The railway and congestion

   

        In the Wokingham constituency the railway is one of the main causes of traffic congestion. The Wokingham Station junction delays traffic around the town for much of the day when the crossing gates are down. Star Lane  crossing now has a long delay from the gates coming down to the train passing. The Waterloo crossing also impedes traffic flows. It is one of the green ironies that rail travel, hailed as a green option by some, can make car travel less green by the congestion it creates for others.

        The Ufton crossing has been the scene of two tragic accidents in recent years, reminding us of the risk when vehicles get in the way of trains, as trains cannot steer away from danger and do not stop quickly. Railway enthusiasts understandably wish trains to run at far faster speeds than cars, so they present a danger to anything in their way.  We also now have traffic delays from lengthy bridge work improvements and repairs over the railway at Sulhamstead.

         I have in the past sought to get more accurate time sensors and safety devices attached to the gates so safety can be combined with minimising the time the gates have to be down. The railway is reluctant to shorten the times that the gates are closed for operational reasons.

           I am pursuing the question of the delayed  bridge works for constituents in the Sulhamstead/Aldermaston area with Network Rail. I am also about to take up with them the issue of the level crossings. Some constituents are rightly pressing for a better answer at Ufton.

            As Network Rail seems to have a large budget for improving existing bridges, I wish to see it spend some of that money on new  bridges. We need additional bridges over the railway, to ease congestion and improve safety. The safest way of avoiding conflict between trains and cars is to keep them apart. The greenest solution to the problems the railway creates for road traffic is to have sufficient bridges.

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6 Comments

  1. Normandee
    Posted July 7, 2012 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

    “Cut and cover” tunnels as used in London for parts of the underground, quicker and easier than a heavy duty bridge with less impact.

  2. Tad Davison
    Posted July 7, 2012 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

    John,

    Obviously I’m not a constituent, but I am nevertheless interested in railways. Both the East Coast, and the West Coast main lines have undergone rationalisation in recent years in order to speed-up journey times and lessen the nimber of places where conflicts might occur. The number of cross-overs and turn-outs (points), and level crossings have been reduced accordingly.

    It does seem odd, that the ‘green’ alternative to road transport actually causes the latter to pollute more than would otherwise be the case, with vehicles waiting around, and their engines running. And that must surely be replicated all the way along your local route from London to the west. Bridges seem to be the answer in a lot of cases. As you so rightly say, it is far safer to keep the two modes of transport distinctly separate.

    It seems that building bridges ensures everyone’s a winner. Traffic moves more freely, rail travel is safer, rail speeds might even be raised giving more capacity, and the construction industry gets a much-needed boost. But who pays?

    The motorist is already caned enough. Rail companies might not want to foot the bill, and if we believe what we’re told, county councils are stretched to breaking point. PFIs have fallen into disrepute, and even a toll road might cause tailbacks at peak times, so I guess that just leaves the poor old tax-payer.

    These are just a few thoughts, but I’d be very interested to see what others think, especially the Transport Secretary.

    Tad Davison

    Cambridge

  3. nick
    Posted July 7, 2012 at 7:44 pm | Permalink

    what a typical convoluted right wing argument ! the people waiting in their cars could turn their engines off when stopped. or they could leave their car and take the train. this would reduce pollution – to say that the fumes of the cars are because of the trains is not logical. The biggest inconsistency is to suggest that network rail ie the taxpayer and the train user should pay to remove the level crossing to benefit the car user who will be less delayed and might encourage more car use ! If the car drivers benefit make them pay !

    or if the costs are too high remind motorists that excessive idling is illegal via warning signs. these would be cheaper then a new crossing !

    • lifelogic
      Posted July 8, 2012 at 8:56 pm | Permalink

      What a typically absurd lefty fake green argument. Why not make the trains all queue up until there are ten in a row then let them go through all at once perhaps twice an hour? That is what they do to cars.

      Trains, contrary to “BBC fake green think” are not low in C02 terms per mile when you look at the full journey (door to door), the track, energy transmission, staff, stations etc. They are only full one way and for part of the journey, usually just in rush hours. That is why they also cost so much more than cars per useful mile. The are already hugely subsidised they should pay a fare contribution for the congestion they cause to cars.

  4. nick
    Posted July 7, 2012 at 7:52 pm | Permalink

    and to suggest that insane drivers putting their lives and those of train passengers at risk is somehow the problem of the train and its speed is ludicrous. you will be suggesting that the trains give way to the cars next !

    the best and most expensive solution would be to remove all level crossing but the costs are enormous. technology is already being used to apply train brakes if an obstruction is found on the track and safety camera vans are in use. perhaps normal traffic lights should be used. any motorist driving recklessly onto a crossing should be face very severe fines and jail terms to avoid this gross stupidity. i though conservatives believed in personal responsibility as practised by the politicians, media and the banks NOT !

  5. Mark
    Posted July 8, 2012 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

    I can’t help feeling that 19th century style railways are not the transport of the future. We are now close to having automated, potentially driverless vehicles capable of using ordinary roads without further infrastructure. As you point out, trains can only accelerate and decelerate at much more limited rates: it is this which ultimately is a big limiting factor on the capacity of train lines.

    I suspect that most train lines will be converted to routes for automated vehicles within the next 50 years. That will have the advantage that level crossing junctions can be treated the same way as other crossroad intersections, as well as offering much more flexible and frequent routings for commuters or today’s bus passengers, and an ability to segregate slower freight traffic – all while permitting much greater traffic densities than present driver controlled vehicles allow.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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