Why the train can be a strain

I promised to explain why I did not go by train to Manchester. My local station is a twenty five minute or so walk from home. The first available train to get me to London Waterloo leaves at 6.06 in the morning, and after a change of train gets me there at 7.31 if it is on time. I needed to be at my destination in Manchester by 10.30 in the morning. That meant catching the 7.35 from Euston to get to Manchester Picadilly for 9.49. There was no way I could cross London in four minutes. Even if I had caught the later Euston train, the 8 am, and ran the risk of being late for my speech, I would only have had 29 minutes to get the Jubilee to Green Park and the Victoria line from there. So the train offered me the prospect of setting out at 5.30am but not guaranteeing I could be at my destination by 10.30. It would also have given me five hours of worry that all five trains would work and be on time.

A 35 minute drive to Heathrow, a one hour flight and a thirty minute taxi journey were bound to be shorter, even allowing for the waiting and checking time at Heathrow. I estimated I could leave home at 7am and still be there for 10.30, and so it proved. Three and a half hours. Not good, but fewer links to go wrong.

I could have driven to Euston, but that would entail battling the congestion and heavy London traffic in the morning rush hour, culminating in a difficulty in parking no doubt. That would have taken the best part of two hours, still leaving me with more than a four and a half hour journey if fortunate.

The cheapest option and maybe even the quickest would probably have been to drive the whole way. There was parking at the other end.

We learn this week that after 13 years of dithering and failing to put in any significant new rail or road infrastructure (other than the Channel link which the previous government had planned) the Transport Secretary suddenly wants to slash journey times by train to Birmingham. Of course, on closer inspection he does not expect the government to do this any time soon. It looks like an announcement for an election.

As my journey indicates, for many of us the problem with train travel is getting to the right station to jump onto a faster train in the first place. The endless congestion in most town and city centres near to stations is the number one problem we all face when thinking of train travel. If I lived near Euston and if my meeting had been near Manchester Picadilly it would have been a no brainer to go by train, but few of us are in such a position.

We want easier, cheaper and more timely point to point jounreys of the kind we actually undertake. My journey to Manchester did not need a faster train from London, but easier access to local stations, and faster trains from local feeder stations to main termini.

The government is always talking of joined up policies and integrated transport policy. True integration would improve junctions and roadspace to allow us road access to main stations, and provide plenty of parking when we get there. Then people might switch more to fast trains, and the train might indeed take some of the strain. At the moment the anti motorist policies in many cities gum up the works, force the use of more fuel per mile travelled, delay and frustrate motorists and impede access to rail services. Instead of grandstanding about ever faster trains on a few routes, Ministers should think about real journeys made by people trying to work in this country.


  1. Jules
    March 13, 2010

    John – just received a planning consultation from Basingstoke & Deane B C. From what I can make of it, both the large Network Rail car park and the Council’s cheaper season ticket car park are to be closed and built on. Both car parks are full of hundreds of commuter cars every day. I have not seen anything to suggest alternative parking is being put in place (one option allows for a small car park).

    It beggars belief.

    Just another reason to be thankful, we are emigrating to Singapore at the end of March. I shall keep reading this blog for interest though…

  2. backofanenvelope
    March 13, 2010

    This is a no brainer. Go by car. Any system that claims to replace the car should have to demonstrate that it is as economic and flexible.

  3. Norman
    March 13, 2010

    It is a disgrace that travelling around our small island is so difficult. I live around 40 miles from my nearest train station (the airport is closer) but I would never consider catching a train. Like you said, parking is a nightmare, negotiating city centres are a nightmare, even the prices are expensive. Whenver I need to go somewhere I either drive or fly.

    Everyone else I know does the same so we are now in a position where the road network is creaking at the seams, coupled with the fact that motorists are continually being targetted with more and more punitive taxes in the name of saving the world then there is definitely political gain to be made from this area.

    My local Conservaive PPC is actually campaigning on the shocking state of the roads in my area but I'd really like to hear more from the leadership on these issues.

    The Transport policy page if full of a lot of waffle and green rubbish that will make people's travelling worse, not better. The most prominent transport policy is a high speed rail network not just to Birmingham but to every major city in the 3 mainland UK countries! Can we expect this anytime soon?

  4. Stuart Fairney
    March 13, 2010

    JR you have no need at all to justify your use of a plane

  5. Paul Chappell
    March 13, 2010

    I live in Marsden, a village up in the pennines, between Leeds and Manchester.

    The main line from Leeds to Manchester passes through our village. We have a local station, with a service from Huddersfield to Manchester.

    It costs £2.20 for a return to Huddersfield – arround 7 miles.

    The next station in the othe direction, towards Manchester, is Greenfield, a similar distance away. A return there is over £4.00!

    A return from Marsden to Liverpool is around £24.00, from Greenfield it is around £14.00. Marsden to Liverpool is arroximatly 50 miles. My mother and sister live in Liverpool. When I visit them, I drive since it would cost £48.00 for my wife and I to go there by train.

    I would love to use the train, but the car is so much easier.

    The problem is that we live in West Yorkshire, right on the boundary of Greater Manchester. There is no joined up thinking on train services between the two counties/metropiltan districts.

  6. JimF
    March 13, 2010

    Computer says:
    Twyford (TWY) to Manchester Piccadilly (MAN) Earlier Later Depart TWY
    Arrive MAN
    09:59 MAN
    Duration 3h 49m
    Single second class fare £66
    Job done!

    Reply: Still have to get to Twyford, find safe parking, and get to destination in Manchester – so we are still talkling about the best part of five hours.

  7. alan jutson
    March 13, 2010


    Your point is well made in so far as train stations have limited parking, with little security, but at great cost.

    The above would perhaps not be so bad if train fares were reasonably priced, but they are not.

    We do not have a joined up thinking transport policy in this Country, but a get as much as you can from each stage.

    Travelling in Switzerland last year by train for a weeks holiday with freinds was an absolute delight, clean carraiges, clean windows, trains running to the second, and reasonably priced as well.

  8. backofanenvelope
    March 13, 2010

    Lets go back to basics. You have a car. You step out of your Wokingham mansion into your car and head nor-nor-west for a couple of hours. You arrive at your destination and step out of your car.

    All alternatives should equal this experience in terms of cost and convenience.

    The auto manufacturers are continually improving their vehicles under the cosh of competition and regulation. The government should concentrate on improving the road system to make car use more effective.

  9. Nick
    March 13, 2010

    That's because you live in cuckoo land John when it comes to rail services.

    The interest bill alone for Crossrail is 3 million a day. 200,000 passangers a day means they will have to pay well over 15 pounds a ticket. By how much depends on running costs, and that won't be cheap.

    So how many of those 200K people can afford about 4K a year out of taxed income to pay for transport? Alright if you are claiming the cost on expenses but for everyone else its a not going to fly.

    Unless that it is, you do the same as the MP, and get someone else to pay for it. Namely get people who don't use the service to subsidise it.

    1. Stuart Fairney
      March 13, 2010

      Quite right. Why we persist with the best 19th century technology with miles and miles of vastly expensive fixed infrastructure is simply beyond me. Cars, coaches and planes are all better.

      If someone thinks they can make money building cross cross country rail lines good luck to ’em, but please don’t make me pay for it. There are those however who think they can make money from building private roads (i.e. M6 toll, bridges etc). This should tell us something. The fact that the Lib Dems support the proposals should tell us something else!

      However as JR says, this is simply a pre-election powerpoint presentation, nothing more. In fact Health & Safety might want to take a look at this, as I nearly fell off the treadmill in the gym yesterday laughing at the “plans”

      1. Nick
        March 13, 2010

        I won’t go as far as to say better. It’s horses for courses.

        The problem lies with the cost. If the user pays the cost, then it doesn’t really matter.

        The problem is with people who want other people to pay for things they want to do, and not pay for it themselves.

        Now, John Redwood is all in favour of this. I seem to remember him being very pro Crossrail. Cross rail doesn’t stack up unless the users get a massive subsidy.

        In today’s environment, that’s inflated because its borrowed cash.

        After all, halving the deficit is 90 billion off spending, plus another 46 billion in debt servicing. 136 billion in cuts is Labour’s plan. How can you fund mad cap schemes when the position is so dire?

        My conclusion is that somehow the proximity of Cross Rail to John Redwoods constituency plays a part.

        Reply: I have never written or spoken to persuade the authorities to undertake Crossrail. I have expressed concerns about the costs and the impact it may have on feeder capacity on other lines.

        1. Stuart Fairney
          March 14, 2010

          "The problem is with people who want other people to pay for things they want to do, and not pay for it themselves"

          In one sentence you very neatly define the difference between socialist/statist progressives (i.e. Labour, the Lib-Dems and all too many tories) and libertarians who believe in freedom from state tyranny of whom there are a few tories.

          Until someone says the limits of the state are….. Beyond this we should not and will not go, we are subject to said tyranny.

          Washington observed that government was a troublesome servant and a fearsome master.

  10. david b
    March 13, 2010

    I live near a railway station. I use the train at weekends and when I have hospital appointments in the nearby city. I enjoy the journey. However I am unstressed on those trips. When I am pushed for time I go by car. The railway is wonderful when you don’t have to be somewhere at a specific time. That is, I assume, why we all have rosy anecdotes about public transport abroad.

    Now apart from the general chaos and incompetence which seems to characterise life in the UK, I think the huge problem with the transport system has 2 big causes. The first is that this little island is overcrowded. We have perhaps 70 million people living on a place where 40 million lived 50 years ago. There are too many people here. We really need to consider a national strategy for managing the population and its long term reduction to a sustainable much smaller number. The natives were doing it naturally but our politicians think the solution is to go for growth by importing people from more fecund places.

    The second problem is the way we seem to leave the infrastructure out until long after houses have been built. The town I live near has the same road and railway infrastructure it had when I was a teenager – 30 years ago – but there has been a huge degree of house construction all over the area. Pretty well all the houses are private, so I guess the majority of their occupants have to work to afford the council tax and the insurance tax and the road fund tax and the climate change levy on their fuel bills, etc. So they will mostly have to work. Many of them thus have to commute. Clogging up the roads and rush hour trains. So we cram ever more people onto the roads/ railways and then wonder why there is endless congestion.

  11. A.Sedgwick
    March 13, 2010

    As soon as connections are necessary on train journeys their efficiency drops alarmingly. This has always been the case here and in Europe and will not change. An air trip to the Mediterranean is a fairly easy day, even by TGV it is extremely tiring and boring. Planes for short haul are here to stay.

    A direct train link from Heathrow to Birmingham International makes some sense both to spread the air traffic and give better Midlands access. Saving 30 minutes on journey time from Euston to New Street is a very low priority in my list of our transport needs e.g. I would prefer to see money spent on recreating local train services to undo the transport mistake of the C20 committed by Beeching and Marples.

  12. Lola
    March 13, 2010

    1. The money spent on the proposed high speed lines will be taken from taxpayers. These taxpayers won't be able to spend that money.
    2. The new lines will lead to a massive misallocation of capital. Individual investors invest for a return. Politicians spend for political advantage.
    3. The car – or rather let's say personal transport – is the most efficient way of getting from A to B in most cases over moderate distances, say London to Edinburgh, or for journeys across the grain of the land.
    4. The new railways lines will cost many billions of pounds, which the state does not have.
    5. Leave this money in private hands to develop more efficient private vehicle power sources. It could, say, be used it to establish a hydrogen filling station network.
    6. The 'invisible hand' is always better at allocating capital than the State.

    The whole thing is political grandstanding. Plus I agree that making the existing rail network more efficiently would be the best first step and would cost fractions of the 'grande projects' high sped links.

  13. Lola
    March 13, 2010

    There's something else that puzzles me and that I have not had time to check that someone else would know the anser to.

    I think that the trains are so expensive due to various reasons.

    One, the maintenance costs of the fixed plant and equipment are massively high because the rolling stock – by its very nature – is very fault intolerant.

    Two, the discounted cost of all that plant is very expensive.

    Three, the utilising of all this plant and equipment is very low, and is very peaky and seasonal.

    Four, the railway by its very nature cannot deal with small things, short journeys, tight corners, steep gradients etc etc. It is very inflexible. Five, we no longer live and work in the mass. There was a time during the industrial age when we needed to move lots of people from a – b regularly and lots of bulk stuff the other way. The only places this hapens now is commuting into big cities, and then no freight is involved.

    Five, all this is massively energy inefficient.

    Six, the railway as it currently stands is old and in some cases completely outdated.

    Rather then spend money trying to make it fit our dispersed and time poor lives why not spend the money on making personal transport even more efficient than it already is.

    For the avoidance of doubt I absolutely love trains. If I could afford to buy the field at the bottom of my garden I'd build myself a narrow guage recreational railway – going nowhere special of course.

  14. John Shepherd
    March 13, 2010

    A large proportion of professionals and managers working in the big cities and towns live in rural towns and villages, especially in the South East. Rural settlements – among the fastest growing places in the country – need a range of good, modern jobs. The answer is to dust off Beeching and join rural settlements up again with short, regular, efficient trains, not to waste money on high speed rail links between cities which, by continental standards are relatively close together.

  15. Jonathan
    March 13, 2010

    There hasn’t been a decent transport policy in this country for years, the trains have become more expensive, dirtier and with nowhere to sit it’s a real strain.
    If I wanted to park in Reading station it would cost about £16 a day (or did the last time I was unfortunate enough to pay) on top of the £40 ticket on which I never get a seat.
    I don’t use the train for anything other than travel to London as it’s plain inconvenient, trains every 30 minutes from my local station for a 3 minute journey into Reading just don’t make an attractive proposition. After living in Germany for so many years (admittedly around Munich for most of those) the trains and underground here are an embarrassment and can’t see any improvements coming for the Olympics. How are the Para-Olympians supposed to use the Underground when there is no access on the majority of them?

    1. Jon-Kristian
      March 15, 2010

      I second the comment regard Para-Olympians. The tube network simply is not accessible if you use a wheelchair, as I do. Some stations, the Jubilee line from Waterloo as example, are accessible with totally level access onto the train. However, access off the train is another matter and could involve a 4-8inch step up or down. There are tube maps that list accessible stations but what they count as accessible I don't. Unless the train is as level as the DLR it's not accessible. With the DLR you have malfunctioning lifts to contend with but it is easy to use when they are working. I would prefer to use the tube because it's faster than the bus but I am unable to do so. My wheelchair using friend recently came back from Singapore and he said he was able to use the tube there because it was all level access on and off the train. If only it were so here. Frankly, our infrastructure is a shambles. Of course, all the above would be moot if I had a car. As a former driver who gave up his car when he moved to London I can say that public transport is slow (if I go to a meeting in Maidenhead it takes over 4 hours each way) where it takes 40minutes by car, it is dirty and smells as well. Take the car if you can because it's mostly quicker, and you can listen to John Humphrys or Eddie Meyer in air-conditioned comfort. If you have a long journey fly. Also, the cost of the train never fails to surprise. In a bad way.

  16. Y Rhyfelwr Dewr
    March 13, 2010

    One hour to fly from London to Manchester? It’s only 200 miles. Most commercial jets fly at around 500 mph.

    It’s a mystery why anybody still takes the train at all. They’re slow and inconvenient. While inter-city trains can be quite comfortable, local services still rely on noisy bone shakers. All of them involve standing around on wind-swept platforms which add unrelenting tedium to your misery.

    And all this costs more than it does to drive!

    If the trains were a fraction of the cost, the downsides would probably be worth it. Why don’t they subsidise public transport properly? It would involve fewer cars on the road, less exhaust pollution, less road maintenance and hopefully a lower road tax, fewer accidents resulting fewer deaths and injuries, less strain on the NHS, and lower insurance premiums. The benefits would be literally incalculable, but huge.

    But nobody does, not even the Conservatives. It makes no sense at all.

  17. Kevin Peat
    March 13, 2010

    I agree with you entirely on this. We don’t need a sexy new express train route. What we do need is to consolidate what we have and to make it more affordable.

    A couple were standing next to me on the platform at Exeter and wanted to buy a ticket from the conductor to get them to Paddington for a matinee in the West End. I overheard the charge:

    £360 return the pair.

    I simply do not understand how people can afford to do anything in this country. There’s either a lot of money or a lot of credit swilling around.

  18. James D
    March 13, 2010

    Why on earth would you go from Waterloo to Euston via Green Park? The Northern Line is closer to the main line platforms at both ends and goes straight there. Even if the Northern Line were closed, the Bakerloo Line to the Victoria Line at Oxford Circus is at least a cross-platform interchange. Green Park involves going out of your way to walk along a very long interchange corridor.

    Secondly, that route to Waterloo is very very silly. It seems to involve catching a train from your home station to Farnborough North, then walking for 24 minutes to Farnborough (Main). This is because your home station isn’t actually on a line that goes to Waterloo. There are stations on lines to Waterloo 5½ miles north-east or 7 miles south of that station. These have departures at 6.02am and 6.16am respectively that would allow you to make your cross-London connection.

    But if we’re playing “I could drive/take a taxi to a station”, there’s an even more obvious candidate 11 miles away: Reading. This has a direct train to Manchester at 6.11am, getting in at 9.39am. Yes, it’s one of those Cross Country ones that Labour has had the buffet stripped out of as part of their campaign to make train travel almost as horrible as air travel, but it does save going into London and back out.

  19. Jamess
    March 13, 2010

    Trains are heavily subsidised and planes heavily taxed – yet on many occasions air is cheaper an faster than taking the train. Why are we wasting so much money on a high speed train line when all we need to do is lift some of the regulations and taxation on air travel and then let private companies work out which routes people want to use?

    It’s probably down to some crazy notion of what it means to be green…

  20. Tom
    March 13, 2010

    But you can’t have a glass of wine with your lunch – that’s why trains a more civilised. The best thing would be self-driving cars where we punch in the postcode and admire the scenery. Bring it on!

  21. S Matthews
    March 13, 2010

    I can see some justification for mass transit solutions to get the workers from the suburbs or dormitory towns into the large cities, but otherwise rail is a 19th century solution to a transport problem.
    Investing large amounts in rail is like trying to make a better buggy whip.
    Over 90% of travel is by road. Its roads that need investment, within a decade or two we will have highly efficient electric vehicles, very probably with some form of auto-pilot capability.
    If we had a better road network then nothing else would match a car’s door to door travel times. Even today that is true.
    The political class seems locked in to an outdated approach to travel solutions, and are prepared to spend fortunes the country doesnt have on such folly.

  22. Kevin H
    March 13, 2010

    We’re between a rock and a hard place with our rail network.

    On the one hand I feel we should nationalise railway so that we can build a consistent quality network – there are profitable lines that make a lot of money and have OK trains (still overcrowded) and then many feeder lines are terrible.

    New rail franchises seem to only offer less real capacity and tricks so they can say the fares are cheap when in reality they know the fares will only relate to a couple of tickets booked 6 years in advance! Then they have timetables where say peak time starts at 10 they have a train at 9:59 meaning fares are massively overpriced.

    Why can the government not ensure that new franchise operators can’t deploy these tricks and will genuinely improve the service?

    But then – I can’t see this government (or any other for the foreseeable future) running the trains any better since there is no evidence they can run anything else so far!

    For me, our road and rail network would be the number 2 issue for the next government (after the debt of course) – every traffic jam is an avoidable insult to our citizens – lost revenue, environmental waste and parents / loved ones away from their family unnecessarily.

    Personally I wouldn’t mind all our debt so much if it had been invested into the road network.

  23. Fox in sox
    March 13, 2010

    I go down to London for meetings a few times per year, over £100 for a second class return for 200 miles return. More than 50 pence per mile. I put this on expenses, but would not pay if I had to self fund, I take the car because it is cheaper. My wife has had some expensive and nightmare train journeys to hampshire to visit relatives. The trains get cancelled and replaced by slow and useless buses. No one in their right mind travels by train if they can avoid it. The privatisation under the Tories made things worse rather than better.

    High speed London to Birmingham will be a White elephant, the money would be much better spent improving commuter lines, which is where the majority of passengers are, and the real potential for congestion reduction. Incidentally commuters are more likely to be conservative voters in places like Wokingham.

  24. Eleanor
    March 13, 2010

    I love the train. I live in Cambridge, so can cycle to the station, get to London quickly and then get to anywhere else from there. My only problem is that I am 26 this year, so am seeing the end of my 30% discount on rail travel. Given the extra cost, I might have to consider getting a car.

  25. Alan Wheatley
    March 13, 2010

    I am happy to go along with all that you say, but this is a comment on “today”, not a vision for the future.

    Surely the future is not limited to more and better means of getting from A to B, but alternatives to making the journey at all. Some occasions will continue to require a physical presence, but where that is not essential there is video conferencing. Thus, the speech is delivered from the comfort of your own home (or office) and projected onto a large screen in the conference hall (meeting room, or what ever). The speaker will be able to see one or more views of the audience (e.g. general view plus one or more close ups of, say, relevant people) on computer screen(s) and/or HD TV(s).

    An additional benefit will be that those who would like to have been in the audience but were unable to attend will be able to receive a live feed.

    This is all possible now, to a greater or less extent, depending on the depth of your pocket. What is needed is to speed up the role out of super-fast broadband, more affordable hardware (which will come with increasing volume) and associated software developments. The more realistic the experience, such as with 3D pictures, the more attractive it becomes.

    Then there is another alternative to travel whilst still fulfilling the engagement. A decision can be made as to what is most appropriate on a case by case basis.

    Note that there does not have to be a dramatic reduction in the number of journeys to make a significant difference to travel methods, currently or in the future, likely to be capacity limited.

    I do despair whenever I hear the case being made that because more people will want to travel between A and B the only way is to provide more of the same. I like railways, but they are a 200 year old concept. The heyday of the railways is long gone, and once motor transport became effective and affordable it became popular because it was a so much better option for the vast majority of journeys. Now motor transport is old technology. We must stop looking backwards. Come on – lets get imaginative. Where is the vision?

  26. no one
    March 13, 2010

    i would often say at the euston travelodge the night before and get up for an early train from euston in these circumstances

    1. alan jutson
      March 13, 2010

      Could also use a flat in Pimlico, but then that means you do not get home for at least one evening, and may give problems for either engagements the day before, or for return engagements on the day.

      Oh the problems of being popular and in demand !!

  27. Neil Craig
    March 13, 2010

    This exactly explains why a fully automated rail service would work. With driverless single carriage uniits leaveing mein stations every few minutes rather than 6 carriage units every half hour, waiting time is drasticly cut & the risk of missing a link removed.

    We could have tickets printed out at the monorail stop (like a bus stop but overhead so no congestion) for your destination in Manchester – the monorail takes you to your the Underground; hence to Euston: a carriage takes you to Manchester; a monorail takes you to within 1 bus stop of your destination. None of this is complicated compared to the computer systems that run a Wii. It is just that (A) we have so many in government able to stop anything being done & (B) rail drivers unions (I am convinced B is much less powerful).

  28. Lulu
    March 13, 2010

    Railways may have been a good idea when the only alternative was a horse-drawn carriage, and they may be still in large flat countries with land borders allowing intercontinental travel, but in a small island they are expensive and inflexible, creating more problems than they solve and hindering the development of alternative road and air transport services.

    I didn’t like your idea of toll roads when you first suggested it on here, but I would change my mind if the proposal were to convert railway lines into motorways.

  29. kevinH
    March 13, 2010

    It is a shame so many hours of our citizens lives are wasted in avoidable traffic jams when they could be at work rebuilding our economy or at home teaching their children to read etc.

    Why not:

    > Massive Investment in Thorium Nuclear Power Stations
    (& Bill Gates’ Nuclear Power Stations)

    > Nuclear power – cheap, abundant, clean and environmentally friendly

    > Electric cars

    > Massive investment in our road and rail network

    > An average of 1 hour a day of human life is re-purposed from congestion and traffic jams to building a better world

  30. no one
    March 13, 2010

    mostly the peak hours commute problem on both the roads and public transport should be solved by incentivising employers to offer staggered working hours

    it is sheer madness to have the majority of people expected at work at 9.00 am

    much cheaper and simpler solution is to stagger working hours than gear up the entire transport systems for one peak

  31. Andy
    March 14, 2010

    The money would be better spent upgrading the existing system. Lot of the trouble is the system was allowed to rot under nationalisation.

  32. Keith
    March 14, 2010

    If the Y shaped high speed rail network proposed by the government were built, by my calculation the train would be a dead heat with the plane:

    730 drive from home to Wokingham station
    740 train to Reading
    750 arrive Reading
    800 fast train to London
    830 arrive at proposed ‘Crossrail Interchange’ station
    840 high speed train from Crossrail Interchange to Manchester (a frequent service of four trains per hour is proposed)
    1000 Manchester (proposed journey time is 1h20m)

    If the interchange were built at Heathrow instead of Old Oak Common (as Theresa Villiers suggests) then the journey would be even quicker.

    Reply: Some chance to get to Reading via Wokingham in 20 minutes!

    1. Dual Citizen
      March 17, 2010

      Maybe John, but with a HSR station at Heathrow (or somewhere around the M4/M25) you could get to said station within 30-35 mins by car and go by train the rest of the way.

  33. Keith
    March 14, 2010

    Sorry, should have said QUICKER than the plane!

  34. Bob
    March 14, 2010

    It always amazes me to see huge railway carriages being transported on the M1 motorway on lorries. Why can’t they travel by rail?

    Jeremy Clarkson had the right idea – remove the tracks and lay tarmac.

  35. Lindsay McDougall
    March 14, 2010

    Exactly. The three most important things in transport are mobility, mobility and mobility. My profession is transport planning, and 90% of them are dirigiste in spirit, so for much of my career I have been not too popular. You should see their faces when I say that “predict and provide” is not such a bad idea.

    I was delighted to see that John Redwood believes that a programme of road junction capacity improvements would be a much better investment than the mooted high speed rail network, which I assure you would be a “white elephant”.

    Provided that he takes a passenger in his car (perhaps two if he is driving an SUV), John need not worry about being environmentally unfriendly. Many trains and planes are not 100% loaded. Which are the most environmentally friendly vehicles? Full ones are.

    Sometimes the best solution is to replace the meeting by a video conference. Copenhagen would have been a good example, particularly if you consider how wasteful of energy hotels are.

  36. Andrew Duffin
    March 16, 2010

    Well worked out and a good post, thanks Mr. R.

    I travel to work by car because I need my car to go around the city when I get there, it's part of my job.

    But if I didn't have to drive, I would certainly use the train – I live 10 easy rural miles from a mainline station where there is always free parking (free if you buy a train ticket, not free for anyone and everyone).

    Of course, Scotland doesn't have the horrendous congestion problems of England, but even so, charging people to park at stations seems absurdly counter-productive. What, in all reasonableness, do they expect people to do when faced with that? Stay in the car, of course.

  37. DennisA
    March 16, 2010

    Thanks to the seperation of North Wales from South Wales by Beeching, West Wales has no railway. I have to drive a minimum 25 miles just to get to a station. The talk of spending billions to save 20 minutes on a journey from London to Birmingham or wherever is quite laughable.

  38. Snuggles
    March 16, 2010

    Why is spending money on roads considered investment, where as spending money on railways isn't?

    Reply: Both are investments and considered as such. Public rail investment is usually loss making and requires substantial subsidy.

    1. Neil Craig
      March 17, 2010

      John may I have the temerity to disagree with that answer but I think it is important to distinguish between real investment & the day to day spending this government calls "investment".

      It is only investment when something new is created. Money spent on building new roads or new rail or genuinely upgrading either so they can carry more trafic is investment (or indeed automating it). If spent on running costs it is either, in the case of roads, what drivers are paying for in their road tax & where no such fee is paid, as with trians, straight subsidy.

      The vast majority of rail spending is subsidy of current spending & I have some doubts if the occasional new line, while it is investment, is an economically justifiable one.

  39. Traffic Generator
    April 15, 2010

    I found your blog on google and read a few of your other posts. I just added you to my Google News Reader. Keep up the good work Look forward to reading more from you in the future.

  40. JKJames
    April 24, 2010

    FTA – “The world has been chilling sharply for about twenty years. If present trends continue, the world will be about four degrees colder for the global mean temperature in 1990, but eleven degrees colder in the year 2000. This is about twice what it would take to put us into an ice age.” • Kenneth Watt, Ecologist

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