the land.  The product will have trivial use compared that from equivalent roads.  For example, there is fear that the much vaunted Javelin service to  the Olympic Park will lack capacity.  It is to offer 12 trains per hour each with 680 seats.  Those seats could be provided in 110 75-seat express coaches, sufficient to occupy one tenth of the capacity of one lane of a motor road, the same width as required by a train.
In contrast if most of rail’s invaluable rights of way were paved, and managed to avoid congestion, replacement express coach services would be a fraction the cost of the train.  Furthermore, countless lorries and other vehicles would divert from the unsuitable roads that they now clog.
In New York there is a contra flow express coach lane, four miles long, one and a half in tunnel, that serves the New York coach terminal.  It offers over 30,000 seats in the peak hour in 700 45-seat coaches.  The seats equal the number of crushed passengers that alight at Victoria Main line in the peak hour.  The trains carrying those passengers require four inbound tracks, each the same width as the bus lane.
In the 1970s Don Morin, Chief of public transport in the US concluded that a single express coach lane could carry 50,000 passengers per hour, the same as arrive at Waterloo – crushed and in trains requiring four inbound tracks
How long will we have to wait before policy is aligned to the numbers rather than to fairy stories?
Paul F Withrington

Ref. times/cyclists 04
31st May 2012
CYCLISTS.
I write as the proud owner of an eight speed Sturmey-Archer hub gear affixed to an ancient touring bike complete with drop handlebars and iron hard tyres.  Whereas many may applaud the notion that tougher sentences should be imposed on drivers who “kill cyclists” (your report of  29th May), should not those cyclists stupid enough to bike about the place with no high visibility jacket, particularly at night, and with no lights, shoulder at least half the blame should they be a victim.
Paul F Withrington

 Date 19th March 2012
Ref. The Times/Expend01
 
SELLING THE ROADS
VAT on fuel, Excise Duty and road tax extracts £44 billion per year from the motorist.  Adding VAT on motor sales etc. brings the total to well in excess of £50 billion.  In comparison expenditure (Capital plus revenue) runs at circ at circa £10 billion, providing a profit to the exchequer of over £40 billion.  Apportioning that according to vehicle miles yields £13 billion pa from the strategic road network.  It amounts to £400,000 per lane-mile or to 10 pence per passenger-mile or to 6 pence if freight is added. 
The strategic network is used nearly thee times as intensively per lane-mile as is the railway network per track-mile.  Further the railways extract £250,000 per track-mile pa from the exchequer, a subsidy of 15 pence per passenger-mile or 11 pence if freight is added.   That suggests the selling of the roads should include rail’s rights of way – with the proviso that they must be preserved, not as railways, but for transport.  Market forces would then convert those little used rail tracks to a system of reserved motor roads at the most immense profit imaginable.  Even in London and in the peak hour our great railway system is, in highway terms substantially disused – and at a cost that is at least four times as high as the rubber tyred option.
Of course such arguments are futile.  After all rail is a world religion where belief in defiance of the facts forever trumps the rational.
Paul Withrington

10th November 2011
Ref. Policy 39 
ROADS FOR BRITAIN AND RAILWAYS AS RELIGION
The surface rail network is some 10,000 miles long and serves that hearts of our towns and cities, see http://www.nationalrail.co.uk/passenger_services/maps/ nationalrailnetworkmap.pdf .  However, even in the peak hour and in central London that network is, in highway terms, scarcely used, see topic 15 here
 Not surprisingly rail costs the government six times as much per passenger-mile or per tonne-mile as does the strategic road network, see the ratios in the cost table at para 84 here http://www.chiltern-evergreen3.co.uk/uploads/17Jan2011/OBJ319_1.pdf.  Worse still, and including trespassers but not suicides, rail kills more people per passenger-mile than does the strategic road network, see facts sheet 2
 I have tried Ben Webster and Philip Pank with such data but they, like the public at large are impervious – probably because, for them, rail is a religion where faith trumps all else.  Perhaps you are a man of lesser faith.  If so you may like to make hay with one of the great scandals of our time.  
(Quote number 25, ex Francis Cairncross in 1974, may entertain
Paul Withrington

 Ref. times/speed limits06
6th November 2011
Full speed ahead
Christian Wolmar’s article (But what if the limit had been 80 mph, Nov 7th) is misinformed.  Firstly the speed limit had little or no effect on the M5 during the fateful night of the disaster, bedevilled as it was by bad weather.  Secondly, if American experience is to be trusted, raising the limit to 80 mph would reduce the proportion exceeding that limit. Thirdly the research which pretends to relate speed to casualties is weakly based and contentious.  Fourthly, an increase in the speed limit free of cameras would probably increase safety by leaving drivers free to concentrate on the road ahead – after all most of us want to stay alive.
Paul F Withrington (Director Transport Watch)
Data on the cost of reducing limits is here

  
25/10/2011
Ref. Times\Roadrail03
Letters Editor
Dear Sir
Roads to prosperity
Your leader of 25th rightly extols the virtue of the M25 and the need for road capacity.  The competing mode is rail.  However the railway myths of capacity, safety and environmental advantage have no basis.
For example, the single contra-flow express bus lane serving the New York Bus terminal carries over 30,000 seats in the peak hour in 700 45-seat coaches.  In comparison 30,000 crushed passengers require four inbound tracks at Victoria Main Line. The waste is lamentable.
Worse still, per unit carried, rail costs the Government five to six times as much as does the strategic road system.
The solution is obvious.  Rail’s superbly engineered rights of way should, for the most part, be converted to roads managed to avoid congestion.  That would relieve unsuitable city streets and rural roads of countless lorries and other vehicles whilst cutting the cost of travel by a factor of at least four, let alone the fuel.
It is only the sentimentality of associated with the great age of steam which enables the facts to be ignored, or distorted beyond recognition, thereby preventing this solution being considered and speedily adopted.
 Paul F Withrington Director Transport Watch
 

 /CARELESS PARKING04
10sh October 2011
PARKING and DANGEROUS DRIVING
Illegal parking is perhaps the only offence where the perpetrator is not liable.  Instead it is the vehicle owner.  Surely that is contrary to the ordinary expectation of justice.  Instead of putting that right those elected to govern us appear incapable of legislating so as to overcome the evil of “cowboy clampers” (Law will drive cowboy clampers into rogue tickets Oct 10th).
…………………………………
Simultaneously there is the deplorable proposal to jail those who cause death by "dangerous driving", however that is to be defined.  Have they not realised nobody is perfect?  Instead all of us periodically lose concentration or misjudge when driving. To that extent we are all guilty of all deaths from that cause.  In a civilised world, instead of imposing draconian sentences following a chance and tragic outcome the penalty should depend only on behaviour.
Presumably those who support the proposal would automatically jail the pedestrian who inadvertently steps off a pavement causing a car to veer and kill some other person, let alone the cyclist in dark clothing and with no lights.
 Paul F Withrington,

  Ref. times/fares07
20th August 2011
Letters The Times
RAIL FARES
Margaret Duggan (letters Aug 20th) highlights the impact of high rail fares on ordinary folk. The pity is that express coaches using rail’s rights of way would cut the costs by a factor of four, whilst enabling countless lorries and other vehicles to divert from the unsuitable city streets and rural roads that they now clog.
Even at peak times and in central London this vast rail network, although apparently bursting at the seams is, in highway terms, virtually disused.  Just imagine what would happen if the motorway and trunk road system were paved with railway tracks, the place would be at a near standstill.
This extraordinarily expensive and wasteful status quo will almost certainly continue, supported, as it is, by a century old world-wide "perfect railway" myth; a myth that has no basis in fact but which nevertheless exerts a vice like grip on the imaginations of grown men.
Paul F Withrington (Director Transport Watch)

 Ref. times/ELECTRIC 11
1st August 2011
Letters The Times
BATTERY SHOCK
Ben Webster (Aug 1st) reports the £19,000 electric car battery shock.  The second shock is that these vehicles are BROWN, not GREEN. 
The green belief is based on the wild claims of manufacturers. In contrast we multiplied together the energy efficiencies of each link in the drive chain from primary burn to forward motion and found conventional vehicles more efficient and emitting less carbon than electric powered ones of the same performance.
The conclusion is that electric vehicles will be an environmental disaster unless the generating industry is decarbonised.  That is unlikely to be achieved for decades. Even then it will be fun sourcing the lithium and disposing of 30 million Li batteries let alone generating the electricity itself.
 Paul F Withrington (Director Transport Watch)                                                                                                                                           
The detail is here at topic 31
See also Professor Cebon’s paper here  http://www-cvdc.eng.cam.ac.uk/Ingenia-letter

Ref. Speedcam21
Date 11th July 2011
 
Target to eliminate deaths on our roads
Robert Gifford and others wrote “Road deaths last year fell to an all-time low of 1857 reflecting the long-term collaborative effort of those active in road safety …”. (Letters July 20th). 
The reality is that during the 15 years prior to 1995 deaths per vehicle-km declined at 7% annually.  However, under the impact of the “collaborative effort”, that beneficial trend, instead of accelerating, collapsed to 2.5% - despite the 6,000 speed cameras, the millions of speeding fines and the endless speed humps and traffic management schemes that cause congestion where none need exist. 
The pitiful 2.5% continued until 2006/7 when there was a sudden acceleration.  There were no changes in policy at that time.  Hence, the fact cannot be attributed to the (disastrous) “collaborative effort”.  Instead there was and is a financial crisis, which will have driven the poorest, youngest and most dangerous off the roads whilst imbuing a more cautions attitude in the rest of us.
Furthermore, under the impact of the target the seriously injured have been heavily under-reported compared with the pre-1995 dispensation.
That people in high places should misrepresent such data either from ignorance or otherwise undermines confidence in the integrity of Government.

  Date 14/06/2011
Ref. TIMES\Clark01
Andrew Clark
Deputy Business Editor
The Times
1 Pennington Street
London
E98 1TA
 Dear Andrew Clark
 THE RAILWAYS
 Your article of 10th omits to say that the railway industry makes a profit only after taking circa £5 billion annually from the taxpayer in capital grants and operating subsidy.
 The sad fact is that reality and the railway myth are so far apart as to beggar belief thereby sabotaging sensible policy.

Date 18th May 2011
Ref. Policy 38
 
letters@thetimes.co.uk
 
ROAD PRICING QUERY
Mr Phipps need not fear that road pricing would drive people onto rail nor should he fear that the West Coast Main Line is running out of capacity (Letters 18th) since (a) the car has enabled a dispersed land use that is nearly impossible to serve by bus let alone the train (b) road pricing would eliminate the congestion that forces people to use rail when travelling to London (c) whereas peak hour trains are of course full, Virgins Trains carry on average only 150 people, sufficient to fill a couple of carriages.
 Note to editor:
The 150 passengers per Virgin Train is from the ORR year book.  It provides (page 149, Table 8.19) that in 2009/10 there were 5255 million passenger-km and 35.5 train-km.  Dividing the one by the other provides 5255/35.5 = 148 passengers per train
 

 Ref. Speedcam20
Date 11th March 2011
 
CARBON FINES
Charles Foster, wants lower speed limits plus special fines for speeding to account for the presumed higher emissions, (Letters 11th).  Why does he not want to fine those who turn their central heating up, refuse to wear long johns, eat beef or drink champagne, all of which lead to emissions in spades.
Instead of his war on the motorist we should let price determine behaviour. 

 Date 12th February 2011
Ref. Rail Safety 01
 
letters@thetimes.co.uk
The tragic deaths of two teenage girls at a level crossing (leader of 12th Feb) highlights the imbalance between road and rail.  A rail death is matter of national news. One on the roads passes almost without notice.
That is reflected in expenditures. In 2002 the County Surveyors Society commented that “...nearly all believe they could save many lives a year on the roads for less than £100,000 a time ... The figure is in stark contrast to the £10 million each currently earmarked to save lives on the railways .....”. Even starker, the Strategic Rail Authority pointed out that the ERTMS system would cost between £45 million and £75 million per life saved, at a time when the value put on one was £1.14m.
Astonishing imbalances are evident in all other vectors.  E.g. in terms of passenger-miles or tonne-miles rail is five to six times as expensive as road.  Furthermore, rail kills more people per passenger-mile than does the strategic road network when trespassers, excluding confirmed suicides, are included.
Is it not time that expenditure reflected these realities?
 

 
transport-watch.co.uk
Date 30th January 2011
Ref. Policy37
 
letters@thetimes.co.uk
 RAIL
The breaking Scandal of payments to rail bosses (Jan20th) is mirrored by the greater one of rail as a whole.  It is presented as practically perfect. However, rail kills more people (including trespassers but not suicides) per passenger-mile than does the motorway and trunk road network, emits more carbon per passenger-mile than would express coaches, uses revenue and capital six times less effectively and uses its track three times less so than does the strategic road network.
 Those numbers may astonish but cannot be overturned in a discussion devoted to finding the truth. Unfortunately, and in the words of Stewart Joy, Chief Economist to British railways in the late 1960s, “there were those in the British Transport Commission and the Railways who were, cynically, prepared to accept the rewards of high office in exchange for the unpalatable task of tricking the Government on a mammoth scale, those men”, Joy wrote, “were either fools or knaves”.  Such has, I believe, continued to this day.

 Ref. HYDROGEN 03
Date 17th December 2010
HYDROGEN AND ELECTRIC POWERED CARS
 Tony Lodge (Dec 17) advocates hydrogen as a fuel. If there were sufficient “green” electricity to manufacture that gas in the quantity required to power the vehicle fleet then that energy would be better used synthesising hydrocarbon fuels.  These have energies per cubic metre that are far above hydrogen’s or that of electric batteries.  Furthermore, hydrocarbon fuels do not present the almost insurmountable problems of storing and distributing the gas or of disposing of e.g. 30 million lithium-ion batteries.
 Note to editor
 The above is substantiated by a letter to Ingenia by Professors Cebon and Collins of Cambridge University available HERE

  Ref. RailPol 02
Date 24th November 2010
HIGH RAIL FARES - THE WHY
As an illustration, in micro of the Government’s folly in “investing” in rail -  Chiltern wants to add ONE track to the 12 miles between Oxford and Bicester. The cost, £185 million, is sufficient for a brand new 6-lane motorway. The route will then carry two to four trains per hour each way. Each “train” may have two to three carriages. There may also be some freight. Could there be a more pathetic use of capital?
The annual season ticket by express coach from Oxford to London costs three times less than rail’s. Given rail’s rights of way, the coach would reduce its costs and match the train for speed.
Hence, the solution to exorbitant rail fares is staring us in the face.  Sell the tracks to China and pave the rights of way. All London’s crushed surface rail commuters would then have seats in replacement coaches at a fraction of the cost of the crushed conditions that they now endure. 
In central London and in the peak hour those coaches would fill less than one fifth of the capacity available, enabling countless lorries to divert from the city streets that they now clog.**
Unfortunately sentiment prevents such a happy result

 Ref. RailPol 01
Date 19th October 2010
RAILWAYS
Sam Coates, Philip Pank and Richard Ford (18th Oct) report that rail fares are to rise and that households on incomes of more than £35,000 account for 46% of rail users.  The latter underplays the reality, namely, nearly half of us use a train less than once a year and those in the top quintile of household income use a rail four times as much as do those from either of the bottom two quintiles.
The truth is, given rail’s rights of way, express coaches would provide a service at a fraction the cost of the train. In the peak hour and in central London those coaches would require only one fifth of the capacity available, enabling countless lorries and other vehicles to divert from the unsuitable streets that they now clog.
As to speed – half of all rail journeys are less than 20 miles long and 90% are less than 80 miles long.  For all of those the express coach would match or beat the train for journey time – offering a service frequency many times greater.
Without subsidy of £5 billion annually the railways would be worthless in the market place. In contrast the strategic road network makes a profit for the exchequer.  Motoring taxes less expenditure attributable to that network amount to amount to 13 billion.
Why is it that we are wedded to the steel tyred wheel on a rails set at a width suitable for a cart dragged by a pit pony? 

Ref. HYDROGEN 02
Date 17th September 2010
HYDROGEN POWERED CARS
Philip Pank’s report of “Britain’s first hydrogen-powered car” (18th Sept) fails to alert potential buyers to the facts, namely only 35% of the energy burnt in power stations reaches the plug, 30% of that would be lost in manufacturing hydrogen and at least another 25% in the fuel cell/motor combination. On that basis only 18% of the primary energy is likely to reach the drive train. That is before considering the energy needed to store hydrogen. After all, the pressure within the fuel tank is 650 atmospheres so that the tank is a potential bomb; let alone the technical problems of producing a nation-wide storage and distribution system - hydrogen boils at minus 253 degrees centigrade.

 
 Ref. HYDROGEN 01
Date 4th September 2010
HYDROGEN
Jenny Jones’ and the Mayor’s advocation of hydrogen power suggest neither of them has any relevant information.  Firstly, the energy required to manufacture hydrogen followed by the losses that inevitable arise when a fuel is burnt in an internal combustion engine mean that a hydrogen powered vehicle would be very much less fuel efficient than a conventional one.  Secondly, the practical problems of storing hydrogen and of creating a distribution network are beyond belief.  The emissions associated with that, let alone the losses due to evaporation would be overwhelming.  In short the idea is pure nonsense.

Date 16th August 2010
Ref. Paying for rail 01
letters@thetimes.co.uk
 Philip Pank (16th Aug) reports the impending rise in rail fares.
 Two questions arise. The first is why should rail be subsidised to the tune of £5 billion annually, bearing in mind that half of us use a train less than once a year and that those from the top quintile of income travel four times as far by rail as do those from the bottom two quintiles?  The second is why is the nation wedded, if not welded, to the idea of steel wheels on steel rails, when, given rail’s rights of way, the express coach and lorry would discharge the national rail function at one quarter the cost whilst, even in central London and in the peak hour, occupying only one fifth of the network’s capacity, so that countless lorries and other vehicles could divert from the unsuitable city streets that they now clog?
 Those who are incredulous should contemplate the strategic road network as though it were paved with railway lines.  The place would be at a near standstill, as is the railway in comparative terms.
 

 
 Ref. Speedcam16
Date 9th August 2010
THE OBSESSION WITH SPEED CAMERAS
The authorities persuaded the nation that speeding is a significant (30%) cause of road accidents. However, speeding , as a recorded cause is, and always has been, close to 2% for all injury accidents (6% for accidents where there is a fatality). Further, under the impact of these polices the downward trend in deaths that existed prior to 1995 collapsed.  Had that trend continued there would have been over 10,000 fewer than actually occurred. Despite that the authorities continue to claim that the cameras have saved lives.  Worse still, justice has routinely been defeated because of the high costs of a defence, the disgraceful claims of cameras accuracy routinely made by police expert witnesses and the difficulty that a citizen will have in extracting the evidence that may prove the case from the police.
If we cannot trust the authorities to tell the truth, and to behave reasonably, in this vector why should we trust them in any other?

 
Ref. Speedcam15
Date 5TH August 2010
The Times
THE OBSESSION WITH SPEED CAMERAS
David Aaronvitch (5th) cites the National Safety Camera: Four Year Evaluation Report’s finding that the cameras have saved lives.  However, that report looked at the lives supposedly saved at the camera sites, rather than at the system wide effect.  In contrast to that we find that far from the camera campaign leading to acceleration in the long established downward trend in the death rate, that trend collapsed in 1995 despite support from tens of thousands of speed humps and endless traffic management measures that cause congestion and air pollution where none need exist. 
Had the previous trend continued there would have been 10,000 fewer deaths between 2005 and 2007 than actually occurred. Astonishingly the correlation between those extra deaths and the number of speeding penalties is almost perfect.  A doubling of fines corresponds to 370 extra deaths, whilst a halving of fines corresponds to 370 fewer deaths.
It appears that the more they fine us the more we die.
 

8th July 2010 Not published
Ref. Thunderer 01
THUNDERER
 
A CANCER OF IGNORANCE AND DUPLICTY AT THE HEART OF GOVERNMENT                                                                                          
In the UK we pride ourselves on a corruption-free Civil Service.  Certainly there are few brown envelopes.  Instead we suffer a more civilised corruption, namely the high salaries paid to advisors provided they are prepared to accept the unpalatable task of justifying Government polices in defiance of the facts; a process greatly eased by the negligible grasp of numbers enjoyed by voters and by so many of those elected to govern us.
For example, the Committee for Integrated Transport, when chaired by professor Begg, supported the notion that congestion could be solved by promoting bus and rail travel.  That was clearly nonsense since the proportion of trips by those modes was, and is, small. Hence, even the most massive percentage increases could have only a negligible effect on traffic.  Nevertheless, the notion led to Labour’s 10 year plan and to the diversion of billions of pounds to ineffective projects.   An especially serious problem lies within the evaluation procedures.  Vastly expensive schemes, such as Crossrail and High-Speed Rail, universally show costs that far outstrip any possible income. However, the schemes are “justified” by comparing the “net cost” to the Government with the cash values of time savings etc. The net cost is the capital minus the “incremental fares”. The subtle, and important, point is this. It is not the Government that needs to benefit. Instead it is the nation as a whole. If the economic boundaries were widened to embrace the latter, “incremental fares” would fall to zero and the economic cases would collapse. Similarly with other assumptions embedded in the procedures.
The Treasury knows all that and connives.  Consequently the nation’s resources, to the tune of tens of billions of pounds, are diverted to schemes which, far from benefiting the economy, impoverish all of us.
As for the railways, the gap between the myth of near perfect safety, high capacity and green credentials, propagated by the Government’s advisors these last 50 years, and the reality is so large as to beggar belief. For example, rail is portrayed as uniquely safe.  However, system-wide, and including trespassers, but not suicides, the railways kill more people per passenger-mile than does the strategic road network.  Likewise in all other vectors except the sentimental.
Until such duplicity is beaten out of the system what hope do we have of sensible policies in the transport, or any other, policy area?

Ref Privatising rail 01 Published 8th July 2010
PRIVATISING RAIL
Tom Windsor (6th July) is right to canvass for rail privatisation.  However, without the guarantee of Government subsidy the network would, as a railway, be worthless. Hence, if the network were to be sold the only proviso should be that the rights of way must be reserved for transport use. 
The market would then soon realise the vast profit that could be made if the rights of way were converted to a system of reserved motor roads.  That view is supported by Professor Prud’homme’s finding, namely, that in France the motorways use capital and labour two to six times as efficiently as do the railways. In any event converting the railway would cost less than £20 billion, the net tax-take from the Strategic Road network is circa £13 billion annually whereas the support to the railway is running at circa £5 billion. 
Those who believe otherwise should contemplate the strategic road network as though it were paved with railway lines.  The place would be at a near standstill, as is the railway in comparative terms

5th July 2010 Not published
Ref. Policy36
RAIL AND EMISSIONS
The idea that transferring a few passengers from air to train can have a measurable effect on carbon emissions (Dr Misch 5th July) is destroyed by the HS2 report. It claims that the effect of the high-speed line (on emissions) is in the range minus 25 to plus 27 Mega Tonnes. Furthermore the proportion of the nation's emissions that are associated with either mode is vanishingly small.
If we were serious we would pave the railway lines, except perhaps those to Scotland, and manage the network to avoid congestion. The replacement express coaches and lorries would emit less than do the trains and countless other vehicles would save fuel by transferring from the congested roads that they now clog.
Even in central London and in the peak hour the surface rail network is, in highway terms, used to between only one seventh and one fifth of its capacity if paved.  Outside the peak the network is a place of dreams.
As to speed, since half of all rail journeys are less than 20 miles long and 90% are less than 80 miles long, express coaches would generally beat the train for journey time, offering a service frequency many times higher.

19th June 2010 Not published
Policy35
LORD ADONIS AND HIGH SPEED RAIL
Lord Adonis (19th June) makes an impassioned plea for rail, claiming that high speed is essential for Britain’s future.  Why?  After all, rail carries less than 2% of passenger journeys, kills more people per passenger-mile than does the strategic road network is used 5 times as much by the better off as by the poor, costs four times as much as equivalent road transport and is subsidised to the tune of £200 per year for every household in the land. 
As for the HS2 proposals, they will saddle the taxpayer with a bill in the tens of billions of pounds. The supporting economic analysis depends on an unbelievable passenger forecast and a cascade of assumptions none of which can reasonably be defended. Likewise with Crossrail. Rather than such schemes supporting our economy they contribute greatly to the risk of bankruptcy.

16th June 2010 Not published
Policy34
CROSSRAIL and HS2
Philip Hammond's commitment to Crossrail (16th June) is misplaced.  He should know that the economic theory upon which the justification depends is deeply flawed. It presumes that so-called “incremental fares” may be subtracted from costs. However, if the economic boundary is enlarge, as it should be, to embrace the economy as a whole then those fares fall to zero.
We put it to the DfT as follows: Consider the ‘liquorice all-sorts industry’. Why should we exclude that industry’s loss from the analysis, upon finding that the services are “liquorice” whilst including the loss on finding that the “all-sorts” are buses and trains? There is, of course, no rational answer, and the economic case underpinning Crossrail, HS2 and all other rail projects, collapses.
The response was to effectively throw in the towel.  Instead of answering the point the bizarre claim was that Rail is a special case **.  That carried with it the implication that Rail deserves subsidy because the private sector would not be foolish enough to so “invest”.

12th July 2010  Not published
Ref. Policy33
THE TRANSPORT CUTS
Light rail schemes are extraordinarily poor value for money. Hence it is heartening to find those schemes are being cut (£1.6 bn Transport Schemes hit by red light, 11th June) However, why is it that the railways continue to bask in the sun of Government subsidy to the tune £5 billion annually, let alone the decision to spend £16 billion on Crossrail and to promote High-Speed Rail.  Rather than that the obvious action that would both balance supply and demand and cut the tax bill is to raise the fares. After all, rail is used five times as much by the better off as it is by the poor.

Date 16th June 2010 Not published
Ref. Speedcam14
THE OBSESSION WITH SPEED CAMERAS Carol Midgley (we’ve got to stop this obsession, 16th June) is more than right.  Far from the camera campaign leading to an acceleration in the long established downward trend in the death rate, that trend collapsed despite the cameras being supported by tens of thousands of speed humps and endless traffic management measures that cause congestion and air pollution where none need exist. 
Had the previous trend continued there would have been 10,000 fewer deaths between 2005 and 2007 than actually occurred. Astonishingly the correlation between those extra deaths and the number of speeding penalties is almost perfect.
he phrase, treat people like idiots and they will behave like idiots springs to mind.

18th March 2010 Not published
Ref. hispeed17
HIGH SPEED RAIL
If railways provided the transport needed by industry the endless acres of derelict railway land that abut many rail stations and lines would contain industrial estates and business and retail parks.  Instead these land uses have gone to places where there is good road access.  The idea that high speed rail freight can reach those destinations is as bizarre as is the idea that freight needs high speed (Lord Adonis 18th March). 
Is Lord Adonis unaware that half of us use a train less than once a year, let alone a high speed one, and that the top 20% by household income use rail five times as much as do those from the bottom 40% let alone that half of all rail journeys are less than 20 miles long?  Does he not realise that high speed may as well drain people from the dying north to the south rather than the reverse, let alone that high taxes destroy jobs?
The economic justification of this nonsense hangs on extraordinarily high passenger forecasts and upon incremental fares.  The absurdity of including the latter is demonstrated by the fact that their value can be varied arbitrarily by altering the economic boundary of the project.

15th June 2010 Not published
ELECTRIC 11
ELECTRIC CARS AND FALSE HOPES
The belief that electric cars are “green” is based on the wild claims of manufacturers in pursuit of subsidy.  (Electric cars slide on road to Britain 14th June). The reality is that these vehicles will be an environmental disaster unless the generating industry is decarbonised.  That is unlikely to be the case for decades, if not forever.

18th April 2010 Not published
traffic Management 04
Traffic management nightmares
Stephen Bayley’s column, End One Way Streets  – that’s the way forward, 15th April, bewails the disastrous effects of traffic management. How right he is.  To illustrate, if nation-wide, those schemes have added two minutes to all car journeys the delay cost amounts to £12 billion annually.  Further, if one kilometre has been added to all journeys the cost is £13.5 billion and if all journeys have had their speeds reduced by 5 mph the time cost is circa £17.5 billion annually.
Worse still, the long established downward trend in road deaths, instead of accelerating under the impact these policies, collapsed.  Had the previous trend continued there may have been 10,000 fewer road deaths in the period 1995 to 2007 than actually occurred, illustrating the scale of the disaster that these people have visited upon us, whilst claiming success.

Not published 11th March 2010
Ref. hispeed16
HIGH SPEED RAIL
When Lord Adonis visited Southampton Station he complained that the cafe was closed at 8 pm.  Did he not notice that there were no passengers?  Is he unaware that half of us use a train less than once a year, let alone a high speed one, and that the top 20% by household income use rail five times as much as do those from the bottom 40% let alone that half of all rail journeys are less than 20 miles long?  Does he not realise that high speed may as well drain people from the dying north to the south rather than the reverse, let alone that high taxes destroy jobs?
The economic justification hangs on counting incremental fares as benefits and upon the benefits of agglomeration and to the wider economy.  The inclusion of incremental fares is absurd since their value depends on where the economic boundary of the project is arbitrarily drawn.  Agglomeration may be a cost, rather than a benefit.  E.g. taxpayer’s subsidy to TfL and to rail journeys terminating in London amounts to £7.5 bn per year.  If agglomeration were a benefit London should fund that.  If it had to, let alone the other infrastructure, people may flee the capital and the overcrowded SE to reinvigorate the north thereby rebalancing the nation.
Without those items no rail project would ever pass the cost benefit test.

published 10/03/2010
TRAMS03
NOTHING WRONG WITH TRAMS
In 1949 the trams were seen as an embarrassment to the capital’s post-war planners. In that year Lord Latham, chairman of the London Transport Executive, delivered a speech outlining the plans for the tramways conversion programme in which he stated “the loss on the trams is about £1,000,000 per year” equivalent to £25 million at today’s prices
There is nothing wrong with a tram apart from the fact that it takes three times as long to stop as a bus, costs four times as much, offers little or no routing flexibility [and that the track would have a fraction of the capacity of a bus based system (provided the buses were free of congestion).
The reason trams are so prevalent in Europe is their appeal to sentiment in defiance of the facts.  In any event, Sir Terry Mulroy said, at an Institution of Civil Engineers meeting on 21st November 2002, that, if one asks the planners in Geneva (home of the tram) if they would do it again, they will say quietly, Never Again – far too expensive.

08/03/2010 Not published
TRAMS02
NOTHING WRONG WITH TRAMS
There is nothing wrong with a tram (Letter, March 8th) apart from the fact that it takes three times as long to stop as a bus, costs four times as much, offers little or no routing flexibility and that the track would have a fraction of the capacity of a bus based system (provided the buses were free of congestion)**.
The reason trams are so prevalent in Europe is their appeal to sentiment in defiance of the facts.  In any event, Terry Mulroy OBE, previous Chair of Institution of Civil Engineer’s Transport Board, said, at an Institution of Civil Engineers meeting on 21st November 2002, that, if one asks the planners in Geneva (home of the tram) if they would do it again, they will say quietly, Never Again – far too expensive

29th January 2010 Not published
hispeed14
HIGH SPEED RAIL
Tony Lodge of the Bow Group (28th January) imagines that copying our European rivals would be sensible. Why? Is it the delight of having massive subsidies paid to a system that will be used by the rich rather than by the poor, the joy of wasting the nation’s resources on a grand scale or is it pure and simple boys-own tomfoolery?
The full high-speed network will cost £100 billion, none of which will ever be recouped from the fare box. Instead this ego trip will cost the taxpayer around £4,000 per household, an appalling waste, bearing in mind that half of us use a train less than once a year, let alone a high speed one. They talk of vast benefits to the “Wider Economy” and of “Agglomeration” as though money fell out of the clouds.  Those benefits are imaginary and the economic analyses a sham.
Have they not realised that high taxes destroy jobs?

17th January 2010 Not published
rural04
Rural Rail
The picture associated with Philip Pank’s article “Chiltern on Track ...” (16th Jan) says it all, a single carriage “train” costing circa £1 million on an otherwise empty double-track railway.  Can anyone think of a better way of wasting the nation’s resources? After all, the right of way is wide enough for the carriageway of a two-way trunk road.  Not only would such a road extract countless lorries and other vehicles from the unsuitable roads that they currently clog but the “train” would be replaced by a coach coasting circa £150,000 or by a mini bus costing less than £30,000.

17th January 2010 Not published
ELECTRIC 10
ELECTRIC CARS AND FALSE HOPES
Ben Webster (15th) reports car giants raising false hopes of emission free motoring. The DfT claims whole of the life emissions from electric cars will be 40% below those from conventional ones [Editor see (a) below]. However, the response to a FiO request [Editor see (b) below] shows that that notion depends on the fanciful claims of manufacturers. The response also showed that nobody has an idea how much carbon may be emitted in manufacturing the batteries. In contrast our calculations suggest that, far from emitting less carbon than a conventional vehicle, an electric one may emit the greater amount, let alone the environmental problems of scrapping 30 million lithium-ion batteries.

Date 12th January 2010 Not published
Speedcam13
SPEED CAMERAS
Chris Ayres (11th Jan) reports that US citizens are routinely ignoring speeding fines issued by cameras thereby bringing an end their use. In the UK the authorities persist with two fictions.  The first is that the cameras save lives when it is clear that the downward trend in deaths per vehicle-mile flattened off remarkably upon the implementation of present policies.  The second is that speeding is a significant cause of road accidents when as a proportion of all recorded causes it ranks at the 2 percent level.  The fact that UK citizens continue to pay up speaks volumes for the timidity of the Brits compared with their American cousins.

Date 1st January 2010 Not published
Hispeed13
HIGH SPEED RAIL
Your leader (High Speed Ahead) of 30th Jan and is based on schoolboy nonsense.  Such a system will in no way be “green” and may be less green than the much maligned air travel.  Transferring a few passengers from one mode that emits a tiny proportion of today’s carbon to another similar mode can have nothing but an entirely trivial effect.  The system will cost tens of billion of pounds, probably £100 billion, none of which will ever be recouped from the fare box. Instead this ego trip will cost the taxpayer around £4,000 per household, an appalling waste, bearing in mind that half of us use a train less than once a year, let alone a high speed one, and that those from the top 20% of household income travel 5 times as far annually by rail as do those from the bottom 40%.
They talk of vast benefits to the “Wider Economy” and of “Agglomeration” as though money fell out of the clouds.  Those benefits are imaginary.  Instead it is high taxes, brought upon us by politicians on ego trips such as this that have and will destroy the economy.

Now 23rd November 2009 Not published
ELECTRIC 09
CHANNEL CROSSING AND ELECRIC CARS
The electric car that John Surtees drove through the Channel Tunnel (report of 18th Nov) probably used 25% more fuel than an equivalent diesel.  In urban areas the electric may use 60% and emit 30% more carbon than a diesel of the same power.  The Channel Tunnel, together with its high-speed rail links, cost circa £30 billion at today’s prices.  Since none of that can be recouped from fares, the loss, born largely by the banks, contributed greatly to the present financial crisis.

Published in the Times on Line 20th November 2009
Response to Professor Johnson and Graham Gouch below:
Professor Johnson castigates the notion that railways should be converted to roads on the grounds of capacity, fuel consumption, breakdowns and other (13th Nov).
Well, London’s surface rail network carries 10,000 crushed passengers per inbound track in the peak hour. Those passengers could all find seats in 150 75-seat coaches, sufficient to occupy only one seventh of the capacity of one lane of a motor road, the same width as required by a train. Outside the peak the network is a pace of dreams.
As to fuel, national rail returns the equivalent of 94 passenger miles per gallon. In comparison a half full express coach on an uncongested railway alignment may return 250 passenger miles per gallon.
Graham Gooch (also 13th Nov) is worried about speed. However, half of all rail journeys are less than 20 miles long and 90% are less than 80 miles long. For all of those the express coach would match the train, offering up to 12 times the service frequency.
Breakdowns? anyone ever tried pushing a train out of the way?
Paul F Withrington (Director Transport Watch)

Published 13th November
Sir, Paul Withrington’s view (letter, Nov 11) that paving railway tracks would solve our country’s transport capacity problems is seriously flawed. A very simple calculation would reveal that within the limited width corridor thus provided, capacity of a rapid and capacity optimised rail service cannot be approached by even the most tightly packed of coach services unless they are coupled together.
With the additional considerations of energy losses implicit in rubber-tyred vehicles, lack of resilience to breakdown in the confined pathway within which rail operates and implicit issues of end-point distribution of motor vehicles and capacity for parking, such a proposal is ill-conceived. Rail is no more a total solution to transport in the 21st century than is road or the personal flying machines promised 50 years ago. Each mode has its benefits and its detractions.
An analysis of road, rail, aviation, marine and virtual travel could lead to a transport strategy that optimises journeys, minimises carbon, maximises personal mobility and generates time to write letters to The Times. If only vested interests could be avoided.
Professor David M. Johnson City University, London EC1
Sir, The fastest train journey from Preston to London takes exactly two hours. I would not like to travel on a coach that covered the 220 miles in two hours on a road the width of two railway lines with the prospect of passing another coach travelling in the opposite direction at the same speed.
Graham Gooch University of Central Lancashire

Published 11th November 2009
DOUBLE DECKING THE M1 Double Decking the M1 would create the longest viaduct in the world and cost a fortune.  Running trains on the top deck (letter, Nov 7th) would double the cost due to their weight.  The cheaper option is to remove the rails from the 10,000 miles or right of way used by Network Rail and to replace with a road surface.  That would cost a fraction of the rail modernisation.  Even in central London and in the peak hour the replacement express coaches would occupy, at most, one fifth of the capacity then available. All London’s erstwhile rail commuters would have seats at a fraction the cost of the train and countless lorries and other vehicles would be able to divert from the city streets that they currently clog.
Otherwise, and for the truly mad, why not surface the motorway and trunk road system with railway lines thereby bringing the place to a complete standstill.

Not published 17th September 2009
NAUGHTY CYCLISTS. Those who criticise cyclists for jumping the red lights can never have tried surviving when on a bike.  At junctions, the safe move is to pull well ahead of the stop line and to go as soon as cross traffic allows. That way one clears the junction and attains a reasonable speed while providing the following motorists with a clear view of where one is.  The alternative of waiting at a stop line adjacent to, or fractionally ahead of, a lorry is to court death.  The pity of it is that those charged with specifying the road makings do not understand that.
The other essential, far more important than a helmet, is a high visibility jacket.

Not published 2nd September 2009
RAILWAY CAPACITY Anthony Wills (letter 0f 31st)is quite right.  Capacity rather than speed is the priority. After all half of all rail journeys are less than 20 miles long and 90% are less than 80 miles long. As for capacity, London’s crushed surface rail commuters may like to know that in the peak hour they are sufficient to occupy only one seventh of the network’s capacity if it were paved and if all them were seated in (75-seat) express coaches.  Outside the peak the network is a place of dreams.  The roads, meanwhile, are clogged with traffic.
As for the green agenda – replacement express coaches and lorries operating on railway alignments would use less fuel and emit less carbon than the steel tyred option, let alone the saving in fuel that would arise from other vehicles using these superbly engineered rights of way.
Converting the entire system would cost between £10 and £20 billion.  Thereafter all London’s crushed surface rail commuters would have seats at a quarter the cost of the train.  In comparison the taxpayer will have paid £100 billion to subsidise rail in the 20 years to 2015, before we talk about high-speed rail or of Andrew Dow’s immensely expensive proposals (letter of 2nd September).

Not published Date 28th July 2009
ELECTIFICATION In the words of Francis Caincroft writing in 1974 “when trains are still the theme of nursery rhymes and children's stories, it is small wonder that the railways have a romantic fascination for most adults. Only years of nursery conditioning can explain the calm with which the public has accepted a bill of £3,000 millions (£35bn at 2009 prices) to subsidise British Rail over the last decade”.
Lord Adonis exaggerated the importance of rail by a factor of 3 by saying 6.3% of journeys are by rail when the true number is 2%. Anthony Rodriguez and Sir Richard Branson imagine that fiddling with the management structure can cure a system that has required subsidy every year for over half a century.  Indeed in the 20 years to 2015 it will cost the taxpayer £100 billion or £4,000 for every household in the land – that at time when half of us use a train less than once a year and when the well off travel 5 times as far by rail as do the poor.
Despite railway propaganda, rail kills more people per passenger-mile than does the motorway and trunk road system, uses track so inefficiently that even in central London and in the peak hour the network is, in highway terms, scarcely used, and uses more fuel than would equivalent express coaches and lorries. Is it not time for a sense of reality to break out?

Not published 19th June 2009
RESTORE THE BRANCH LINES? - RIGHT OF REPLY? John Deards 19th June says the cost for most lines would be nowhere near my estimate.  Forgive me, it is not my estimate.  Instead it is ATOC’s (probably four times too low if past performance, such as on the West Coast line, is anything to go by).  John Deards then claims these disused routes would carry trains with a minimum of 4 carriages at least two or three times an hour.  If so then the lines would be many times busier that most rural railways - almost as busy as some main lines are off peak.  What nonsense and in any case how trivial.
In contrast, paving the lines would enable countless lorries and other vehicles to divert from the unsuitable roads that they now clog whilst enabling coaches to provide a public service at a fraction the cost of rail.

Not published Date 22nd June 2009
COST BENEFIT AND CROSS RAIL Ben Webster 17th reports Professors Glaister’s finding that highway scheme provide better value for money than does rail.  It is far worse than that.  The benefit to cost ratios for road are typically 60% higher than for rail while the latter erroneously include “incremental fares” as a benefits.  For Crossrail those fares amounted £6 billion.  However, by simply changing the economic boundary of the scheme the £6 billion could be written down as anything between zero and £13 billion, illustrating the absurdity of the analysis.  See http://www.transport-watch.co.uk/nata-refresh-consultation.htm
The plain fact is that fares, whether incremental or not, are transfer payments.  Consequently they should form no part of cost benefit analyses.  Without incremental fares no railway project could ever be justified.  Because of this fundamental error the taxpayer will be paying for these railway proposals for decades with no hope whatsoever of a sensible return.

Not published Date 9th July 2009
Dear Mr Wighton Your column of 8th July suggests that the motorway and trunk road network has a value of circa £100 billion.  We estimated the annual net tax-take from that system to be £13 billion.  That was derived by allocating the £50 billion total (including all VAT on new cars etc) in proportion to vehicle-km driven and subtracting the amount spent on the network.  Hence the value of the network to the nation may be substantially above £100 billion. You then suggest that money raised on sale of the system could be used to “invest in vital projects such as Crossrail and high-speed rail”.   We protest.  The word “invest” implies there will be a financial return.  Instead of that the fares from those systems may never even cover the operating costs.  Hence any such government expenditure should be described for what it is, namely, subsidy.  In that context the following link may be of interest. http://www.transport-watch.co.uk/transport-pdfs/transport-fact-sheet-4.pdf
As to rail generally, we challenge you or any other person to overturn any of the statements in the attached in a discussion devoted to finding the truth.

Not published Date 9th July 2009
TOWNS BACK ON TRACK Kasia Maciejowska (10th July) anticipates that the high-speed rail link from Ashford to St Pancras will revitalise Ebbsfleet Valley. Apparently that link will cut the time for the 55 mile from 90 to 40 minutes.  I comment, given that right of way express coaches would do the same at a fraction the cost and with a service many times as frequent.  Additionally the right of way could then to be used by many thousands of other vehicles, currently stuck on unsuitable historic A-roads or clogging city streets, let alone interconnecting with the road system as a whole.

Not published Date 24th July 2009
ELECRTIFICATION To appreciate the waste of space that the railways are imagine that the motorways and trunk roads have been surfaced with railway lines.  The place would be at a near standstill.  By proxy, the nation’s 10,000 miles of superbly engineered railway right of way is indeed at a near standstill.  Even in central London and in the peak hour the system is, in highway terms, scarcely used.  There the widths are vast.  Elsewhere there is nearly always width and headroom enough for the carriageway of a single carriageway trunk road.  Paved, this immense Victorian legacy would attract countless lorries and other vehicle from the unsuitable rural roads and city streets that they currently clog whilst offering rail passengers seats in express coaches at a fraction the cost of rail, using half the fuel and matching journey times for all but the longest.
The £1.1 billion that is to be spent electrifying the Great Western is circa three times that required to convert that system to a motor road network.
Rather than this electrification being visionary or commendable (Letters 25th July) it will be a financial disaster, ensuring those rights of way remain disused, in all but name, for another 100 years.

Not published Date 28th July 2009
ELECTIFICATION In the words of Francis Caincroft writing in 1974 “when trains are still the theme of nursery rhymes and children's stories, it is small wonder that the railways have a romantic fascination for most adults. Only years of nursery conditioning can explain the calm with which the public has accepted a bill of £3,000 millions (£35bn at 2009 prices) to subsidise British Rail over the last decade”. Lord Adonis exaggerated the importance of rail by a factor of 3 by saying 6.3% of journeys are by rail when the true number is 2%. Anthony Rodriguez and Sir Richard Branson imagine that fiddling with the management structure can cure a system that has required subsidy every year for over half a century.  Indeed in the 20 years to 2015 it will cost the taxpayer £100 billion or £4,000 for every household in the land – that at time when half of us use a train less than once a year and when the well off travel 5 times as far by rail as do the poor. Despite railway propaganda, rail kills more people per passenger-mile than does the motorway and trunk road system, uses track so inefficiently that even in central London and in the peak hour the network is, in highway terms, scarcely used, and uses more fuel than would equivalent express coaches and lorries.
Is it not time for a sense of reality to break out?

PUBLISHED 17th June 2009
New line – breaking the bank
The 14 lines proposed for reopening by ATOC comprise some 150 miles of track at a supposed cost of 500 million or £3.3 million per track mile.  That is similar to the cost per lane mile of building a motorway from scratch.  The proposed lines would carry one “train”, probably all of two carriages long, an hour.  In contrast one lane of a trunk road carries an average of circa 500 vehicles per hour. What more graphic illustration of the waste that this proposal would be do we need? Still that is small beer compared with high speed rail proposals. They would be used mainly by the better off and at great cost to the taxpayer – as is the existing railway.

not published 27th May 2009
RAIL FARES
Alexi Mostrous (27th May) reports improved rail punctuality but fares double those in France.  If we halved all rail fares then subsidy would rise to £7.75 billion annually.  If we were to emulate the French in terms of subsidy then 1% of GDP or £14 billion annually would be required. Equivalent to £570 for every household in the land.  Why would anyone want to do that?  After all half of us use a train less than once a year and the better off travel 5 times as far by rail as do the poor.   Perhaps the reason is that MPs enjoy free first class travel.

3rd May not published
SPEED CAMERAS – THE DAMAGE THAT THEY HAVE DONE Deaths per passenger-km were falling by 7.1% per year during the 14 years to 1995.  Instead of the attack on speed accelerating that trend, the trend slowed to 2.8%.  The effect is that, by 2007, there were 9,600 more deaths than would have arise had the earlier trend continued. The correlation between those additional deaths and the speeding fines, totalling 13.6 million is almost perfect.  Of course no one would claim that the fines caused the deaths but their number is a proxy for the vigour with which the attack on speed has been pursued. Despite that, Ministers continue to support present policies with pointless statements such as 30% of road accidents are due to speed. The truth is that the authorities have rejected the highly successful approach used prior to the speed cameras in favour of an automatic and punitive system that has proved a disaster.

22nd April, not published
Speed limit nightmares:
The speed camera campaign is supported by countless speed humps and traffic management schemes that cause congestion and pollution where none need exist.  Despite all that, instead of the long established decline in the deaths per year accelerating, it has flattened off remarkable.  Furthermore Ministers continue to parrot the stupid notion that speed is a contributory factor in 30% of accidents when clearly 100% is the correct number and when “speeding” is a trivial proportion of the recorded causes. Apart from that, and the pain and angst imposed on the millions prosecuted when driving perfectly sensibly for the conditions, the delay cost is immense.  For example, if all those traffic management measures cause two minutes delay to the average journey then the cost to the nation tops £11 billion, equivalent to the value that the DfT would assign to 7250 fatalities. Now they want brain surgeons and everyone to dawdle at 50 mph, so risking nervous breakdowns, whenever some official decides to wag a finger, Have they not realised that our dawdling brain surgeon, stuck in a traffic jam, or driven slightly mad by the stress of complying with a 50 limit, may be the death of his patient?
 

Response to Times article of 14th April 2009 Not published
Network Rails million pound bonuses
Decades of railway propaganda have embedded in the public mind the belief that rail is uniquely green, offers by far the highest capacity and is uniquely safe.  Elevated to a kind of religion, rail can only fail because of the failings of man.
The reality is so different from the truth as to beggar belief.  For example, system-wide and including trespassers but not suicides rail kills 50% more people per passenger-mile than does the strategic road network.  Further, a single express bus lane in New York carries more seated passengers in the peak hour than arrive in crushed conditions at Victoria Main line where there are four inbound tracks.
That propaganda has led the Government to allocate £100 billion over the 20 years to 2015 to a system that carries only 2% of the nation’s motorised journeys and which is used 5 times as much by the better off than by the poor.
Stewart Joy, Chief Economist to British Railways in the 1960’s wrote in his book “The Train that Ran Away” that there were those who “were prepared to cynically accept the rewards of high office in the BTC and the railways in return for the unpalatable task of tricking the government on a mammoth scale.  Those men”, Joy wrote, “were either fools or knaves”. There were no libel actions, but Joy had been forced out – too honest to work with railway men.
Since one billion pounds is only one percent of the 100 billion misappropriated to rail why not increase the bonuses to a billion!  Surely that would attract ability, if not integrity, to that benighted industry.
Paul Withrington
Director

Version published April 13th 2009
ALL ABOARD THE ELECTIC BUS
The report by Ben Webster, All aboard the electric Bus, 10th April, illustrates a frightening lack of knowledge among those developing Transport Policy.  The plain fact is that an electric bus will use nearly 70% more energy than a diesel powered vehicle of the same performance whilst emitting the same or more carbon.  Perhaps the Mayor of London has overlooked the strange fact that electricity is generated in power stations. Paul F Withrington DIRECTOR TRANSPORT-WATCH ............................................................... Note to Editor Our Facts Sheet 5C attached demonstrates the truth of the above, which is in any case well known.  Here is the demonstration proving the statement to do with fuel consumption: 30% of the energy burnt in power stations reaches the end user after allowing for transmission losses and energy industry use.  Perhaps as little as 20% of the power reaching the plug will be lost in the batteries and motor of our electric vehicle.  Hence the energy reaching the drive train of an electric car amounts to only 24% of the energy burnt in the power stations (0.3 x 0.8 = 0.24).   In contrast a modern diesel transmits 45% of the energy burnt onboard to the drive train.  That should be reduced to 40% to allow for the energy lost in refineries and transporting the fuel to filling stations.  The ratio of 40 to 24 is 1.67.  I.e. the electric vehicle uses 67% more energy than its diesel competitor.
Then we have the energy loss in manufacturing the batteries that need replacing every two years.................

6th April 2009 not published
HIGH SPEED RAIL
The Campaign for better transport (letter of 8th) is a railway lobby group, originally funded by the rail unions, pretending to a green agenda. However, ordinary rail uses more fuel per passenger-mile than does a diesel-powered car containing two people. Further, the proportion of emissions that can be attributed to air or rail is vanishingly small. Hence any transfer of passengers from one mode to the other would have an even more vanishingly small effect**. Nevertheless those promoting high-speed rail talk as though the carbon saving upon the transfer of passengers from air to rail may save the planet. Paul F Withrington (Director)
Note editor: The figure below is from the White paper “Delivering a Sustainable Railway”.  From that the truth of our comment ** is obvious.

26th January Not published
BUSWAYS
The Guided busway from St Ives to Cambridge reported by Ben Webster on 26th January is to be welcomed because it has rescued a valuable right of way from oblivion and because other less derelict railway rights of way may be similarly rescued.  However the use that can be made of busways is pitifully small.  In this case the route will carry only seven and one half buses per hour in each direction.  In contrast, had the route been engineered as an ordinary road, not only would it have cost less, but thousands of lorries and other vehicles could have diverted from the unsuitable roads that they currently clog.  The only additional requirement would be to manage the road so as to avoid congestion.  That could be achieved by using the technology developed in the United States where a roadside beacon charging system is in place on the so called Lexus Lanes, see Ben Webster’s of 7th October 2006.

5th January 2009 Not published
Government statistics
Professor Speigelhalter (5th January) wants “risk literacy” on the curriculum.  Your leader, points out that it is not just the children that need lessons.  An example is in the Transport Committee’s inquiry into the Future of Rail.  The report says “the figures comparing road and rail fatalities are telling.......  the SRA points out that ‘on average more road users die in accidents each day than rail passengers in a year’”.  We comment, if an accountant used numbers in that way he would soon be in prison.  Firstly the statistic ignores usage thereby exaggerating in favour of rail by a multiplier of 17.  Secondly, system-wide, including trespassers but not suicides 50% more people per passenger-mile die on the national rail network than on the comparable motorway and trunk road system. It is because of that and other similarly overwhelming misrepresentation that the Government has committed subsidy of £100 billion to rail over 20 years, equivalent to £4,000 for every household in the land at a time when half of us use a train less than once a year and when the better off use rail 5 times as much as the poor. If the same arises in other vectors then small wonder that the nation’s policies are a disaster. Paul F Withrington Director

Date 27th October 2008 Not published
HIGH SPEED RAIL
Your leader of 27th supports Government expenditure on capital projects.  The problem is picking projects that actually benefit the nation.  In that context you canvass for high-speed rail.  The £30 billion (or more) required for the London to Edinburgh line amounts to £1,200 in taxes for every household in the land.  However, (a) The project is never likely to cover its operating costs let alone repay capital (b) rail is used 5 times as much by the better off as by the poor – why on earth should we subsidise the rich (c) half of us use a train less than once a year. Far better to use that vast sum investing in an industry that may yield a financial return.  To do otherwise is to risk bankrupting the nation, supposing we are not already bust because of poor use of taxpayers money down the years.
Paul F Withrington (Director)

Published 14th November 2008
SPEED IS NOT TO BLAME Prior to 2000 (before any substantial effect from the current generation of speed cameras and road safety polices could take effect) deaths per year were falling at nearly double the rate that has arisen since that year. Indeed had previous trends continued there would have been 500 fewer deaths in 2007 than actually occurred. Despite that the authorities continue to claim that the cameras have saved lives. That claim is made on the basis that the cameras have reduced accidents at the camera sites themselves. The authorities are also responsible for embedding in the public mind that speeding (narrowly defined as breaking the speed limit) is a significant cause (e.g. 30%) of road accidents when the DfT and TRL data shows that speeding is recorded in an insignificant proportion of accidents. Not only do the facts of the case undermine the credibility of the authorities but those policies have led to the prosecution of millions, the overwhelming majority of which will have been driving sensible for the conditions. Consequently there is large scale resentment and many people have concluded that the official line has little or no basis. Against that background it is scarcely surprising that 85% of those surveyed by The Times are hostile to average speed cameras. Those cameras may well be effective on dual carriageways, but the prospect of their general use, and the imposition of unrealistically low speed limits, is to be resisted. Far better to concentrate on education designed to develop mature and deferential driving behaviour. After all, treat people like idiots and they will behave like idiots but treat them as responsible and they will behave with responsibility. Paul Withrington (Director)

Published 17th November 2008SPEED AND ITS EFFECT ON SOCIETY Mr Duckworth says I made “several errors” in my analysis of speed. firstly, I “use crash statistics alone as a measure of the effect of speeding on society”. I protest – my letter had nothing to do with that. Instead I pointed out that since 2000 the rate at which deaths had been declining has halved, despite the cameras and all that they are supported by. Secondly Mr Duckworth talks of “speed”, which must of course be a factor in 100% of accidents. In contrast I was at pains to point out that “speeding” (defined as breaking the speed limit) accounts for a trivial proportion of the recorded causes. In any event, the collapse of the beneficial trend that has smitten us since the introduction of today’s policies makes it difficult to portray the current punitive approach as a success. Paul Withrington (Director)

21st August 2008EUROSTAR PLATFORMS - RAIL RAGE
Nigel Harris (21st Aug), in response to George Franks’ irritation (14th Aug) provides, the reason for the Eurostar platforms at Waterloo remaining out of use, namely the incredible inflexibility of the steel wheel/steel rail combination. 
In that context, London’s crushed surface rail commuters may like to know that in the peak hour they are sufficient to occupy only one seventh of the network’s capacity if it were pave and if all those passengers were seated in (75-seat) express coaches.  Hence, even in the peak hour that great network is, in highway terms, substantially disused.  Outside the peak it is a place of dreams.  The roads, meanwhile, are clogged with traffic.
Paul F Withrington (for Transport Watch).
Note for editor.
In the morning peak hour circa 250,000 passengers enter central London by surface rail.  There are at least 25 pairs of tracks.  Hence the average flow per track is 10,000.  The 10,000 could all sit in 133 75-seat coaches leaving over 10% of seats empty.  The width required by a train is the same as the width as the motorway lane needed by an express coach.  Such a lane has the capacity to carry 1,000 coaches per hour, 7.5 times the average flow of 133 here calculated (Chelsea viaduct carries in excess of 2,000 vehicles per hour)….
At Waterloo there are 4 inbound tracks.  There are circa 50,000 inbound passengers in the am peak hour.  If all of them were seated in 75-seat coaches 670 would suffice.  They would not even fill one of those inbound tracks if the network were paved.
Doubt that and go look at the contra flow bus lane serving the Lincoln Tunnel, New York.  It carries 700 45-seat coaches in the peak hour providing over 30,000 seats in one lane 11 feet wide.

5TH July 2008ROAD CASH STEETS AHEAD OF RAIL
Helen Nugent points out (5th July) that since the year 2002 road expenditure has increased by 60% but that subsidy to rail has increased by only 10%.
Government grant and loans to rail may average £5 billion per year for the 20 years to 2015.  That is equivalent an annual taxes of £200 for every household in the land at a time when rail accounts for only 7% of passenger miles and 2% of trips.  Indeed rail is used less than once a year by half the population and 5 times as much by the better off as by the poor.
By way of comparison, the motorway and Trunk road network carries 5 times as many passenger miles as does the rail network whilst expenditure amounted to only £3.1 billion in 2006/7 compared with taxes levied of £16 billion.
That data suggests that something very odd has happened in the minds of those who believe rail should have more cash than the roads.
NOTES
The source for the £3.1 billion is table 1.1 of transport Statistics Great Britain.
The total taxes including VAT on cars and all motor services etc is circa £50 billion annually.  32% of vehicles miles are on the motorway and trunk road network.  Hence the tax take attributable to that is £16 billion.
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30th June 2008HIGH SPEED RAIL
Railway enthusiasts are cheering at the prospect of 5 new high speed lines and regret that the Treasury is said to be lukewarm on the idea.  Thank goodness it is.  After all the cost would exceed £100 billion, none of which would ever be recovered from the fare box.  That is equivalent to £4,000 in taxes from every household in the land.  The resultant toy would do nothing to reduce road congestion (half of all car journeys are less than 4.3 miles long, 90% are less than 20 miles long).  Furthermore the facility would be used by the rich at least 5 times as much as by the poor, or at least that is the case with normal rail.
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28th June 2008CHEERS FOR DRIVING DOWN ROAD DEATHS?
Your leader writer on 27th cheered the “driving down” of road deaths.  Has he not noticed that since the introduction of the present punitive regime the rate of decline in road deaths has greatly reduced.  E.g. Over the 12 year period to 2000 that decline averaged 3.5%.  The comparable annual decline to the 9 year period to 2007 is 2.1%. …………………………………………………
29th May 2008ALTERNATIVES FOR A RISE IN FUEL PRICES In the Times on 17th October 1972, Dan Pettit, when Chairman National Freight corporation wrote, “the way the environmentalists in particular talk about the railways reminds me of the tale about the king’s clothes. It is an exercise in mass self-delusion”. Today the idea that transferring freight to rail can be a solution to fuel price rises (Letters 29th, Milne and Mr Duncan) is equally misplaced. 
Firstly only 12% of (road plus rail) freight is by rail.  Secondly, we find that if the national rail function were discharged by express coaches and lorries on uncongested rights of way the energy consumption would be reduced by 25% and carbon emissions likewise. Furthermore (a) the prospect improving the fuel consumption of road vehicles is real while for trains it is illusory (b) road vehicles may very well use renewables every bit as effectively as may trains.
Lastly, reference Mr Duncan’s plea for evening passenger services to run alongside freight trains, freight trains honk all night because there is no track capacity during the day, despite the network carrying the equivalent of an entirely trivial 300 buses plus lorries per day per track.  Even in Central London and in the peak hour the network is, in highway terms, scarcely used.
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The Government should tackle road congestion The first paragraph of the following  was published in The Times on 11th May 2008.
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The most unnecessary jams are at junctions.  At those critical points the dash for road safety has led to channelisation schemes etc. that have greatly reduced capacity.  Those “improvements” are supported by endless speed humps and the camera campaign.  Despite that, the previous steady decline in road deaths has collapsed. That is because these policies have sabotaged the development of mature driver behaviour – the slogan “Treat people like idiots and they will behave like idiots” springs to mind. 
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Simultaneously there was, and is, the daft idea that people could be persuaded out of their cars onto buses and trains.  That overlooks the obvious, namely, the car has enabled a dispersed land use that is generally impossible to serve by bus let alone the train.
Even worse, over 20 years we will spend £100 billion of taxpayers’ money on the railways. That system is used by half the population less than once a year and by rich folk rather than the poor.  To the astonishment of many, even in central London and in the peak hour, the network is, in highway terms, scarcely used.
The plain fact is that the only way of providing the roads that the nation needs at reasonable cost is to pave this vast Victorian rail system.  All London’s crushed surface rail commuters would then have seats in express coaches at one quarter the cost of the train and countless other vehicles would divert from the unsuitable city streets that they now clog.
Unfortunately sentimentality is likely to prevent that.  Instead we will have even more jam tomorrow whilst millions of drivers will be prosecuted for exceeding unrealistic speed limits.
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1st May 2008Motoring taxes now need a radical rethink This letter, published under the above heading, followed a major series of articles in the Times that reported the Government’s intention to tax vehicle according to their size.  That policy is under much criticism from all sides.  Our letter was the lead on May 1st.
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If the Government is keen to reduce congestion and emissions it should abolish road tax and VAT on motor vehicles and transfer the same to fuel (report April 30th).  That would mimic congestion charging to an extent, encourage the purchase of fuel efficient vehicles and discourage use.  In contrast taxing large cars will bear on those who legitimately need a large vehicle.  Probably this misguided policy is drive by the politics of envy rather than anything else.  (the campaign against “Chelsea Tractors” for instance).  In any event the effect on emissions will be microscopic.
Hydrogen and electric powered nonsense
Ben Webster’s article of 16th pretends that hydrogen powered vehicles would be pollution free.  Professor Reuben, 23rd, points out that the energy required to manufacture hydrogen exceeds that delivered. What else do we need to hear before consigning hydrogen power to the sillies basket.  Well, once the hydrogen is delivered to an internal combustion engine, at best 40% of the energy released will be converted to useful power.
Christine Buckley 23rd reports that there are to be “green” electric powered taxis in London. Do these people not realize that electrical energy can never, or almost never, be pollution free?  Indeed an increase in electricity demand may prolong the life of coal fired power stations, whose carbon emissions are double the present average for the UK generating industry – far worse than diesel engines.
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13th April 2008Letters Editor The Times 1 Pennington Street London E98 1TA -
Rail expansion
A rational man can only read Ben Webster’s account of the proposed expansion of the rail network with despair (Times of 11th April).  The plain fact is, rail is beggaring the nation.  Subsidy for the 20 years to 2015 is likely to top £100 billion.  That amounts to £4,000 for every household in the land at a time when half the population uses a train less than once a year.  Furthermore those from households in the top quintile of income travel five times as far by rail as do those from households in either of the bottom two quintiles.  Why on earth should we subsidise rich folk?
Now we have Jim Steer and others canvassing for tens of billions of pounds to be spent on three 200 mph rail links.  Together those may cost a further £(50-100) billion.  Cost benefit analyses for two, said to cost £31 billion, pretend that the proposals would produce £63 billion of benefits.  However that analysis erroneously counts fares as benefits (when they are actually transfer payments) and includes the “regenerative” effect on Northern cities.  The latter may benefit far more if given the cash directly and even more if tax were generally reduced so that the market, instead of schoolboy thinking, may drive the economy. If such proposals are not viable in purely financial terms then they should not be built.  Any other approach will leave the taxpayer paying for fairy gold for ever and ever.
In this context it is salutary to look at the modal split of the longer distance journeys.  National Travel survey data for the years 2004-2006 shows that in the range 250-350 miles 72% of trips are by car, 8% by bus and 14% by rail leaving 5% to air.  For journeys longer than 350 miles 42% or trips were by car and 39% by air, leaving a trivial 10% to the train and 4% to the express coach.  If at immense cost to the taxpayer some of the air travellers transferred to rail the effect on global emissions would be almost impossible to measure.
Bah – go look at the fares.
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1st April 2008PARKING
Illegal parking is perhaps the only offence where the perpetrator is not liable.  Instead it is the vehicle owner.  Surely that is contrary to human rights let alone the ordinary expectation of justice.
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1st April 2008CHANCE OF DYING BY ROAD AND RAIL.
Ben Webster (in the Times) on 26th reported that there is a 1 in 200 chance of being killed in a road crash compared with a 1 in 65,000 chance of being killed by a train.  That juxtaposition of numbers is entirely misleading.  Firstly, the rail number ignores trespassers, staff, postal workers and people on railway business.  When those people are taken into account (suicides excepted) at least 150 people die on the railways annually. With 60 million people that equates to a one in 5,300 chance of being killed on the railways over a 75 year lifetime, 12 times less than the reported number. Secondly, rail carries one seventeenth of the passenger load carried by the roads.  Hence, for comparative purposes, the 5,300 should be divided by 17.  That yields 313.  The corresponding value for road is 250 (not 200). 
Indeed, the all-in deaths per passenger-mile by rail (suicides excepted) is 50% above that on the motorway and trunk road system.  If pedestrians, cyclists and people on motorbikes are excluded from the latter on the grounds that they are seldom met with on railway alignments, the number widens to a factor of two in favour of road.
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1st April 2008COST OF DELAYS and USAGE
It has recently been reported that delays on the railways cost one billion pounds per year.  That amounts to 3.7 pence per passenger mile.  In it is said that congestion on the road system costs £(15-20) billion annually.  That corresponds to between 3.2 and 4.3 pence per passenger-km.
The rail network is, in highway terms, almost completely empty. Even in central London and in the peak hour there are sufficient passengers to fill only one seventh of the network’s capacity if it were paved and express coaches replaced the trains. How many volumes does that speak of?
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21st Feb 2008NOTHING WRONG WITH TRAMS published 
In 1949 the trams were seen as an embarrassment to the capital’s post-war planners. In that year Lord Latham, chairman of the London Transport Executive, delivered a speech outlining the plans for the tramways conversion programme in which he stated “the loss on the trams is about £1,000,000 per year” equivalent to £25 million at today’s prices.
There is of course nothing wrong with a tram apart from the fact that it takes three times as long to stop as a bus, costs four times as much, offers little or no routing flexibility and has a fraction of the capacity (provided the bus enjoys a right of way free of congestion).
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17th Jan 2008HUGE RISE IN CONGESTION
The rise in traffic over the decade no doubt contributes to congestion but often the greater factor is the deliberate reduction in capacity at critical points across the network, namely the road junctions.  There fashionable channelisation schemes ensure that the major turning movements are congested leaving empty lanes for the minor ones.  Instead of that, lanes should have been added to the approaches to junctions, wherever possible, and the motorist left with the responsibility of making best use of the road space available.  If that were implemented now many of the queues would vanish.
Meanwhile the Government had the ludicrous idea that congestion may be solved by increasing bus and train use.  With only 6% of passenger miles by train and 10% by bus it is a matter of simple arithmetic that large changes to those percentages could lead to only a trivial change in car use.  Furthermore, trains and most buses serve town centres where parking is not available and where congestion makes the use of the car unattractive.  Hence, if it is those train and bus journeys that have increased the impact on journeys by car to other places and indeed to town centres will have been close to zero.  Instead subsidy may have encouraged people to travel who may otherwise not have done so.
6th Jan 2008LEVEL PLAYING FIELDS
Mr Crick (5th Jan) calls for a level playing field between road and rail.  Well, if rail’s annual maintenance cost is divided by the passenger-km or tonne-km or the sum of both the unit costs obtained are more than three times those for maintaining the strategic road network.  If the costs of “renewals”, representing capital expenditure for rail, and capital for roads are added the unit costs of rail are some six times those for the strategic road network. 
Furthermore, road users as a whole contribute £50 billion annually to the exchequer of which some £9 billion is spent on roads. If the tax take, net of expenditure, is apportioned according to vehicle miles then the Strategic Road network contributes £13 billion annually. Network Rail receives annual subsidy of £5 billion (including loans guaranteed by the Government). In return it carries only 6% of the nation’s passenger-miles and 12% of freight. 
Without that subsidy rail would vanish overnight.  The 10,000 miles long network would then find a use as a system of reserved motor roads, all London’s surface rail commuters would have seats in express coaches sufficient to occupy only one seventh of the network’s capacity, costs would be cut by a factor of four, fuel consumption and carbon emissions would be reduced, and death rates halved.  Many thousands of lorries and other vehicles would divert from the unsuitable city streets and rural roads that they now burden, bringing untold environmental benefits, and endless derelict railway land would at last be developed.
3RD January 2008WHY WE AREN’T FURIOUS ABOUT OUR RAILWAYS
“When trains are still the theme of nursery rhymes and children’s stories, it is small wonder that the railways have a romantic fascination for most adults.  Only years of nursery conditioning can explain the calm with which the public has accepted a bill of £3,000 millions (£34 bn at 2007 prices) to subsidise British Rail over the last decade”.   So wrote Francis Caincroft when Economics Correspondent to The Guardian in April 1974. 
Then as now for at a time when half of us use a train less than once a year, when only 6% of passenger miles go by rail, when half of all rail journeys are less than 20 miles long (90% are less than 80 miles), when even in the peak hour all London’s crushed surface rail commuters would find seats in express coaches occupying only one seventh of the network’s capacity if it were paved, when such a change would reduce fuel consumptions and emissions while halving the annual deaths, all at one quarter the cost of the train, when countless lorries and other vehicles could then divert from the unsuitable city streets and rural roads that they currently burden, when in those circumstances the nation congratulates itself upon committing £5 billion per year every year for 20 years (£100 billion for the 20 years) to this 19th century system - a system that may be brought to a complete standstill by a heap of earth or a child’s prank -  then it is clear that the nation has indeed lost its head more or less permanently, at least in this vector.
Instead of directing anger at “the railways” it is those who have advised successive Governments that deserve condemnation for it they who, in the words of Stuart Joy, chief economist to British Railways in the 1960’s, are prepared “cynically to accept the rewards of high office in return for the unpalatable task of Tricking the Government on a mammoth scale.  Those men”, Joy wrote, “were either fools or knaves”.
To compound this madness there are calls to “fine Network Rail”, instead of those responsible, so that, no doubt, taxpayers may pay again……….
8th December 2007Speed cameras
I was shocked to find Robin Cummins for the RAC, writing on 7th, that speeding causes three times as many accidents as drink-driving.  That appears to bear no relationship to the facts at least as published in the DfT paper Contributory factors to road accidents.  There, and in Table 2 speeding, meaning breaking the speed limit, was recorded as a “contributory factor” in 12% of fatal accidents, 7% of serious accidents, 4% of slight accidents and in 5% of all injury accidents.  The corresponding numbers for alcohol are 9%, 8%, 5% and 5%.
Both sets of members ignore the fact that in most accidents there is more than one cause.  When that is taken into account “speeding” amounts to 6% of contributory factors in fatal accidents, 4% in serious accidents, 2.3% in slight accidents and 2.8% in all injury accidents.
The basis for the often cited but erroneous statistic that speeding causes 30% of accidents is twofold;  firstly there is the incorrect addition to “speeding” of a collection of other contributory factors broadly contained by the phrase “going to fast for the conditions” and secondly the failure to appreciate that in most accidents there will be more than one contributory factor.  In reality “speeding” as a contributory factor is below the 3% level for all injury accidents or ten times lower than commonly believed.
2nd November 2007RAIL OVERCROWDING
Francis Caincroft, when Economics Correspondent  to the Guardian, wrote, on 29th April in 1974,  “when trains are still the theme of nursery rhymes and children’s stories, it is small wonder that the railways have a romantic fascination for most adults.  Only years of nursery conditioning can explain the calm with which the public has accepted a bill of £3,000 millions (£35bn at June 2007 prices) to subsidise British Rail over the last decade”.
Of course matters are now much improved.  After all, since 1995 the tax payer has spent £69 billion, at June 2007 prices on the system and another £30 billion is proposed by 2014, providing a magnificent total of £99 billion.  That is equivalent to £4,000 for every household in the land at a time when half of us use a train less than once a year and when those from households in the top quintile of income travel four and a half times as far by rail as do those from either of the bottom two quintiles.
One obvious answer to overcrowding is to balance supply and demand by price.
Meanwhile, London’s crushed rail commuters may like to know that they would all find seats at one quarter the cost in a fleet of 75-seat coaches and that those coaches would occupy one seventh of the capacity available, if the rights of way were paved. Outside the peak the network is a place of dreams – surrounded by city streets clogged with unsuitable traffic. The cost conversion, on a grand scale, is perhaps £15 billion shorn of VAT and optimism bias.
Freight off the rails - Letters To The Times -                                                                        Published 8th September
Ben Webster 6th September has a substantial article headed “More freight trains will free up the roads but disrupt rail journeys”.  Whereas we may believe the latter the idea that such a policy can have any impact on road congestion is bizarre.  For example, after allowing for their greater size by multiplying by 1.5, lorries with 4 axles plus all artics constitute only 11% of the traffic flow on the motorway network (7.28 out of 92.9 bn veh-km in 2003 were lorries/artics).   If those vehicles carried as little as 8 Tonnes each then they carried 60 billion tonne-km.  Capturing 10% of that would reduce motorway traffic by perhaps 1% while increasing rail freight by 30%.  If the intention were to capture 10% of the heavy lorry freight on the entire motorway and Trunk road system then again traffic flows thereon would only fall by 1% but rail freight would have to increase by over 40%.
In contrast – replacing the railway lines with a road surface would lead to the rights of way at last being put to sensible use.  After all a measure of the disruption that the steel creates can be had by considering the disaster that it would be if the motorway and trunk road system were surfaced with railway lines.
Paul F Withrington (Director Transport Watch)
CHESEA TRACTORS AND CLIMATE CHANGE                                                                                             July 21st 2006
Ken Livingstone, 20th July, claimed that the new pollution-based charge has nothing to do with prejudice against luxury vehicles and everything to do with tackling climate change.  Well, the Mayor may care to note that perhaps 0.5% global carbon emissions are from UK transport, that only 7% of traffic is in the Chelsea Tractor class and that only perhaps one in 10 such vehicles are in London.  Hence if all those halved their emissions the effect would be vanishingly small - a reduction of perhaps 0.002% in the global total.  It follows that either the Mayor has no grasp of number or that his letter is a smoke screen for his prejudice.   Paul F Withrington (Director Transport Watch)
HOW FAIR ARE THE FARES                                                                                                                        21st May 2006
Gwyneth Dunwoody is committed to the idea that rail is a “public service”.  Why on earth should that be?  After all, those from households in the top quintile of income travel 4 times as far annually by rail as do those from either of the two bottom quintiles and half of us use a train less than once a year.  Meanwhile your leader bewails the lack of “investment” in rail at a time when rail absorbs £5 billion annually from the taxpayer and when taxes, along with administrative costs, take 50% of GDP.  We comment, if the Government wishes to subidise some well deserving would be travellers then pay them the money leaving them to decide how to spend it.  Meanwhile, rather that costing the earth, there should be a general presumption that taxes should be limited to 25% of GDP. That would both stimulate economic growth and prevent Government, in its lust for power, from enslaving all of us.   Paul F Withrington (Director Transport Watch)

 



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