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Local Transport Today reports an 18 month rail closure of 90 km of rail in the Midlands - Stoke to Stafford, 16 miles (25.5 km), Stafford to Nuneaton, 35 miles (56 km) and Nuneaton to Coventry, 10 miles (16 km) plus (we assume) the associated loop south of Stafford, 11 miles (17.5 km). That provides a total of 72 miles (90 km) of two-track railway. However, no station along those routes is served by more than 9 trains per day each way.

(The official reason for the closures is to allow the drivers to be trained on other trains and routes because, unlike a lorry or coach driver, a train driver must learn the specifics of a train type and the detail of the route before venturing onto new territory).

We comment, if paved, the rights of away could be used by express coaches and lorries. The width is sufficient for a standard 7.3 carriageway. An estimate for the cost is £20 million based on the cost of the Southport Bypass. That was built on an old railway alignment at a cost of £140,000 per km at 1991 prices, many times less costly than a new road in green fields.

Rather than taking that opportunity, the plan is to allow these substantially disused rights of way to fall into dereliction for 18 months in the hope that they may one day be opened to trains equivalent to perhaps 12 buses per day each way.

On Friday 28th May all trains to Euston were brought to a standstill because a pigeon flew into overhead cables between Bletchley and Bourne End - highlighting how fragile rail is to the slightest mishap.

The West Coast Main Line is to be closed for 9 days from 28th May 2004 to allow engineering work between Watford and Coventry and Stafford.

Instead of taking note of engineering and fiscal reality Tom Winsor, the Rail Regulator, blames ministers for rail's high costs and poor performance. (Submission to the Rail Review).

Kim Howells, the Transport Minister, is at the centre of a row following his alleged remarks to tax motorists off the roads and into public Transport. We comment - 90% of the trips made by car would vanish if the car did not exist. Virtually none would transfer to the bus or train.

Notes from "Transit" No. 234, May 14TH

School buses cost less than others since they are used less intensively says First Chief Exec Moir Lockhead. The American versions cost £28,000 but, after alterations, delivery costs and import duty, the price rises to £85,000. In comparison a Turkish version costs £60,000.

Stagecoach orders 10 TransBus Trident double deckers to replace single deckers on the Cheltenham to Gloucester route at a cost of £1.2 million. We note: the cost per bus is £120,000. In comparison a railway carriage may cost £1 million and Sheffield Super trams cost £1.6 million.

London's Strategic Transport Director, Joe Weiss, says London must not be seduced into believing all its public transport problems can be solved by the bus. We comment - overlooked is the option of paving the rights of way used by trains in favour of express buses and lorries - quadrupling capacity and cutting costs by the same factor while halving casualty costs and reducing fuel consumption.

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