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SIGNAL FAILURES - Private Eye letters (unpublished) September 04, 2006

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Dr Ching, 1st September points out that last year no passenger was killed in a train accident.  He compares that with all those, system-wide, including pedestrians, cyclist and people on motorbikes, killed on the roads and concludes, quite erroneously, that rail is overwhelmingly safe compared with road.  We comment, firstly, single year comparisons are pointless because the numbers are so variable, secondly, Ching overlooks the fact that roads carry 18 times the passenger-miles of rail and thirdly he compares passengers killed in so called train accidents with all those on the road network including pedestrians, cyclists and people on motorbikes- classes of people seldom met with on rail rights of way.

In contrast our careful calculations show that (a) if rail passengers transferred to express coaches their death rate would be halved (b) if ordinary traffic void of pedestrians, cyclists and motorbikes transferred to railway alignments the death rate would be the same as imposed on society by rail.

Meanwhile it may entertain readers to know that there are 250,000 crushed surface rail commuters entering central London in the AM peak hour. There are 25 pairs of tracks, hence 10,000 commuters per track. They could all find seats to spare in 150 75-seat express coaches. Those coaches would occupy one seventh of the capacity of the network if it were paved. Costs would be cut by a factor of at least four, the death rate by a factor of 2, fuel consumption by 20-25% and carbon emissions by 15%. Meanwhile countless lorries and other vehicles could divert from the unsuitable city streets that they now clog let alone unlocking the development potential of many thousands of hectares of derelict railway land.

Failure to act in the light of the simple arithmetic that underlies the above is why we have spent hundreds of billions over the decades on a system that is worthless in the market place. See


Paul F Withrington Director Transport-Watch 

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