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RAIL TEX 2013 Note handed to Minister

Ref. Modern rail03
Date 15th April 2013

ROAD VERSUS RAIL and HS2                     

This letter ot Modern Railways passed to Simon Burns, Minister of Transport, at the Rail Tex exhibition of 2013

Your March article, comparing road and rail, does not provide easy to read comparisons.  Here are some the numbers. 

It costs the Government circa 7 times as much to move a tonne of freight or a passenger by rail as it does by the strategic road network, calculated by dividing the expenditures by the passenger plus tonne-km.

The strategic road network carries nearly three times as many passenger-km and three times as many tonnes-km per lane-km as does the national rail network per track-km despite rail having the advantage of serving the hearts of our towns and cities.

Excluding London Underground and metro systems, rail carries 3% of passenger-journeys, 7.5% of passenger-km and 8.5% of tonne-km, after including water (mainly in-shore shipping) and pipe line.  Hence, it is difficult to see why rail is deemed essential to the economy or why the expenditure on rail is substantially above that on the strategic road network – a network which carries four times as many passenger-km and 8 times as many tonne-km.

The diagrams below show how trivial national rail’s contribution is.  Furthermore, circa 30% of road’s passengers-km and 70% of road’s tonne-km were on the strategic network in 2011. 

In the same issue Ian Warmsley cheers the HS2 Y.  Instead the analysis that supports it is a fraud upon the nation.  Here is why. 

The headline cost of the network out to Leeds and Manchester is £33bn.  That excludes the trains at £8bn and tax at 20.9% both included in the economic analysis.  Adding those provides a headline of £50bn or £2,000 for every household in the land.  The financial loss, presuming the ludicrous passenger forecasts ever arise, will be of the same order.

 In January 2012 the reported benefits amounted to £44.1bn sourced as follows: - £5.2bn for improved reliability, which is nonsense - trains could be made to run on time without spending tens of billions. £6.7bn for relief of crowding, most of which could be largely solved by adding a couple of carriages to peak-hour trains; £5.5bn for “other rail user impacts”, yet more nonsense and £2.1bn for “other impacts”.  The remaining £24.6bn depends on the discredited assumption that time on a train is entirely wasted.

Worse still the benefits assume no risk associated with the wildly optimistic passenger forecasts - requiring up to 18 1000-seat trains per hour.

Rather than returning £2 for every pound spent, as pretended, the return will be nearer 50 pence.  That at a time when rail is used overwhelmingly by the better off and when nearly half of us use a train less than once a year, let alone a high speed one.

As to the wider economic benefits, the 100,000 jobs that the network is said to create will have cost £500,000 each.  How many jobs will that destroy in that part of the economy that makes a profit?

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