Petrol heads and rail nuts


           Transport policy is a strange UK battleground between car enthusiasts and rail fans. There is a reluctance by some of  the participants to recognise that both trains and cars require burning large amounts of fuel, they both pose safety hazards which increase as speed increases, but both are important to many people’s lives. They are both noisy neighbours. New roads and new railway lines are equally unpopular with the people living near to the proposed route.

           Rail enthusiasts try to claim their preferred mode is greener. This depends on how many people are making the journey. A full commuter train where most of the passengers live near the entry stations and work near the destination stations should burn less fuel per passenger mile than if those people drove.  In contrast, a little used cross country train,where passengers need to drive to the station to catch it and get a bus or taxi at the other end, may entail a lot more fuel being burned than if each passenger drove to their destination. You need to measure point to point total journeys, not just the rail bit. You  also need to take into account the journeys of the train crews to and from work. When it comes to the external impact of the railway, we also need to understand that a shortage of vehicle crossings over the railway can cause extra congestion and fuel burn for road vehicles.

             It is claimed that railways are safer. This is because railways enforce complete exclusion of all cars, vans, cycles, pedestrians and others from the tracks, whereas most roads allow mixed use with pedestrians, cyclists and others using the same infrastructure as the cars. The road lobby has secured a few higher speed roads where most other potantial users of the road are excluded, which are the safest roads as a result.

             It is assumed in the UK that ways must be found to make trains go faster, whereas road vehicles are always limited to well below their maximum speeds. Allowing faster trains does increase the danger of a very bad crash in the exceptional circumstances that the train derails or encounters a vehicle or other obstacle on the tracks. Trains have far less adhesion to the infrastructure than cars with rubber tyres, and cannot of course be steered around an obstacle in the way motor vehicles can. Seat belts are life savers. They  are mandatory in road vehicles but not supplied in trains.

             There has been a large and expensive  programme of bridge improvement to protect the railway from the unwelcome intrusion of stray road vehicles. Bridges have been rebuilt with high and strong sides, and with strong safety fencing in the approachs to the railway embankments and cuttings. There has been far less spent on removing  level crossings, where motor vehicles and trains can be in conflict through accidents or deliberate and dangerous actions by motorists.

                As the UK is short of transport facilties of all kinds, we need a better analysis of our needs for improved transport links. Where we have rail routes we need to make more productive use of them. They are probably best for peak hour demand into and out of our major cities, for big sporting  and cultural events, and for fast long distance  city centre to city centre travel where enough people wish to do that regularly. We need to improve the technology so more trains per hour can use these precious links right into the heart of our major cities.

                  We need to spend more on segregating roads from rail, and improving the crossing of rail lines by roads. We need to do more work to segregate different users of the roads, given them the safer space they need. Road can learn from rail when it comes to limiting the danger of conflict. Rail can learn from road when it comes to maximising throughput on the network.

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  1. alexmews
    Posted July 10, 2012 at 5:36 am | Permalink

    Double deck commuter trains in London, with the required update to bridges is also likely to make your list. It is the only way left to materially increase capacity.

    • Duyfken
      Posted July 10, 2012 at 9:44 am | Permalink

      We had a double-decker on the Dartford Loop line into London but it was eventually withdrawn. Although it packed in more passengers, like sardines indeed, the drawback for the service was that it too long at stations to discharge and load passengers.

    • Robert Taggart
      Posted July 10, 2012 at 10:16 am | Permalink

      Quite apart from the prohibitive expense of this – the time taken for passengers to enter or exit such trains be longer than on the conventional single deck trains !

      • alan jutson
        Posted July 10, 2012 at 12:58 pm | Permalink


        They use them in Switzerland, have been on them.

        Perhaps they have wider doors then we did when we had them, thus more people could get out in a shorter period of time.

        Clearly entry and exit is not a problem in Switzerland, and their trains run to the second.

        • stred
          Posted July 10, 2012 at 9:00 pm | Permalink

          They have them in Sydney and other capitals. It really is no problem as they have stairs, wide exits and wait a little longer. Here they are a no no because of tunnels, i gather from a rail engineer.

          • Robert Taggart
            Posted July 11, 2012 at 9:44 am | Permalink

            The problem in Blighty be our puny (‘coal wagon’) loading gauge. The price for enlarging it would be prohibitive.
            Brunel had the solution (broad gauge) but Stephenson won the day.
            Anorakery – LOVE IT !

    • Greg Tingey
      Posted July 10, 2012 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

      You have to REBUILD THE ENTRIE INFRASTRUCTURE to run DD-trains.
      Or Loading Gauge is too small compared to UIC (gauge) for them.
      the tracks might have to be further apart.
      Swiss / German / French / Dutch trains are bothe WIDER AND TALLER than ours.
      IF you can find the money, and the time, while you rebuild the railway – fine.
      If not …….

  2. Alte Fritz
    Posted July 10, 2012 at 6:18 am | Permalink

    A nationalised industry damaged the infrastructure by closing too many lines. A botched privatisation introduced tension between infrastructure and use. Rail companies impose a quite bewildering fare structure which manages to over and undercharge different classes of passenger. This is not the best place to begin the sort of rational discussion Mr Redwood invites.

    • Robert Taggart
      Posted July 10, 2012 at 10:17 am | Permalink

      Whatever happened to Ruth Kelly’s (remember her ?!) plans to simplify the fares structure ?

      • lifelogic
        Posted July 10, 2012 at 8:04 pm | Permalink

        Indeed it can take say 2 hours to work out the best value and valid ticket for the times you want to travel and then to buy the ticket for perhaps a 40 minute rail journey.

        Is this a sensible allocation of time?

        • Bob
          Posted July 11, 2012 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

          Those whom the gods wish to destroy they first make mad.

    • Greg Tingey
      Posted July 10, 2012 at 6:53 pm | Permalink

      No, a nationalised industry was forced to close too many lines by a (word left out) (tory) Minister of Transport – Marples.

  3. lojolondon
    Posted July 10, 2012 at 6:20 am | Permalink

    Agreed, John.

    Can we add to the debate the fact that motorists deliver 50Bn per annum in HMRC revenues and trains are very negative for public revenue.

    And above all, we need an honest debate on HS2, ignoring the EU’s Trans-Europe policy, because they are quick to create policies, but they never pay!

    • lifelogic
      Posted July 10, 2012 at 8:11 pm | Permalink

      Indeed, look too at the EU’s absurd (and highly immoral) push on bio. fuel, fuel content and the historic push toward the more polluting diesel. Covered rather well in James Dellingpole’s recent blog.

      Everything the EU touches turn from gold to merde.

  4. Pete the Bike
    Posted July 10, 2012 at 6:25 am | Permalink

    The only way that the argument could be settled is for both to pay the full cost of the infrastructure and running costs. At the moment railways receive massive subsidies whereas motorists are taxed to extremely high levels. If taxes were lowered so that they just covered the cost of the roads then railways would be effectively wiped out. Who would pay 2 to 10 times as much to go on a train compared to a car? Railways exist in their current form only because of subsidies and are only really useful for reducing load on roads at peak times or carrying bulk loads from point to point.

    • Greg Tingey
      Posted July 10, 2012 at 6:54 pm | Permalink

      AND … all the major cities would grind to a halt, ditto the major motrways.
      Your argument is based on fallacies, as is the tax-and-subsidy sytem we currently have (on both modes of transport)

  5. Mike Stallard
    Posted July 10, 2012 at 6:27 am | Permalink

    DG MOVE has the following aims: To complete the seamless integration of all modes of transport into a single competitive transport system, and also to promote the development and roll-out of a new generation of sustainable transport technologies, in particular for integrated traffic management and low carbon vehicles. There have been 3,537 railway accidents in EU States in 2009, including level crossing incidents. The infrastructure has 158 categories of information which cover the lines and the track. Currently inter city flights were down 34 in 2009. It is all being taken care of by the experts.

    So it doesn’t really matter much what we think does it?

  6. Old Albion
    Posted July 10, 2012 at 6:49 am | Permalink

    The first step should be the re-nationalising of Englands trains.

    • Mr. Frost
      Posted July 10, 2012 at 8:05 am | Permalink

      No. The first step should be the proper privatisation of the trains.

      Let’s not forget that we had an extensive and profitable rail network in the UK that was in the hands of the private sector. Then it was nationalised and the routes cut back. Then we’ve had quasi-privatisation.

      Sell it back to the private sector and let them make it work.

      • uanime5
        Posted July 10, 2012 at 7:01 pm | Permalink

        The problem with this is that the private sector can’t magically make things work. If they could then the problems with the rail industry wouldn’t have so many problems.

      • Bazman
        Posted July 11, 2012 at 7:40 pm | Permalink

        To be stripped of assets land and the profitable lines plundered and safety minimised. Just like banking.

      • Lindsay McDougall
        Posted July 13, 2012 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

        Mrs Thatcher opposed privatisation because it was thought impossible for the rail industry as a whole to make a profit. The Major privatisation created a profitable Railtrack which owned track and property and was free to determine track access charges in accordance with market forces – which in practice meant negotiating with individual operators. The Leascos and Roscos could make money because they owned assets and leased them – the banks own some shares in them. It was difficult for operating companies to make money.

        It was a system that sort of worked if you were prepared to accept that unprofitable business would be driven off the railways. Messrs Prescott and Byers were not content with that. They wanted an expanding and subsidised rail sector and forced Railtrack to reduce their track access charges, ending their financial viability.

        But Mrs T was probably right. We might accept regional rail monopolies if they are given plenty of competition from bus, car and air. Inter-modal competition rather than intra-modal competition.

    • Tad Davison
      Posted July 10, 2012 at 11:35 am | Permalink

      We also have to think back to the old BR days and the two main all-powerful rail unions  –  the NUR and ASLEF.  If everything went by rail, it would place a lot of power in the hands of a few union barons, and they could easily hold the rest of us to ransom as they did in the past.

      I recall one TUC gathering, where the former president of the NUR, Sid Weighell, proudly proclaimed to Joe Gormley, then president of the miner’s union, ‘It doesn’t matter how much coal you produce Joe, you’ll not get it shifted!’

      The bloody arrogance of that statement was breathtaking!  We went through a lot of pain to extricate ourselves from that kind of socialist madness, and we ought not even entertain the notion of going back to it.  If by contrast, an industrial dispute involves a private road haulage company, it can be kept local without paralysing the whole nation.

      Tad Davison


      • Electro-Kevin
        Posted July 10, 2012 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

        Tad Davison – The bad boys really aren’t the unions these days. In fact it’s by no means certain that we CAN extricate ourselves from the depths of madness that the financial sector has brought us to.

        Every bit as threatening and a whole lot more greedy in my view. In fact the unions in those days aspired to no more than to be able to afford central heating and double glazing – not a Sunseeker Predator motor yacht… for a year’s bonus !

        • Tad Davison
          Posted July 11, 2012 at 8:52 am | Permalink

          A fair point EK


          • Anon
            Posted July 11, 2012 at 10:18 am | Permalink

            Thank you, Tad.

            Further to my comment.

            If the rail unions are ever in a position to ‘hold the country to ransom’ then it rather proves the validity of railways in our transport set up.

      • stred
        Posted July 10, 2012 at 9:05 pm | Permalink

        The present system allows national unions to knock off individual rail companies one at atime. Hence the fact that train drivers in the south east can now earn more than university professors.

        • Electro-Kevin
          Posted July 11, 2012 at 7:53 am | Permalink

          Stred – Under the present structure it’s the companies that have been knocking each other off and not the unions.

          Driver’s pay rocketted when the likes of Richard Branson started a bidding war between TOCs.

          The pay is set at the optimum level to avoid having to recruit and train all the time. For a driver to become fully productive would require 18 months end-to-end training – not a fantastic amount compared to a university professor but enough to restrict supply, especially considering the penalties a TOC is hit with if low staffing levels cause cancellations.

          As far as the unions are concerned ? Clearly they haven’t a clue about why the earnings are as high as they are and think it is they who are responsible. Yet they are the ones pushing for the removal of aptitude tests and reduction in training requirements on the grounds of political correctness.

          Some perspective on pay here:

          Yesterday the press reported that £37k pa is the minimum a family of 4 needs to live on. I earn a little above that. I am grateful for it but the money goes nowhere.

          We try to avoid credit in our household and so are exposed to the icy blast of real inflation. This will be our first proper holiday – one that is not in an old tent in a rainy field – in four years.

          I pity university professors in that case.

        • Bazman
          Posted July 11, 2012 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

          Outrageous! Van drivers can be employed for less than seven quid.

    • Bazman
      Posted July 11, 2012 at 7:42 pm | Permalink

      To be called Ye Olde English Train Company and ran like a tourist attraction?

  7. ian wragg
    Posted July 10, 2012 at 6:56 am | Permalink

    Our rulers prefer us to be herded about on public transport in all its forms as it restricts our movements and puts them in control.
    The motor car which liberated the masses is seen as an enemy of the state hence the need for such punitive taxes and oppressive policing.
    Having the proles charging around without supervision isw hated by politicians so they busily follow our movements wit cctv cameras and number plate recognition.
    Rail is good for moving large quantities of freight but otherwise a 19th century solution for personal transport.
    There is some merit in small mass transit systems but otherwise it is largely a waste of money, HS2 being a prime example.
    As things develop, personal transportin the guise of the car will become easier and cheaper as technology advances and rail transport will be seen for the dinosoar it really is.

    • Greg Tingey
      Posted July 10, 2012 at 6:56 pm | Permalink

      Tinfoil hat, anyone?

    • Bazman
      Posted July 11, 2012 at 7:39 pm | Permalink

      The Duke of Something-Or-Other had reservations about transportation for the masses, and to this day there is something in the elite of the country being against travel believing the peasants should stay where they were born and many peasants believing this too. To use an old Newcastle joke” I see Dave has gone to live down south.” “Where? London?” “No! Middlesbrough!” I thank you.

  8. lifelogic
    Posted July 10, 2012 at 7:03 am | Permalink

    Indeed but some further points.

    A commuter train cannot never be full and yet still pick people up. They start empty at the depot and fill slowly up on on the way, usually into town and then return fairly empty. Over the whole day they can have occupancies of rather less than 20%. People think they are fuller simply because the ones they catch (by definition) clearly are. Passengers do not get a realistic picture of occupancy they catch the full ones. They clearly do not sample the empty trains as often as the full ones. The same is true of buses.

    You often have to do indirect journeys travelling 100 miles to do perhaps 70 miles by a direct route. You may also need a double route at each end, a drop of and pick up (double) car/taxi journey or perhaps the car cannot be used as it is expensively parked at the station so you need two cars.

    Train tracks often have large maintenance costs relative to actual passenger use.

    Far more staff are needed for ticketing, stations, security, drivers, signalling and the likes than with cars.

    All in all they only make sense on a few commuter and inter city routes. That is why cars are hugely over taxed (on fuel, VAT, VED etc.) and trains do not have these taxes and have a huge subsidy too – but still are far more expensive, and usually inconvenient, than a full car.
    Planes to over longer distances are more efficient too in general. Needing no track just a plane and a runway at each end – and the plane can do more trips over the day and is more flexible on routes as demand varies.

    Trains usually do not save fuel on any rational assessment per useful mile travelled compared to cars.

    They are also far more vulnerable to break down with one crash, landslide, flood, vandalism, or terrorism can bringing the line and all travel on it to a halt for several weeks.

    • lifelogic
      Posted July 10, 2012 at 7:06 am | Permalink

      Trains are preferred by MPs and civil servants, I suspect, because they are on expenses, do not carry much, can relax/work/eat on them and it gives them an excuse for a hugely expensive pointless grand project like HS2.

      • Bazman
        Posted July 10, 2012 at 6:22 pm | Permalink

        Or just seen as by your own or your Grammar school chums use.

        • lifelogic
          Posted July 11, 2012 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

          I sometimes prefer them to cars as my time is clearly so very, very, valuable and I can work or read on them.

          • Bazman
            Posted July 11, 2012 at 7:32 pm | Permalink

            How very middle class. Taking the train as it suits you. Your time being more valuable than anyone else’s. In particular on a weekend and at night. You fail to see the irony of your comment on MP’s and your own.

      • uanime5
        Posted July 10, 2012 at 7:09 pm | Permalink

        Actually they’re preferred because you don’t need to find a parking space when you travel into the centre of London.

        • Lindsay McDougall
          Posted July 11, 2012 at 9:54 am | Permalink

          How many private sector customers do you think that HS2 will attract? Not all of the people travelling within the London to Birmingham corridor want to travel the full distance. It’s not going to be much use to people living and working in Berkshire or Hampshire, is it?

          Why don’t you focus on the real reasons for HS2?
          (1) It provides extra capacity on the existing route for local passenger trains and for rail freight. This effect will be hightened because high speed trains and low speed trains on the same line require passing loops. The hidden agenda is that there will be no more highway capacity and that subsidies for the slower train services will be increased.
          (2) HS1 and HS2 will eventually be fully linked in order to integrate us with Europe’s HS system. But we are an island race and what we need are good roads to the ports and improved short sea shipping.

    • lifelogic
      Posted July 10, 2012 at 8:15 am | Permalink

      I am not a petrol heads nor a rail nut just someone who travels by train, car, bike, plane and on foot and realise the advantages, disadvantages and the true real costs of each. The government should get rid of subsidy and the discriminatory taxes on cars and let them compete on on equal basis. The result would be more coaches, fewer trains, more cars, more planes – because these are what work best in the real world of peoples normal travel needs. The best compromise of convenience, journey time and cost of journey for most. A few commuter routes also make sense.

      The fiscal and subsidy bias given to trains (and electric cars) is absurd rather – like the wind farm farce.
      The justification of “green and C02 reductions” are absurd and not even actually true, all things considered.

      • uanime5
        Posted July 10, 2012 at 7:10 pm | Permalink

        How are coaches different from buses?

        • lifelogic
          Posted July 11, 2012 at 11:55 am | Permalink

          Long distance intercity coaches can be fairly full for the journey perhaps London to Manchester with few or no stops like planes they price to fill and pre book. By bus I mean a bus that starts empty at the depot slowly fills up to its destination usually in town usually (and returns usually fairly empty). They have much worse occupancy and countless start stops on route (causing congestion for other road users). Occupancy can be as low as 10% of capacity on buses.

          They are not the same in practice.

          • Bazman
            Posted July 11, 2012 at 7:28 pm | Permalink

            More cars? This being a good thing?
            Without a bus system how would anyone without a car get around? Taxi’s could prove to be expensive for many. Your argument comes down to the fact that trains and buses are not efficient on short journeys, so what do you suggest as an alternative to the car as you say bikes/motorbikes are to dangerous, as is walking assuming one is able to ride or walk. Segways paid for by the council? Or just stopping at home?

      • Nathanael
        Posted October 15, 2012 at 8:53 pm | Permalink

        Global warming denier?

        In order to avert utter catastrophe, you *have* to stop burning fossil fuels.

        This means electric cars, electric trains, and producing electricity with solar, hydro, wind, geothermal, etc.

    • Greg Tingey
      Posted July 10, 2012 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

      I think you are (wrong-ed).
      Planes have “security” issues …
      Plane flight one hour – getting on plane – one hour, getting off plane half an hour.
      SO London-Leeds, for instance (even at a mere 130mph) is a LOT fater by train (2 hours) now do that by car.


      • lifelogic
        Posted July 11, 2012 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

        Well if you live next to the station and go to a meeting near the station and just carry a small bag you may be right.

        Usually however there are link journeys to the stations, perhaps heavy objects to carry, and other meetings on route. So in general the car is more efficient, cheaper and far more flexible option. You can also pick up the weeks shopping on the way home or perhaps the children from something. True less constricted and congested road are needed but these cost less than rail and are more used and do not need subsidy.

      • Tad Davison
        Posted July 11, 2012 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

        I read all of LL’s posts, and there’s no way he can be called an idiot. That always seems to be your default position when you disagree with someone. Why not instead, give a thorough analysis of you own position, rather than merely comment on what others say, or would that be too taxing?

        • Bazman
          Posted July 14, 2012 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

          His default position is a race to the bottom and devil get behind me position. Except in any area where this position effects him personally. Real Tory stuff. As a person defending him you can be idiots in arms. Right wing and stupid is my default position on right wing stupid people. This is not an insult but an observation.

    • uanime5
      Posted July 10, 2012 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

      Unsure how you’re making your fuel comparison given that cars and trains use different fuels, petrol and electricity respectively. Are you comparing trains to electric cars?

      • lifelogic
        Posted July 11, 2012 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

        Petrol and Diesel are about 60% tax which does not apply to trains (or electric cars). No VAT on train ticket either.

      • Mark
        Posted July 11, 2012 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

        Many trains use diesel (but are exempted from road fuel duty). Electricity is becoming increasingly expensive, thanks to greenergy policies, but it isn’t difficult to account for the energy lost in generation and transmission to go back to the source fuels.

  9. Greg Tingey
    Posted July 10, 2012 at 7:10 am | Permalink

    It is not “claimed” that railways are safer.
    They ARE safer.
    You are safer in a train than in your own home, and certainly safer than in a normal private car.
    Ah, but the railway has to find the money for removing & replacing a level-crossing, in spite of the fact that about 99.9% of the risk comes from idiot drivers & pedestrians.
    You ignore the fact that our railways are already VERY intensively used, and need expansion to carry more, because we are still trying to recover from the effects of the vile corrupt (tory) crook Marples, and his paid henchman, Beeching.
    But that would be too embarassing to admit, wouldn’t it?
    Oh, & I do own a car – a “proper” Land-Rover.

    • lifelogic
      Posted July 10, 2012 at 8:03 am | Permalink

      Dr Beeching saved the country a fortune by closing all those clearly pointless and expensive lines and stations – carrying a just hand full of people. Cheaper to send a taxi each passenger often.

      • Bazman
        Posted July 10, 2012 at 6:20 pm | Permalink

        We will just remove all the pointless sockets in your house then. Infrastructure has many benefits many of them intangible

        • Tad Davison
          Posted July 11, 2012 at 9:01 am | Permalink

          Just trying to fathom out what point you’re trying to make. If you are making a comparison between under-used electrical sockets in your house, and under-used rural railway branch lines, then the difference seems stark. Once installed, a socket needs no maintenance, and no-one to staff it. The tax-payer simply could not be called upon to subsidise loss-making lines indefinitely on the hope that one day they might come good.


          • Bazman
            Posted July 11, 2012 at 7:19 pm | Permalink

            If you had a railway system that only operated on profitable lines then you would not have a railway system. Why maintain any of the rural roads if that is your argument? Most railway systems in the world do not make a profit and are subsidised by the state. In some cases the growth of an area may be due to the railways. It is called infrastructure and as I mentioned before has many intangible benefits. We could put your logic to electricity, gas, and water too. Making rural areas rely on bottled gas, water and generate their own electricity. Internet? They can use the post which will be related to cost. In your house you could minimise any installation to save money and reduce maintenance which even electrical sockets need eventually. Just because something does not move and is not often used does not mean it does not have to be maintained.

          • APL
            Posted July 11, 2012 at 8:56 pm | Permalink

            Bazman: “If you had a railway system that only operated on profitable lines then you would not have a railway system.”

            Clearly, as the UK railway system was built with private capital and with the intent to make money for the various capitalists who built the each network, you comment is obviously wrong.

            Not to mention, it was only when the State got involved in the running of the railways, to support its two European wars that the railway systems were made bankrupt.

            Bazman: “In some cases the growth of an area may be due to the railways.”

            Wrong again. As there was industrial activity, before the railways were built to serve it.

          • Nathanael
            Posted October 15, 2012 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

            The private railways overbuilt, due to what’s known as a “bubble” (like the Tulip Bubble).

            Beeching then over-cut. There were too many railroads, but he shrank the network too small (the Great Central Main Line would be popular right now, y’know, as would the alternate route from London to Brighton).

    • Mr. Frost
      Posted July 10, 2012 at 8:07 am | Permalink

      So you agree the destruction of the rail network happened under state control.

      Which is why we should sell them back to the private sector and let them rebuild that which lost.

    • lifelogic
      Posted July 10, 2012 at 8:20 am | Permalink

      Actually if you walk to the train station and from the station to the destination then the overall journey will statistically probably be more dangerous than a car door to door.

      • Greg Tingey
        Posted July 10, 2012 at 6:58 pm | Permalink


        • lifelogic
          Posted July 11, 2012 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

          Clearly it depends on how much the walking is and how long the journey but just do the sums.
          Death per billion KM by method of transport:
          Air 0.05, Bus 0.4, Rail 0.6, Van 1.2, Water 2.6, Car 3.1, Pedal Bike 44.6
          Foot 54.2, Motor Bike 108.8.

          • Mark
            Posted July 11, 2012 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

            On those figures, rail and foot is more dangerous if the foot portion of the journey is more than about 5% of the total distance. Of course, if the commute is a longer distance there is a good chance that much of it by road would be on much safer motorways.

      • stred
        Posted July 10, 2012 at 9:18 pm | Permalink

        The nearest brush with death I had was in Wien 2 years ago when a silent tram whizzed around a corner and I had looked the other way before crossing. There was a high level no crossing light which I had not noticed.

    • Tad Davison
      Posted July 10, 2012 at 10:31 am | Permalink


      one little point worth making. In 1964, the incoming Labour Wilson government promised to blunt the Beeching axe, but we didn’t see much evidence of that when it came to delivering on that promise. Closures still went ahead once Labour found just how much these unprofitable and under-used lines would cost to keep them open. In some instances, it would have been cheaper to buy each rail-user a car, than to keep the line open. Labour eventually woke up to the true cost, but still made political capital by condemning the previous government’s policy without reversing it.

      I’m not making excuses for Marples or the Tories, I don’t trust any of the three main political parties, but Labour least of all. They are downright cynical.

      I recall more recently, one Glenda Jackson saying that Labour were going to create a ‘fully integrated transport system’. Yet after 13 years, they again failed to deliver on their promise.

      I am a big lover of railways, and indeed, I am presently building no fewer than three minature passenger-hauling locomotives in my spare time. Yet even I have to admit full-size railways will not match the private car for convenience. I can go where I want, when I want, and if I do go on a long journey, with more than just little old me, costs are reduced even more. On a recent trip from Royston to Cambridge, I got 67.3 MPG from my diesel engined car, and were it not for the amount of fuel tax I have to pay, the journey would have been cheaper still.

      Add to the equation the desirability of my personal privacy and freedom from obligatory interaction with those who wish to engage me in conversation for their own reasons, and the car seems like a very compelling option.

      As cars become more fuel-efficient, rail travel might become even less of an attractive option. I’m curious to know what Labour proposes to do about the sky-high fares and ‘standing-room only’ trains to make them more attractive.

      Tad Davison


      • Anon
        Posted July 11, 2012 at 8:03 am | Permalink

        I don’t understand why – when they closed the branch lines – they didn’t turn them into lanes and roads.

        It is the case that many branch lines seem to be run down deliberately – offering erratic and inconvenient stopping patterns and departure times.

        It could also be the case that full-and-standing services, where no tickets are being collected because the conductors can’t get through, are being registered as loss making.

        • Tad Davison
          Posted July 11, 2012 at 9:08 am | Permalink

          In a lot of cases, passenger figures were manipulated unfavourably. On the old S and D for instance, a census was taken when school kids who frequently used the line in numbers, were on holiday.


      • Bob
        Posted July 11, 2012 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

        “…condemning the previous government’s policy without reversing it….”

        That sounds familiar!

        • Tad Davison
          Posted July 11, 2012 at 7:55 pm | Permalink

          Too right Bob! Hence the reason why I criticise the present one so much!


  10. ChrisXP
    Posted July 10, 2012 at 7:32 am | Permalink

    Why can’t we get rid of those frighteningly huge juggernauts, British or otherwise, that carry tons of freight on our roads? Why can it not go by rail? I realise it has to be transported by road at some point, but this would be in smaller volumes once it has been “railed” to a distribution point. These massive lorries have the potential to be vicious killers on motorways, given their size and weight.

    • A different Simon
      Posted July 10, 2012 at 8:40 am | Permalink

      ChrisXP ,

      I can tell you that major parts of an assemply which I can’t mention are trucked from mainland Europe to the North West of England .

      The company in question , like the railways , is a major employer in the North West which if it were to close have a devastating and probably irrecoverable effect on a huge part of the region .

      They asked the relevent Govt Dept about extending rail track to their factory .

      This would have taken a lot of trucks off the road . The county in question has modified road signs so that they are now expressed not only in English but Polish . Goodness knows what Insurance is in Polish .

      They were told nothing could be done for at least 20 years . 20 years .

    • Caterpillar
      Posted July 10, 2012 at 8:58 am | Permalink


      I think a large contribution is that The West Coast Mainline is filling up. I think various consultations and modelling have tended to agree that the best approach is to build HS2, shifting more people carrying to that, so that wcml can carry more freight… this would appear to be a winner for both JR’s “petrol heads and rail nuts”, but despite this win-win, modelling and consultations the UK is in its usual do nothing, long grass approach.

      I think little happens generally because politicians/media,interst groups soundbite label, and then ‘we’ the electorate fall for these simplifications e.g. labelling investment banking as casino banking, labelling HS2 as a white elephant etc. Though always incomplete, these generate strong metaphoric images that ‘we’ relate to far more than several hundred pages of data, modelling and analysis.

      • stred
        Posted July 10, 2012 at 9:25 pm | Permalink

        If rail freight is the real reason for improving north south connection, then speed is not important. Why not simply put a rail freight extra line alongside the existing line to the midlands and north. Was this ever considered?
        I note that one of the problems with HS2 is that it attempts to break the ground sound barrier and crumple the track, unlike the continental systems.

        • Caterpillar
          Posted July 13, 2012 at 10:27 pm | Permalink

          Precisely. There are many problems (e.g. freight) for which independent solutions can be suggested, but the HS2 approach solves many of them in sum.

          (Ground sound barrier? Speed of sound in steel is about 15 times that in air.)

    • a-tracy
      Posted July 10, 2012 at 9:04 am | Permalink

      The majority of long distance freight trunking is performed at night. Many long distance day time road journeys were saved when parcel and pallet networks were created two decades ago as they introduced long distance hub and spoke trunking in the evenings and at night and smaller vans were used from the hubs to deliver into the major cities in smaller vehicles throughout the day.
      Rail Freight is used by many transport organisations but there isn’t the flexibility in times and many track repairs have to be done outside of busy passenger service times. The Royal Mail took much of their transport movements off the rail a few years ago because of cost and lack of flexibility, rail freight is a monopolised industry and isn’t competitive and who are we clearing the roads for as this industry provides the vast majority of the taxes in fuel and vehicle excise duty?

      Do you know how many ‘vicious killings’ have been caused by massive lorries in the past five years? I don’t. Driver training to drive these large vehicles is comprehensive and includes a Certificate of Professional Competence, much more than the car drivers have to accomplish to drive on UK motorways, I’m not saying that all HGV drivers are perfect and I have seen poor driving manoeuvres from all categories of vehicle . I don’t work in heavy haulage and I think the organisations that serve it don’t do a particularly good job in protecting it’s image and effectiveness in the integrated transport network and they must do better as your post demonstrates.

      • Mark
        Posted July 10, 2012 at 11:54 am | Permalink

        You’re right that accidents reported as involving trucks have been declining sharply, although truck driver deaths have been rising since A8 accession. I suspect that is partly to do with speed limiters being fitted that reduce stopping distances, but also partly because “involving” tends to be defined as having been in collision with something, rather than perhaps causing in other ways. Certainly in motorway driving I find that passing trucks requires extra vigilance, especially those with continental plates and left hand side drivers who don’t always seem to check their mirrors before changing lanes.

        Because one of the major costs of road freight is drivers, I suspect there will be a push towards road trains that are being experimented with in the SARTRE project.

      • Bob
        Posted July 10, 2012 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

        The most dangerous hazards I see regularly on the M1 are articulated lorries, changing lanes with no consideration for the cars already occupying the lane they want to move to, and then overtaking each other with a one or two mph speed differential – which leads to the displaced cars having to bunch up in the rightmost lane, sometimes very suddenly to get past the moving roadblock s created by these selfish manoeuvres.

        I also frequently see railway rolling stock being transported by low loader on the M1. Why can’t it go by rail?

        • a-tracy
          Posted July 11, 2012 at 7:48 am | Permalink

          The majority of articulated lorries have speed limiters, too many car drivers drive in the middle lane of motorways, without paying very much attention to what is going on around them – that’s why they like sitting in the middle lane no moving in and out. I have seen cars not giving way to lorries on many occasions and when you drive for a living you have stringent working time regulations to meet, a slow moving vehicle in front of you when you are on a longer journey can eat 30 to 60 minutes off your journey meaning that you can’t get home that night, if the lorry has to slow down picking up speed again takes that extra time you mention.

          I think that middle lane hogging is more selfish and dangerous and I think that more car drivers should be pulled over and put on motorway driving training courses if they are warned for doing this more than once per year, alternatively undertaking could be made legal which would make sure that middle lane hogs have to keep their wits about them and not just daydream as traffic builds up behind them.

          • Mark
            Posted July 11, 2012 at 11:13 am | Permalink

            I think many drivers define a middle lane hog as someone driving at 75-80, rather than the 85-90 they would like to drive at.

            Our motorway driving laws are out of date: they were framed in an era of light traffic. The principle should be to distribute traffic over the lanes

            i) so as to minimise the number of lane changes needed in the course of a journey, since lane changes cause accidents – weaving in and out of slower moving traffic to overtake it adds to risk;
            ii) so that traffic keeps up with the lane speed (so no overtaking by speed limited trucks unless there are enough lanes to give them two);
            iii) to encourage departing traffic to move to a leftward lane in good time (and to award more lanes to departing traffic at heavily used exits);
            iv) to give space to joining traffic to get up to speed.

            Consideration will also be needed on suitable rules to handle road trains of the SARTRE type.

          • Bob
            Posted July 11, 2012 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

            “…more car drivers should be pulled over and put on motorway driving training courses if they are warned for doing this…”

            They should be fined.

            Years ago we had traffic patrols who would have dealt with all kinds of traffic violations. Now we have speed cameras.

          • Bazman
            Posted July 11, 2012 at 6:57 pm | Permalink

            The problem of dawdlers setting their cruise control to 55 is getting worse. If you are going slower than a lorry on a motorway then you are going to slow. Many are guilty of this from pensioners to young girls. The speed limiters are set at 56 mph though in reality some can reach 60+. Just because you have paid your road tax it does not mean that you do not have to drive at the speed of the traffic.

        • Nathanael
          Posted October 15, 2012 at 8:58 pm | Permalink

          “I also frequently see railway rolling stock being transported by low loader on the M1. Why can’t it go by rail?”

          Clearance restrictions. The UK has an absurdly low loading gauge for many of its railways, especially in the London area. The project to widen them to, what was it, “W10” gauge I believe, has gone very slowly, due to lack of investment in railways.

      • Bazman
        Posted July 11, 2012 at 7:07 pm | Permalink

        If you drive a truck and ride a motorbike you will see the standard of driving by many is very poor. A lack of understanding of the road system, bad eyesight, and many distractions such as talking on the phone. Not indicating is a rising phenomenon and not taking care at any junction when the diver knows they have the right of way is another common one. This illusion of safety for many comes from the high standard of insulation from the outside in many cars, but you cannot ignore the laws of physics. Van driving and in particular minibus driving needs extra vigilance as it is just so boring. Whenever I drive the company van I am always strangely tired and have to force myself to concentrate. It’s like working, but not doing any work. The past carnage in minibuses is telling and in my experience is due to the boredom and the distraction of the passengers.

        • Tad Davison
          Posted July 11, 2012 at 8:03 pm | Permalink

          I agree with you. The poor standard of driving these days bothers me greatly. My wife and I both drive, as do my eldest two kids, and it’s a constant worry. In my youth, I used to have motorbikes, but I’m glad none of my kids went down that route. And I look at errant drivers and wonder who in the hell passed them to drive on a public road.


          • Bob
            Posted July 12, 2012 at 1:09 pm | Permalink


            “…who in the hell passed them to drive on a public road…”

            This is going to shock you.

            There are lots of people driving on a full UK licence who have never passed a UK test.
            They just exchange a licence obtained elsewhere for a UK licence.

            I even know of one person who obtained a full UK licence, who had never passed any driving test anywhere!. And if there’s one then there’s more.

        • a-tracy
          Posted July 12, 2012 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

          Bazman “Not indicating is a rising phenomenon”. Can I also add that indicating for one second before the driver thinks they have the right just to pull right out on you as you are just short of overtaking them is just as bad.

          Driving for a living is an undervalued skill. It takes a good natured person who likes their own company and is very calm and collected.

          “The past carnage in minibuses is telling” I’ve worked in transport for thirty years and I’m not aware of regular carnage in minibuses are you talking about private minibuses or business minibuses I must ask our insurance company about it you’ve raised my curiosity.

          • Bazman
            Posted July 13, 2012 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

            Just Google ‘minibus crashes’. Another problem is when car join motorways or carriageways. The traffic does not slow down to allow you to join. You speed up and fit in using the slip road. Some cannot even do this in a powerful car and get stuck. They need a ticket to help them learn or the side of a lorry to teach them.

    • oldtimer
      Posted July 10, 2012 at 10:01 am | Permalink

      Do you have the data on the number and proportion of accidents caused by “those frighteningly huge juggernauts”? If you check the numbers, heavy goods vehicles account for a very small proportion of the vehicles on the roads. According to the Department for Transport the total number of heavy goods vehicles licensed in 2011 was 465000 out of a total of 34,228 thousand licensed vehicles or 1.35%.

    • lifelogic
      Posted July 10, 2012 at 11:32 am | Permalink

      It cannot go by rail because it need dropping of in all sorts of places that are not on the rail network. So you need a truck at each end anyway. Distances in the UK are not that large so better to go by truck all the way and take a direct route perhaps doing several drop on route and pick ups on the return.

    • Tad Davison
      Posted July 10, 2012 at 11:51 am | Permalink

      Please see my earlier reply on rail unions holding the nation to ransom, and tell me if rail transport is still attractive.


      • Bazman
        Posted July 10, 2012 at 6:18 pm | Permalink

        Have you made any posts on bankers holding the state to ransom?

        • Tad Davison
          Posted July 11, 2012 at 8:03 am | Permalink

          You’re quick to make assumptions about everybody. I’ve got no time for bankers at all! If I had my way, the ones who cheated everybody would be sowing mailbags or cracking rocks for a very long time! I have no truck with greed no matter where it occurs. I don’t condemn it in one place and overlook it in another.

      • Greg Tingey
        Posted July 10, 2012 at 7:01 pm | Permalink

        That is, presumably why Rail freight, in spite of guvmint ( DafT / Ministerial interference & restriction) is RISING?
        There are several rail freigh hauliers -s a lock-out is not possible any more.
        You are out of date & WRONG

        • Tad Davison
          Posted July 11, 2012 at 11:28 am | Permalink

          ? Firing from the hip maybe, without properly reading what people write?

          I warned about going back to a situation we had in the past. A situation where the rail unions paralysed the rail network on many occasions – FACT! How can a retrospective appraisal be out of date or, as you so forcefully like to put it – WRONG?

          • lifelogic
            Posted July 12, 2012 at 8:40 pm | Permalink


    • Graham Hamblin
      Posted July 10, 2012 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

      I remember 1956 when the beer from Burton upon Trent was sent out by rail, large marshalling yards working all night and so on, then there was a rail strike and overnight and the breweries changed to their own fleets of lorries. I agree more freight should go by rail, it makes sense?

  11. alan jutson
    Posted July 10, 2012 at 8:02 am | Permalink

    I see in todays press that the speed camera count has increased in the last year.

    Is this for safety or revenue ?

    I wonder if the number of speed humps and parking restrictions have also increased, guarantee they have ?

    I agree totally that each mode of transport has its benefits, but by building more houses without a similar percentage increase in road and rail capacity, both will get more crowded.

    We appear to be running out of flight capacity as well.

    The governments solution would seem to be to ration by price, both rail, road and air traffic.

    Why because its simple, most people have no choice but to use one or another, and brings the government in more money to spend on other things (not transport).

    Yes we do need a fully intergrated transport system, but this time put someone else in charge who understands the problems, not like a certain Mr Prescot who did not seem to have a clue what to do.

    • lifelogic
      Posted July 10, 2012 at 11:33 am | Permalink

      Revenue clearly! Look where they put them just as speed limits drops on a downhill stretch clear run usually.

      • stred
        Posted July 10, 2012 at 9:36 pm | Permalink

        The average speed cameras on the Dartford crossing have gone live after a long delay. Result- everyone goes at the same speed while changing lane to get into the right toll booth. Much more hazardous.

        • lifelogic
          Posted July 11, 2012 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

          The toll booths should go they cause congestion and restrict the bridge capacity and what a boring pointless job for many – tax another way if needed or get electronic charging.

        • alan jutson
          Posted July 11, 2012 at 2:12 pm | Permalink


          Last time I had to go through the Dartford tunnel a few months ago, I waited in a traffic jam for 25 mins.

          How much did that cost the economy.

          • lifelogic
            Posted July 11, 2012 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

            Indeed and it is not the bridge capacity it is the tolling inefficiency.

    • Tad Davison
      Posted July 10, 2012 at 11:57 am | Permalink

      Alan, I haven’t yet seen the bit about speed cameras, but I was of the impression the government wanted less, not more. A bit like borrowing. They say one thing, then do another. Do they really want to hand power to Labour on a plate?

      I can’t see any way for the Tories to win the next election outright, without a new leader, and a new direction.


      • alan jutson
        Posted July 10, 2012 at 3:16 pm | Permalink


        Yes they promised to end the war on the motorist, do you remember that !

        2010 there were 2,188 fixed speed camera’s
        2011 there were 2,331 fixed speed camera’s

        Report from Ray Massey Transport editor Daily Mail.

        Figures for mobile camera’s not yet available, but again an increase is thought to have happened.

        I have no real problem with mobile cameras if they stop you at the time of the offence, but when you only get notification some 2 weeks after the event, then that is not a deterrent for that area at all.

        A friend of ours was actually banned for 6 months, because he got caught speeding 4 times in a week, he thought the dual carraigeway was 40 mph, but turned out it was 30mph for a short length, first he knew was when he got the first notification 2 weeks later, all of his speeds were below 40mph, the limit which he thought applied.

        Fortunately his employer took pity on him and gave him a desk job for the 6 month period.
        His insurance has taken a significant increase in premiums.

        Had he been advised at the time of his first offence, then he would not have been caught on the same stretch of road again.

        • a-tracy
          Posted July 11, 2012 at 10:01 am | Permalink

          30mph dual carriageways are a speed problem for many drivers especially in Lancashire, it is a real money spinner £69 fine and a course to avoid 3 points. If the speed trap area was truly about safety and many hundreds of motorists are caught speeding on that road then clearly the council need to put clear 30mph signs up. Drivers are expected to judge from the characteristics of the road and if there isn’t a 40mph sign on any dual road you are supposed to know it is 30. If you are in your home area you usually hear about people that have been caught and adjust your speeds but if you are an out of town driver some roads are very deceptive and if you drive for a living around the UK can be very unforgiving and cost people their jobs.

          Personally I believe that the DfT needs to look into high fine areas and check the road markings before too many people lose their livelihoods.

        • lifelogic
          Posted July 11, 2012 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

          They even film you – to catch you eating an apple or looking at a pretty girl now while driving and then fine you. All those gold plated pension to pay!

    • Mark
      Posted July 10, 2012 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

      Government taxes travel simply because it’s an effective way to raise taxes, and very hard to avoid.

  12. JimS
    Posted July 10, 2012 at 8:25 am | Permalink

    Why do we need to travel? As a child I walked to school, my mum walked to the shops and my dad cycled two miles to work. For special shopping we took the bus into town.

    Now we have mega-shops, mega-schools, mega-hospitals and mega-business parks, all in different places on the outskirts of towns, all requiring large hinterlands and none of them next to where people live. None of this is seen as part of transport policy.

    Transport policy is then corrupted by national prestige – e.g. Heathrow MUST be made to be the world’s busiest airport.

    • lifelogic
      Posted July 10, 2012 at 11:37 am | Permalink

      Yes and Grandma lived round the corner and your sister two miles away! The world is not really like that any more. More likely to be in Hong Kong or Switzerland or at least London where the jobs are.

      • alan jutson
        Posted July 10, 2012 at 3:21 pm | Permalink


        Very true, but then we did not owe £ Trillions in debt then either.

        Like Jim 40 years ago, all of our family walked, or cycled to school, work, and shopping, only using the bus for Sundays treats out.

        Times certainly have changed !

  13. Ferdinand
    Posted July 10, 2012 at 8:32 am | Permalink

    The safety record – so far – of high speed trains is good but the economics are disastrous. Unless the market takes these decisions one is bound to get uneconomic reality. As you say there are several immediate steps that can be taken to improve safety by greater separation of road and rail. Rail’s future is limited by the width of the track at 4’8 1/2 inches. If we had used Brunel’s 8ft gauge we should now be having less problems as loads could be greater and stability much improved.

    • Tad Davison
      Posted July 10, 2012 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

      To be pedantic, it was 7ft and 1/4 of an inch, but it’s an excellent point you make. Brunel designed his railway on sound engineering principles, not on myopic convenience.


      • Greg Tingey
        Posted July 10, 2012 at 7:03 pm | Permalink

        It isn’t the TRACK gauge so much as the LAODING gauge that counts.
        The railways on the continent use the same track, but the loading gauge is just that bit larger (about 50cm higher and the same wider) and it makes a huge difference.

        • Ferdinand
          Posted July 11, 2012 at 7:47 am | Permalink

          I don’t think the loading gauge has much relevance; it is to do with C of G. The roll centre on a narrow train has to be lower for a given curve at high speed – hence smaller coaches.

        • Tad Davison
          Posted July 11, 2012 at 8:17 am | Permalink

          The wider the track gauge in relation to the loading gauge, makes for greater stability, and the possibilty of higher rail speeds, but then you already knew that didn’t you Greg.

    • Nathanael
      Posted October 15, 2012 at 9:00 pm | Permalink

      Too late to change that now that Standard Gauge is, well, *standard* — compatibility with the rest of the world is a value in itself.

      Of course, Britain has a completely different loading gauge from everyone else. It would be well worth widening everything to UIC gauge.

  14. Denis Cooper
    Posted July 10, 2012 at 8:59 am | Permalink

    If you’re not careful, JR, you’ll be made a minister and put in charge of developing an integrated transport policy:

    • Tad Davison
      Posted July 10, 2012 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

      He couldn’t do any worse than the ones who have gone before Denis!


  15. a-tracy
    Posted July 10, 2012 at 9:15 am | Permalink

    If I were transport minister I’d concentrate on making the roads safer for all users. I’d analyse major road accidents as a top priority and get all of the UK Insurance industry to provide the data on serious crash sites and engineer those roads better.

    One of my first priorities would be ensuring that cyclists and motorcyclists are wearing bright clothing with florescent strips and suitable protective road wear and if they don’t wear this protective wear or obtain their motorbike licence their claims on insurance should be restricted. The number of cyclists I see using 70mph roads when there are cycle lanes next to the road is alarming.

    I’d start the HS2 project from Scotland to Birmingham because it is journey speeds from Birmingham north that are the issue on the rail network.

    • lifelogic
      Posted July 10, 2012 at 11:39 am | Permalink

      The main actions I see from government are the blocking/constricting of roads for “environmental” areas – this make people drive further and causes extra congestion and more pollution.

    • Tad Davison
      Posted July 10, 2012 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

      You should live in Cambridge! The highways department provides twelve-feet wide cycle lanes in some places, literally just the other side of the kerb, yet cyclists still ride in the road, at night, without lights, often in the rain, without reflective clothing, and we motorists are expected to see them!

      To cap it all, our fantastic Lib Dem MP, Julian Huppert, says where cyclists are involved in a collision with a motor vehicle, there should be a presumption of guilt on the part of the motorist!

      Next time I see him riding his bike past my home, I’ll have to take a closer look to see if he’s got a little aerial poking out of the top of his head, because he clearly comes from a different planet!


      • lifelogic
        Posted July 11, 2012 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

        Bike are about 15 times more dangerous than cars even if you do have lights and brakes. Walking even more dangerous.

        • Nathanael
          Posted October 15, 2012 at 9:01 pm | Permalink

          You’re out of your mind. What makes cycling dangerous?

          Cars & lorries.

          What makes walking dangerous?

          Cars & lorries.

          We aren’t facing accidents where cyclists crash into the sides of buildings, or where walkers fall down ravines.

      • lifelogic
        Posted July 11, 2012 at 9:29 pm | Permalink

        “Julian Huppert, says where cyclists are involved in a collision with a motor vehicle, there should be a presumption of guilt on the part of the motorist!”

        Needless to say a loony lib dem and there are a lots of cyclist students for him to appeal to in Cambridge – but they are surely not that stupid. Well he is an MP so clearly they are.

        Has he seem bikers ignoring red lights, cutting corners, going the wrong way on one way streets, having useless brakes, going up and down pavements, never slowing down (so they do not loose momentum), having no insurance or number plates and he want a presumption of guilt on the part of the motorist!

        Perhaps he wants to create a new industry of bikes deliberately ramming into cars to gain compensation. Good for lawyers I suppose.

    • Greg Tingey
      Posted July 10, 2012 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

      Wering a flourescent jacket for so many people would nullify the effect ….
      Or can’t you work that out?

      • a-tracy
        Posted July 11, 2012 at 7:55 am | Permalink

        I didn’t say a ‘florescent jacket’ I said a florescent strip. I do see sensible cyclists and motorbike riders in black jackets with florescent strips and they are much easier to notice. Perhaps a bright reflective helmet or cycle helmet would help and not nullify the effect. I also don’t believe wearing a brighter item would nullify the effect.

      • Tad Davison
        Posted July 11, 2012 at 8:26 am | Permalink

        In response to a-tracy, Greg Tingey was very dismissive. He wrote:

        ‘Wering a flourescent jacket for so many people would nullify the effect ….
        Or can’t you work that out?’

        So by that measure, the driver of a train is less likely to see a group of trackside workers wearing flourescent jackets, than just one individual.’

        Now who’s WRONG!

        • Electro-Kevin
          Posted July 11, 2012 at 10:25 am | Permalink

          Cyclists tend to wear these insipid green things. They are day-glo but tend to blend into the colour of foliage and grass all the same.

          If you want to be seen on the road then wear bright orange. I can seen track workers beyond two miles in the distance. This was a huge improvement for rail safety. The garments worn by cyclists would not pass our standards.

    • uanime5
      Posted July 10, 2012 at 7:25 pm | Permalink

      Perhaps more cyclists would use cycle paths if they were raised 2-3 inches above the road. After all most cars avoid driving on the pavement.

      • Tad Davison
        Posted July 11, 2012 at 8:32 am | Permalink

        I can see where you’re coming from, and I think the safest option is to keep motor vehicles and cyclists separate where possible, but the examples I have in mind are where cycle lanes have been especially created on the pavement. Cyclists STILL use the road, because they see it as their right. It doesn’t matter to them that they are putting their own safety at risk, as well as holding the traffic up.


        • Mark
          Posted July 11, 2012 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

          I find more problem with cyclists who use the pavement when they have no right to, and who regard red lights as distinctly optional, or who think they’re riding motor bikes and deserve to block a lane of traffic by riding in the middle of it, and also have no need to signal their intentions to turn.

          • Tad Davison
            Posted July 11, 2012 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

            You’re well familiar with Cambridge then Mark! That sums Cambridge cyclists up to a T. I have nothing against cyclists per se, but some don’t do themselves any favours by riding dangerously and flouting the law. It rubs people up the wrong way though, when they get away with things no other road user would get away with.


          • lifelogic
            Posted July 11, 2012 at 9:30 pm | Permalink

            Indeed London too.

        • Lindsay McDougall
          Posted July 13, 2012 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

          My time cycling in Cambridge was in the mid-sixties. In those days Trinity Street was a one way street running past St John’s college, then Trinity College to the Senate House, with the road carrying on as 2-way to the engineering labs. Round about quarter to nine, there was a mighty surge of cyclists along Trinity Street; we outnumbered motorists by about 10 to 1. Most were engineering students. I think it is the only time that I can remember motorists being scared of cyclists.

  16. Caterpillar
    Posted July 10, 2012 at 9:21 am | Permalink

    Re: JR’s 2nd paragraph.

    As a few contributors has mentioned when responding to JR’s UK economy posts, one has to be careful with endogeneity. Similarly I wonder how endogeneity is built into Govt transport consideration e.g. high density living and workingsupports rail links, but commuter rail links encourage/enable high density living (and thus local walking) etc.

    • Nathanael
      Posted October 15, 2012 at 9:03 pm | Permalink

      High density living and working is caused by being in England. It’s been high density for roughly 400 years. You think not? Come visit Kansas, and you’ll see what low density is.

      Everywhere in England is dense enough for passenger rail service to make sense. (Not everywhere in the US, or for that matter Scotland, is.)

  17. English Pensioner
    Posted July 10, 2012 at 10:02 am | Permalink

    Most comparative figures seem to assume that the majority of car users are one to a car which is far from true. All the long journeys that my friends and I make invariably have at least two people in the car, halving the per person cost and halving the calculated per person emissions. Car is safer, I’ve never been attacked in my car, had my pocket picked or caught a contagious illness from a fellow traveller.
    In spite of the huge petrol costs, when two of us travel, car is cheaper than train, and more to the point, we have transport at our destination; if we have baggage, we have reduced the “carrying distance” to a minimum.

  18. David John Wilson
    Posted July 10, 2012 at 10:02 am | Permalink

    You have ignored one major factor, namely air travel. Journeys by air of less than two hundred miles should not be allowed. They suffer all the disadvantages that you listed for rail travel. In addition they have an even higher cost in terms of fuel and pollution
    Planes need to be put into a fuel tax regime where the cost of the fuel rather than the number of passengers is taxed. There is nothing to stop that being done for internal flights now.

    • lifelogic
      Posted July 10, 2012 at 11:44 am | Permalink

      What about flights to islands of 50 miles (or UK to Ireland or France) an aeroplane is usually more efficient than a boat and certainly quicker. The duties usually exceed what fuel taxes would be anyway and train do not pay much fuel tax.

      • David John Wilson
        Posted July 10, 2012 at 10:11 pm | Permalink

        A plane may be quicker than a boat but it is never more efficient. Transport by water is the most efficient fuel driven method of transport by a long way.

        • lifelogic
          Posted July 11, 2012 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

          It is perhaps for very large heavy loads like oil tankers going slowly but for 80 people going from say London to Dublin a plane is surely the best compromise?

        • lifelogic
          Posted July 11, 2012 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

          Would you prefer to row or swim 50 miles in a rough sea or go by bike or walk by road?

          I think I would find the dry options rather less effort.

    • Mark
      Posted July 10, 2012 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

      Aviation is capable of being more than cost competitive with rail over 200 mile distances, and also have lower carbon emissions per passenger mile than under-occupied trains. For those who need to travel at speed it can make much more sense.

      • Greg Tingey
        Posted July 10, 2012 at 7:07 pm | Permalink

        Over 350 miles, perhaps ….
        London – Leeds 2hrs by train city centre to CC …
        Flight – 30 minutes? + hour check-in + 20 minutes check-out + journey to airport + journey FROM airport …. er… 3 hrs?
        PLUS all the “security” fascism and street theatre.
        Ditto Manchester……

        • lifelogic
          Posted July 11, 2012 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

          Do not worry we will have the security fascism on the trains too soon.

        • Tad Davison
          Posted July 11, 2012 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

          Ever seen the armed uniformed police officers at stations like King’s Cross? And I wonder if you know about the armed plain-clothes police who routinely travel on our trains post 7/7?

    • Ferdinand
      Posted July 10, 2012 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

      Aircraft fuel consumption is roughly one third of the fuel cost a motor car when the aircraft is 60% full.

      • stred
        Posted July 10, 2012 at 9:47 pm | Permalink

        Fredinand. But on holidays, the car is often full so more efficient. However, after paying autoroute tolls and fuel tax, the plane can be cheaper off peak.

      • lifelogic
        Posted July 11, 2012 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

        I assume that is compared to a car with single circa 20% occupancy?

    • David Ashton
      Posted July 10, 2012 at 6:21 pm | Permalink

      Build one mile of railway track and you can travel precisely one mile. Build one mile of runway and you can travel any where in the world.

      • Tad Davison
        Posted July 11, 2012 at 8:40 am | Permalink

        And when a railway is blocked, it’s blocked. Not so long ago, a coal train derailed on a bridge over the river Ouse near Ely. The line was closed for months.


      • lifelogic
        Posted July 11, 2012 at 12:36 pm | Permalink


      • Nathanael
        Posted October 15, 2012 at 9:04 pm | Permalink

        Unless there’s a volcano explosion. Then, the planes won’t fly at all.

  19. oldtimer
    Posted July 10, 2012 at 10:12 am | Permalink

    For most people it is not a battle between enthusiasts and fans as you describe, but a matter of the practicalities and the economics. Public transport works best in heavily populated urban areas where mass transport is better able to move people around – hence the use of metro systems worldwide. Rail also works with the movement of heavy bulk materials over land – the reason why Australian mining companies use them to shift iron ore or bulk coal is moved in this country to fuelk power stations. But in the UK the best and most flexible way to take the family out for a day or for a holiday is by car. The same is true for most freight movement, which is why most of it goes by road.

    Attempts by politicians to force people into other modes of transport – or to force them to stop using it altogether (the explicit aim of the exorbitant tax on flying) – are reprehensible. The present coalition is as guilty of this as the last lot in power.

    • David John Wilson
      Posted July 10, 2012 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

      We urgently need inland freight terminals spread around the country, connected by rail to the major container ports.

      Containers arriving at the ports destined for distribution to inland areas could then be transported to the appropriate inland terminal for further processing and distribution. This could be done using long freight trains as found in the USA and Canada, if necessary overnight, making efficient use of the railway and reducing road freight traffic.

      The terminals would similarly act as a collection point for exports.

      • Tad Davison
        Posted July 10, 2012 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

        Perhaps not without extensive alterations to our railway infrastructure. Train lengths are restricted by such things as loops and signalling. And in the States, some container trains are actually double-decked. We’d need to rebuild almost every bridge and tunnel in the country to accommodate those. Then there’s the inconvenience of moving containers from road to rail and vice versa. It would be need to be properly costed to see the advantages.


    • Greg Tingey
      Posted July 10, 2012 at 7:09 pm | Permalink

      Not quite.
      A lot of Rail freight was deliberately forced away by corrupt people looking to line their own pockets.
      The last attempt was the (temporary) closure of the rail TPO’s by a (word left out) GPO boss ….

      • Tad Davison
        Posted July 11, 2012 at 8:44 am | Permalink

        At last! An area of agreement! So give us a viable and costed way to reverse it.


  20. sm
    Posted July 10, 2012 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    Back to unofficial population growth not being officially planned for again.

    We could have Boris cars! to go with Boris bikes? or some similar arrangement. After all we have no room to park these days.

    Computer controlled cars (on fast long haul roads) in series could increase the capacity of our motorways and probably reduce accidents, pollution and fuel burn.

    Once you reach your predetermined exit point the computer would disengage to manual control when you were on the exit slip. There the best of both worlds for longer journeys.

    Would it not be better to have some central planning with better roads and planned service stations with all the various competing fuels,gas power,electric, hydrogen available so as to give good cover throughout the UK. After all it may just help to reduce imports of not just fuel but spur technolgy in a sector we manufacture and export.

  21. Robert Taggart
    Posted July 10, 2012 at 10:24 am | Permalink

    Why can folk not take life more easy ?
    All this dashing around like head-less chickens cannot be good for them.
    When will working from home become the norm ? (for those with suitable employment ).

    • lifelogic
      Posted July 11, 2012 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

      I agree that is what I do most of the time. All these people flying halfway round the world just for a 6 day holiday must be mad.

  22. APL
    Posted July 10, 2012 at 10:33 am | Permalink

    JR: “As the UK is short of transport facilties of all kinds, we need a better analysis of our needs for improved transport links. Where we have rail routes we need to make more productive use of them.”

    While this may be true, it is only so because your party, the opposition party and the Liberal party have a consensus THE PARTY between them that the population of the United Kingdom will increase through immigration, the indigenous birth rate is declining through contraception and abortion.

    Address the population issue, discourage unfettered immigration, and you will solve our infrastructure problems in twenty years without going further into debt to pursue policies that are unnecessary and at worst will only postpone the day when more money has to be spent on the infrastructure.

  23. John B
    Posted July 10, 2012 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    The Global warming thing is now so discredited and seen for the swindle it is, surely the comparison of CO2 emissions should not be a criteria in promoting one form of transportation over another – but I forget, politicians in charge.

    In any case it is the total CO2 emission from providing an entire railway service, and ancillary emissions, which needs to be compared with total emissions of passenger car travel, not individual passengers on individual journeys.

    But things have moved on. Speed by rail is no longer so important, because modern communication and its marriage with computers means that train journeys – like air journeys – can be used productively by business people, or even for leisure.

    Car journeys however provide no such opportunity, at least not for the drivers.

    There is no real economic argument for making rail journeys quicker and shorter, but a compelling one for making car journeys faster and shorter, not least if the CO2 “worry”‘ still floats your boat, much less will be emitted if cars move at a speed at which their engines are more efficient and thus spend less time emitting anything.

    Also less non-productive time in the car means more productive time at work, and less fuel consumption helps the balance of payments and air quality.

    As ever, the notion that politicians can plan the future is shown to be idiotic because nobody can know what peoples’ future needs will be, how our lives will change with advances in technology and practice.

    So policy has been to push people onto the railways, over-crowding it at peak times making use of new technology to do work difficult or impossible for people standing and packed together, and deliberately obstructing car travel, slowing it down.

    If only politicians could let the free market get on with things instead of intruding with their ignorance and arrogance.

    No Government policy – or ecofascists – gave us use of coal instead of almost disappearing wood; railways; internal combustion engines; jet engines; the WWW; electricity; on-line banking/shopping; smart phones; PCs; etc.

    In fact some of these came about despite politicians sticking their noses in – and don’t politicians just ache to poke their noses into the WWW over which they currently have no control?

    The USA has seen a 30% reduction of CO2 emissions and a massive reduction in the cost of energy. Government stimulus? Clever politicians with their clever plans and their Green policy? Carbon taxes?

    No private enterprise and advanced technology allowing the greater exploitation of shale gas, resulting in cheaper gas and a switch from coal fired power stations to gas.

    It cost taxpayers nothing.

    Meanwhile the idiots in charge in the UK, wedded to their impossible carbon reduction law, are spending ever more sums of taxpayer money on useless wind and solar, whilst doing their best to hinder development of UK shale gas.

    It would be interesting to see what would happen if Parliament and Government took a gap year. I suspect there would be no clamour to get it back twelve months later.

    And for those who yearn for the good old days of nationalised railways, they forget nationalisation is what killed the railways because investment has to come from the taxpayer not the private investor – of course there is always PFI… how’s that working out?

    Also nationalisation enthusiasts might like to take a look at the usual poster-child for this, France, which is closing down lines and stations, reducing services and where travel other than on the handful of TGV services focussed on Paris is slow and complex.

    Why? The State cannot afford to pay.

  24. Mactheknife
    Posted July 10, 2012 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

    I make long car journeys and also use the train frequently for work purposes. I can say that its “horses for courses” – no pun intented. However I would make a few points about transport policy:

    1. In our town we had three rail stations but over the last 40 years two have been closed and the remaining one had its facilities cut i.e. number of platforms. Now because rail travel has substantially increased they have had to reinstate one of the platforms building a new one. I’m amazed at the number of shortsighted decisions made by successive governments.

    2.Because of the industrial past of my town we had a number of rail networks which went through all parts of the town including outlying areas. Unfortunately these have also been ripped up and converted to “nature trails” over the years. Yet more stupidity – these networks could have been used as part of a wider transport policy.

    3. The cost of rail travel is increasing way beyond inflation each year. Whislt there is much the rail companies could do to improve efficiency, there is a limit. We as a country need to decide if we want an integrated country wide rail network and if we do, it may mean we have to subsidise it in some way. Many rail networks throughout the world (even those held up as role models) are state subsidised as they realise its a necessity for the economy.

    4. The cost of UK fuel for drivers is absolutely criminal. I’m afraid JR, this is mainly due to successive governments policies and attitudes towards drivers. They have been seen as a cash cow for many years with successive budgets hammering the driver with fuel tax. Approximately 70% of the pump cost is tax – which is a scandal. No other nation would put up with this, particularly one which has been an oil producer for decades.

    5. The current fashion for greenwash nonsense by all parties is driving fuel cost further and increasing tax burdens on all individuals, families and businesses. At some point Cameron and Osbourne must get to grips with the ecofascists in DECC and haul them in and move back to sensible energy policy.

    Reply: our railway is already heavily subsidised.

    • Mactheknife
      Posted July 11, 2012 at 8:19 am | Permalink

      Reply to JR

      I know the railway is subsidised and I made the point that they can do more in terms of their own efficiency, but like most countries some subsidy will still be required if we want to retain an integrated network for the benefit of our economy. Currently I understand that subsidies are being cut substantially which is why fares are rising so rapidly.

    • lifelogic
      Posted July 11, 2012 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

      Heavily subsidised and still not competitive in most cases.

  25. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted July 10, 2012 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

    Because there is very healthy competition between car manufacturers, fuel consumption in cars has been driven downwards. The reduction would have been greater but for certain safety features demanded by the female of the species, which have increased the weight of cars (side impact bars, air bags), and energy consuming electric windows.

    In contrast, rail now uses heavy German trains in place of lightweight slam door trains. Their fuel is burned at the power station and their are transmission losses in moving the electricity. There is little competition and no high taxes on fuel.

    The environmental advantage to rail is therefore a lot less than it used to be. On the basis of overall average emissions per passenger km, as soon as you put a second person in a car, car is more environmentally friendly.

    Which public transport trains/coaches are environmentally friendly? FULL ONES ARE. Run public transport on that principle and you will find that there are both environmental and financial advantages.

    • Mark
      Posted July 11, 2012 at 11:45 am | Permalink

      That means reducing vehicle size to increase frequency and variability of routings. That might become a viable proposition with vehicle automation which would potentially obviate the need for bus and taxi drivers: perhaps some assistance for those who find luggage awkward to cope with, and supervision for schoolchildren would still be needed.

    • lifelogic
      Posted July 11, 2012 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

      You cannot have full train. Full ones as they cannot pick anyone up and you do not have 300 people who want to go from A to B all at 2.30 on Thursday afternoon and all return at 4.00pm on Friday. It is not a real option.

  26. Alan
    Posted July 10, 2012 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

    I think more attention should be given when discussing future transport schemes to the advances in technology that are likely in the next 20 years.

    Long before the high speed line reaches Scotland, cars will probably be able to drive themselves, especially on good roads like motorways. That removes one of the advantages that rail currently has, namely that at the moment one can work effectively in a train but not in a car, and it removes one of the disadvantages of road travel, which is that at present it is considerably more dangerous than train travel. It will permit much faster and safer road transport. It ought to enable buses and coaches to offer a good alternative to trains at a much lower cost. We ought to get the convenience of road travel with the speed and safety of rail travel.

    Even sooner, good telecommunications could make a lot of travel less necessary, including much commuting. If comparable amounts of money were invested in designing systems that enabled office workers to work remotely as are invested in subsidising railways (I know these are not sensible alternatives) we might find that much of the London commuter traffic could be abolished. Even without that level of subsidy we are likely to find private companies developing systems that make travel for meetings and office work less necessary.

    • Mark
      Posted July 11, 2012 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

      I think you are right. I looked at the Eddington report of 2005 again. It is totally lacking in appreciation of the potential for automation and computerisation to transform transportation, thinking that the only way is to price people out of transport with brute force road pricing.

      Already if you use Google maps you can evaluate alternative routings for journey times under current traffic conditions (and compare against public transport alternatives), so you can find the best way to deal with a motorway traffic jam.

      We now have enough computing power to look at such things as optimal distribution patterns for goods that include the customer costs of travel to a store where appropriate. Currently, companies often seek to take advantage of poor understanding of these economics by consumers, who will use £2 worth of petrol to save 50p on their shopping bill. A better understanding might lead to more corner stores and direct deliveries by van for daily requirements, with fewer locations for infrequent purchases.

      Automation has the potential to transform road traffic, allowing much greater traffic density and reducing congestion. It can also eat into the need for terminus to terminus routings of trains and buses, by offering faster overall journeys, perhaps with the freedom not to have to concentrate on the road and thus being able to work or relax.

      Computing power applied to traffic light optimisation:

      Managed motorways and traffic jams:

      Where speed over slightly longer distances is required, air offers much more flexibility than trains.

  27. Neil Craig
    Posted July 10, 2012 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

    The underlying problem is that the decision – rail or car -is not taken, in Britain, in an economic basis but a political one. It should be for the market to decide with the role of government being merely to hold the coats as they compete.

    For what it is worth my opinion is that for longer distances (London to the North) air clearly has the edge in speed and cost. That for shorter distances automated rail, including overhead monorails, would be optimum. And for large items ships or airships. None of these are on any government agenda.

  28. Duyfken
    Posted July 10, 2012 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

    The lines closed by Beeching are still there, not the permanent way but the routes where it was laid. Many of course have now been built over or made into cycle paths and the like, but the network remains in outline. These arteries of communication should be seen as valuable assets and should be cared for. How they may be used, if at all, is not something which needs to be decided immediately but the routes should be held in suspension in case and when their real value is appreciated. They should not be obliterated or sold off: they are a valuable resource (just like our forests).

    Likewise, our rail networks generally are a valuable resource and one which I suggest could be developed further, without this being at the expense of the alternative road system. For instance, the containers entering the country at Felixtowe and elsewhere, might be transhipped by rail to hubs in other parts of the country, these hubs being centres where the containers could be unpacked and contents delivered by road or transferred to and towed by prime movers to final destination. Although this is already surely done to some extent, were this network to be expanded, it would remove many of the heavy loads from the roads and obviate the need for more motorways and more frequent repair to motorways.

    • Mark
      Posted July 11, 2012 at 11:40 am | Permalink

      Every time a container changes transport mode there are substantial costs and need for freight marshalling yards with consequent transit delays. It is this which damages the economics of rail freight. However, I think that using rail tracks as dedicated freight routes is definitely a way forward: but instead of railway trains, they would have automated road trains, requiring fewer (?no) drivers on the long haul with no cross-mode penalties. Drivers would mainly handle the last few miles from the track exit point to the final destination.

      • Neil Craig
        Posted July 12, 2012 at 9:52 am | Permalink

        One way of using automated trains would be to have single lorry sized units. A computerised network could deliver them individually to sidings anywhere in the country without human intervention. Because they have no human driver they could be kept to one side when ordinary trains are around and thus minimise the amount of track they take up. Probably most of their movement would be at night. That could provide genuine, unsubsidised competition to road delivery.

        • Mark
          Posted July 12, 2012 at 6:55 pm | Permalink

          You couldn’t mix them on the same tracks as ordinary trains without severely limiting the train capacity, so you would indeed have to operate at different times of day and night. On the other hand, almost any automated vehicle could use rail routes – included automated cars and coaches. The big advantage could be that trucks could be loaded directly from dockside cranes and not have to be unloaded at all until they reach their destination, unconstrained by the reach of the rail network. There would still have to be piles of containers awaiting ships for export.

  29. Electro-Kevin
    Posted July 10, 2012 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

    An excellent post, John.

    I don’t meet many people who are divided about any particular form of transport. Like experimental jazz musicians we all seem to mix up our modes a bit.

    • Electro-Kevin
      Posted July 10, 2012 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

      My commute doesn’t involve a congestion factor as I’m generally on the road too early or too late. Typically leaving the house at 4am or finishing work at 1am.

      We can start or end shifts literally any time of night or day but rarely – if ever – at peak times.

      I can’t avoid the fuel burn – most of that being tax to pay my own wages !

  30. Derek Emery
    Posted July 10, 2012 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

    Railways Systems are very much more expensive than road systems as well as being inherently inflexible. Railways signalling systems are very expensive because of the safety aspects. Too many people can die in one accident for safety not to dominate. See Wikipedia on Railways Signalling for details of signalling systems. The standard is Fixed Block Signalling. Moving Block Signalling allows more train movements. It has been used on DLR but has not been deemed safe enough for use on the West Coast Main Line. It was not deemed mature enough to cope with the mixture of local trains, high speed trains and goods trains sharing the same lines. You could wait a long time for Moving Block Signalling to be approved on multi-use lines like the West Coast Main Line. Don’t hold your breath.

    • lifelogic
      Posted July 11, 2012 at 3:22 pm | Permalink


  31. Bazman
    Posted July 10, 2012 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

    How about reducing the absurd and often pointless safety features in cars to reduce weight, increase efficiency, price and putting the onus fairly and squarely on the driver?

    • Mark
      Posted July 11, 2012 at 11:29 am | Permalink

      Interestingly one of the by-products of vehicle automation could be a reduced need for heavy weight safety features, because the automation would substantially reduce crash risks and impact speeds.

    • lifelogic
      Posted July 11, 2012 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

      Indeed why do car need all this car safely when bikes which are 15 times more dangerous (and use more c02 food production considered too) do not even have decent brakes on them?

  32. uanime5
    Posted July 10, 2012 at 7:34 pm | Permalink

    If the Government wants more people to travel by rail then it will have to become more reliable and more affordable. I’d also recommend simplifying the number of fares so that the passenger is charged per mile one rate for travelling first class and a lower rate for travelling second class.

  33. BurnleyClaret
    Posted July 10, 2012 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

    A point that seems to have been missed in all the comments is the rail network provides a means of social inclusion. Its all well and good saying its cheaper and more efficent if everyone on the train drove and the train didn’t exist, but the fact they’re on the train in the first place means they probably don’t drive(thinking of rural/local services here). There isn’t a universal entitement to a car and their are many reasons why someone isn’t driving. Be that legal, financial, practical or whatever.

    Anyone who’s thinking that a bus service could be provided instead has clearly never been on a bus recently. Even so called “express” buses are anything but and a poor subsitute for rail travel, taking too long and being too uncomfortable. 7am-7pm rail services are overwhelming well used even on rural lines. Yes there are some issues of low usage on evenings and Sundays but since most rail costs are fixed (line maintenance etc) withdrawing these services isn’t likely to make a great deal of savings. Perhaps more imaginative marketing could be done and cheaper fares.

    The appalling way the rail industry was privatised as has caused a lot of the finacial and practical problems. Track and train should NEVER have been split, it should have been a regional based privatisation if it was to happen at all. For the record I’m a car driver and occasional rail user.

  34. BobE
    Posted July 10, 2012 at 8:05 pm | Permalink

    Trains fail because of the journeys required at each end. Also usually expensive parking at one end.
    Politicians and civil servants like trains because they can travel first class without effort, using taxis at each end.
    Suburban to city center rush hour trains work because of mass movements of people.
    City to city will always fail and those tracks should be converted motorways and a move towards hydrogen cars. (Hydrogen is the only realistic future fuel)

    • Mark
      Posted July 11, 2012 at 11:25 am | Permalink

      Hydrogen has to be made with considerable energy input. The cheapest method of manufacture is steam reforming of methane, so you might as well use the methane directly instead: Fischer-Tropsch processes for making hydrocarbons from coal as used by SASOL, or synthesis of larger molecule hydrocarbons from methane are more economically attractive. It has a low energy volume density, and is difficult to handle. It is likely to remain a specialist fuel, mainly for things such as space launch rockets.

      • BobE
        Posted July 11, 2012 at 7:34 pm | Permalink

        Mark, convert sea water to hydrogen and oxygen with nuclear power.

      • stred
        Posted July 12, 2012 at 8:22 am | Permalink

        Leakage is also a problem with hydrogen, owing to the small atom size.

  35. BobE
    Posted July 10, 2012 at 8:10 pm | Permalink

    Imagine if first class was to be removed from rail! The change to the entire service would be very dramatic as the elite would start to experience what the masses are forced to put up with. I would so enjoy transport becoming “single class”. Never happen methinks.

    • Bazman
      Posted July 11, 2012 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

      The same principal would apply to the education system.

      • Tad Davison
        Posted July 11, 2012 at 8:29 pm | Permalink

        Thinking about the education analogy, instead of getting rid of first class, as lefties would do for scornful, snide, jealous and ideological reasons, why not get rid of second class, and bring everyone else up to the level of first class?

        If a method based on discipline and hard work achieves results in a private school, then why not emulate that ethos in a state school?

        There’d be no need then to dumb anything down, and we wouldn’t have slipped down the league from 12th to 23rd under the last Labour government.

        And who knows, by giving everyone first-class service on public transport, they might just get more people to consider it.

        Just a thought.


        • Bob
          Posted July 12, 2012 at 1:23 pm | Permalink


          “…why not get rid of second class, and bring everyone else up to the level of first class…”

          Because that would lead to a nation head and shoulders above the rest of the world and all of the efforts of previous UK governments to dumb us down would have been in vain.

          The political elite do not want an educated populace.
          In Mao’s China educated people were slaughtered in their thousands. The lucky few were sent to Hainan Dao to tap rubber trees (just a hint of what Baroso has in mind for you).

  36. stred
    Posted July 11, 2012 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    Reading through ‘Sustainable Energy Without the Hot Air’, by Prof David MaKay, the only suitably qualified member of ‘the team” at DECC, the following points are interesting. Chapter 20 on transport and 26 on fluctuations and storage are essential reading and are free on the web.

    Comparisons are made between the car and trains, buses and other forms of transport. However the main figures take the car ashaving a fuel consumption of 33mpg in the UK. When deciding policy it should be taken into account that it would be simple to encourage the average user to buy an economical conventional car giving almost double this figure. The chapter admits that hybrids are only as good as an efficient conventional car and that this does not take into account the need for a new battery every 8-10 years. Surprisingly all electric cars also are only as efficient as conventional. The G Wizz example gives105 g CO2/100km in the UK, which is similar to the Prius and efficient conventional. His pet hate is the large Lexus hybrid, which gives 192g/100km. This is still advertised as the green option and is subsidised with licence and congestion charge exceptions!

    When comparing cars to trains, little is made of the occupancy of the vehicle. A full electric train is given as 3kwh/100km wheras an average car with one passenger is 27 times this. However the London Underground, which must have some of the highest occupancy rates, comes in at 4.4 when full but this rises to 32 when total cost and occupancy is taken into account or 5 times better than the baseline car. However if and efficient car carried 2 passengers, the figure would be close.

    Comparing long distance electric trains to efficient cars is interesting. There is a picture of an almost empty train on p 121. No figures are given for average occupancy but taking a train with only one in fifteen seats occupied the figure rises to 30kw/100km and an efficient car such as a Honda Civic at 44kw/100km or 100gCO2/100km would match this. No figures are given for the inconvenience factor of having to travel to the station, changing and waiting and longer routes.

    Chapter 26 explores the options for storing the wildly fluctuating to non existent output of wind turbines. The conclusion arrives ate the only realistic option of battery storage, using 3 million electric cars. The need for replacement generation is dealt with but nuclear is not flexible enough and waste incineration may be the only green option. Otherwise the cars will have to stay put awaiting a fair wind. The possibility of exchange batteries in fuel stations is raised, but here the problem is that the owner’s new £3500 battery may be exchanged for an old clapped out one. Perhaps the answer would be to fit a sail directly to the car, widening roads to allow tacking!

    So, it is easy to understand how the unqualified team can be so enthusiastic to over tax conventional cars and subsidise electric, building many more charging stations than are needed for them. It explains why electric trains are the answer, as the headline figure is 27 times more efficient, The team are probably unable to understand his book or may not have read it. One minister for DECC, our future PM, admitted this a few years ago. No figures are explored for long distance train occupancy or route inconvenience. Perhaps JR could put a question to the young lady minister for transport in parliament, just to see if she has a clue. Or one of the PR experts in DECC would be a suitable source of enlightenment.

    On the subject of retro fitting our housing stock, it is also interesting that Prof MacKay makes no mention of putting extra wall insulation on the inside of walls and dry lining. He gives up rather easily when considering possible alterations of older houses. The advantage of using a layer of foilbacked plasterboard with multifoil quilts is that the house can be left to cool when out and then be warmed up much more rapidly. In my own terrace house, fuel bills have been cut to a third using this method plus roof insulation, careful draught stripping and chimney sealing. Perhaps you could see whether any of them can understand this, as at present the minister is backing outside insulation, which means that the high capacity solid walls have to warm up if the heating is turned down when out.

  37. stred
    Posted July 11, 2012 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

    I should have said ‘some’ electric cars are only as efficient as conventional. The G Wizz was tested in London for the figure of 105 g CO2/100km. The very expensive Tesla Roadster claims to use 71% of the energy used by the G Wizz, but does not appear to have been tested in real life as the Wizz. The manufacturer’s claimed figure for the Wizz is 13Kw/100km wheras the test gave 21. The Co2 performance is a result of the lack of non- CO2 generation and losses which gives a conversion rate of 500g CO2/KWh. In France or Sweden the figure is much lower and there may be some point in using electric cars.

  38. Bazman
    Posted July 11, 2012 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

    If there were any justice then motorcycles would pay no road tax as the use less fuel, take up less space, do not cause traffic jams and are still faster than cars as many peole are finding out using them to get into London.

  39. John Finningham
    Posted July 11, 2012 at 5:34 pm | Permalink

    What angers me more than anything is that transort to politicians is a joke. You treat transport with contempt much like evry issue that people care deeply about. NHS, education, immigration and European referendum. It is you politicians who spout the latest soundbites but the truth is you do nothing.
    Question for Mr Redwood – which rail company is the only rail company in the whole of Europe to make a profit and never needed public help?
    The answer is Hornby!
    Yes a bloody toy company. Private companies running railways cause massive problems and always always need propping up by tax payers. Put aside political persuasion and adopt common sense. The rail industry needs to be renationalised and kept in public hands.
    I work in this industry and I have been studying figures for several years but your former Transport Minister Philip Hammond just ignored my findings as I am not a Sir or a Lord. I am what you refer to in private as working class scum.
    I will offer you the same as I have offered many politicians. To a debate on any subject that you care to discuss. I will film it and post it online.
    Up for it John!
    Or are you like every other politician. Scared of a genuine real debate with the public and no fancy studio editing to make you look good.

  40. Bazman
    Posted July 11, 2012 at 7:47 pm | Permalink

    Get rid of the railways put another deck on the motorways and run a 16 lane motorway from South Wales to the centre of London. The transport and housing problem is solved.

    • lifelogic
      Posted July 12, 2012 at 6:48 am | Permalink

      Some sense at last.

    • APL
      Posted July 13, 2012 at 10:42 am | Permalink

      Bazman: “South Wales to the centre of London. ”

      Who want’s to go to South Wales?

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  • 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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