Transport Watch UK Focusing on UK's Traffic & Traffic Systems

May 2005 FREIGHT

Dear Editor,

Gregg Heathcliffe (Press 12 th April) says there is no practical way of transferring more freight to the Railways. Can I suggest one?

First, why do we have railway lines? Yes, I know trains run on them, but why? The only reason I can think of is that when Stephenson built his Rocket there were no roads strong enough to support a heavy steam locomotive. Now we have roads capable of supporting 40 tonne vehicles and a huge number of goods and passenger vehicles using them.

So, why not take up the rails and lay tarmac? I am not suggesting that we simply create more ordinary roads. The best use would be to reserve the new routes for HGVs and coaches. The fact that drivers of these vehicles have to take a driving test and medical regularly to renew their licences means these routes would be much safer than ordinary roads. They would also be more fuel efficient because there are no steep gradients - trains can't cope with them. The restricted nature of the traffic would make journey times much more predictable encouraging more people to use public transport.

The major advantage would be that the vehicles could continue the journey beyond the present stations. This would allow far more freight to use these routes than can use the railways. Coaches would be able to pick up at places convenient to the passengers and not only at the station.

The beauty of the scheme is that the routes already exist, including bridges and tunnels. Conversion would be much quicker than building new roads or railways. The cost? A lot less than the proposals to upgrade our existing railways.

There is a web site www.transport-watch.co.uk that has lots of information on the costs of conversion and also the carrying capacity of such systems. I think the statistics quoted there will astonish most readers.

Yours faithfully,

Barry Cash

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