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

Topic 26. Letters to Local Transport Today and the New Civil Engineer

 

A Sample - mostly published

All by Paul Withrington BSc MSc MICE C.Eng


Ref A point of view

Local Transport Today. Published 8th January 2016, Issue 688

Magazine heading "Yes, be angry with VW - but governments play games too".
The Letter is to do with the VW emissions scandal, speed cameras, electric cars and HS2.
It was originally submitted as a "Point of view".
 

Professor Goodwin’s exposure of the venality underlying the VW scandal is brilliant ( LTT 11 Dec)   However, the corruption and cynicism he deplores is not confined to the motor industry or to the private sector.  Instead it permeates Government.

Take the trumpeted headline that particulates cause “29,000 premature deaths”. That comes from the report, dated 2010, by the Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollutants, COMEAP with the snazzy title The Mortality Effects of Long-Term Exposure to Particulate Air Pollution in the United Kingdom. 

The Executive summary says that the 75% “plausibility limits” vary from about a sixth to double the figures shown.  Other inquiry found that the saving may be achieved only if all man-made particulates are eliminated and that only one tenth of those are from road traffic.  COMEAP say that eliminating those would increase life-expectancy by a vastly exciting 16 days, (range 3 to 32) for England and Wales and approximately 41 days (range 7 to 82) in Inner London.   The more usual 95% limits may have embraced zero, implying no effect whatsoever.  Worse still the report relies on risk coefficients culled from an old American Report[1] which contains wildly implausible data as revealed by the Joel Schwartz[2].

My view is that the evidence against particulates and the diesel engine is so weak as to be risible.[3] Nevertheless the COMEAP authors, possible for politically correct ‘Green’ reasons, have allowed the scare to run.  Heaven knows what it will cost the nation.

Speed cameras provide another area where the authorities are scandalously deaf to the data.  David Finney’s work seems pretty conclusive.  Long before that I, aided by Dr Luxford, showed that, prior to the start of that campaign, deaths per passenger-mile were falling at 7% pa but that, under the impact of the infernal machines, that beneficial trend fell to 2.5%. Worse still, we found an astonishing correlation between the extra deaths and the annual fines.[4]

Then we have the legendarily misleading Railway propaganda:

I give one example only. Bombardier told the Transport Committee’s, at its inquiry into the Future of Rail, 2003-04, that “to move 50,000 people per hour in one direction we need a 35 metre wide road used by buses or a 9 metre wide track bed for a metro or commuter railway”.  The reality is that one lane of a motor road can carry 1,000 75-seat express coaches per hour at 100 kph, providing 75,000 seats in the same width as required by a train.   

Such as that have led the nation to believe that only the railway can deal with commuter flows when, in reality, express coaches, given those rights of way, would be four times as efficient at a quarter the cost. 

HS2 is the icing on the gingerbread.  For example:

The disgraceful anecdote to do with capacity, cited above, is mirrored by the claim, made by the DfT, that HS2 will have the same capacity as a 12-lane motorway.  Instead a single express coach lane may have four times the capacity of HS2.

Secretary of State, McLoughlin, and others have said that the scheme will be transformational.  However, it is only generated trips which can transform.  They amount to a trivial 1.5% of all current rail trips and to only one in 2,000 of all passenger trips.  Hence, how on earth can the claim be justified?

The proposers claim that the scheme will generate some 100,000 jobs and regenerate ‘The North’.  However, many if not most of these ‘jobs’ will be relocations.  Furthermore, the cost per job is roughly £700,000 at 2011 prices.  Heaven knows how many other jobs that vast subsidy will destroy in that part of the economy which makes a profit, yet McLoughlin and all ignore the question.

HS2 Ltd represents the financial loss as £31.5bn at the 2011 price and discount base[5].  That corresponds to £66bn at the opening year 2033 discount base.  It is that which MPs and the nation should have been invited to focus on, not the published £31.5bn.  Meanwhile:

  • The Economic Affairs Committee of the House of Lords pours scorn on the values of time used to support this immensely expensive project.[6]
  • Only half the supposed benefits come from train time savings.[7]
  • If the £12bn due to dubious items, such as improved access, interchange and reliability, along with less walking, are struck out then the business case collapses.[8]
  • The latest analysis is rescued in part by inflating the proportion on business far above the values available from surveys.[9]

Talk about corruption and cynicism – think HS2, the railways, trams, speed cameras, electric cars and the Greens – or anyone whose career depends on agreeing with some established nonsense or other.

The solution is to (a) abandon subsidy leaving decisions to depend on financial analyses (b) impose tough penalties upon those who make predictions for vast fees which prove false. (Think, West Coast Main Line Modernisation - cost more than three times original estimate; Borders railway - cost five times original, BCR 0.5; forecasts for HS1 - three times too high; Great Western electrification, Edinburgh’s tram, etc.). 

Meanwhile, in the national interest HS2 should be cancelled immediately.  Instead and on the back of studies which will not stand examination, parliament has been persuaded to pour over £50 billion down the drain, as though it were pigswill, equivalent to wasting the lifetime wages of 50,000 working men.[10]


[1] American Cancer Society (ACS) study (Pope et al, 1995, 2002)

[2] Particulate air pollution: weighing the risks: Joel Shwartz, April 2003.

[3] Topic 34 in the T-W web site

[4] Topic 12 Transport Watch web site.

[5] Economic case for HS2, October 2013.

[6] The Economics of High Speed 2, HL Paper 134, 25th March 2015

[7] Table 11 of The Economic Case for HS2 October 2013.

[8] ibid

[9] Para 49 onwards in the Analysis at item 13, Topic 17 of the T-W web site

[10] See extensive analysis at topic 17 of the Transport Watch web site.


Ref. LTT 101 Electric cars and light rail 2020
Date 14th January 2016

Local Transport Today. Published 22nd January 2016 Issue 689

Electric cars and light rail

What a mercy it was to read that the market for electric car is failing, (LTT Jan 8th).  If that were not the case where on earth would the electricity come from?  After all if road transport were wholly electrified then generation would have to increase by 40% to 50%.  That at a time when the Government is to pay dirty diesel generators to fill the hole in the UK’s generating capacity so as to meet winter demand.  Worse still, the energy burnt in power stations would probably exceed that required by the IC powered road fleet, let alone the environmental hazard from all those lithium-ion batteries.  Of course we could dream on about hydrogen powered vehicles – hoping that the gas will fall out of the sky whilst overlooking the immense amount of energy required to manufacture and the technical difficulties of storing this highly volatile gas.

There is more joy in the Light Rail Sector where LTT Jan 8th wows us with a report of a “Very Light Rail vehicle”.  It is to weigh 1.3 tonnes per linear metre.  If the width is the standard 2.65 metres then we have £490 kg per square metre.  That is some 10% lighter than Sheffield’s Super-tram at 550 kg and 30% lighter than heavy rail’s 640 kg but it is still jolly, jolly heavy compared with a single deck city bus at 300 kg and more than double that for a double-decker.

The annual cost of these vehicles, capital plus maintenance, is not easy to find but our somewhat dated calculations, facts sheet 9 in the Transport Watch web site, suggest a factor of three in favour of the rubber tyred option.  Not surprising really bearing in mind that Kwik fit do not do steel tyres.

Why there is this mania for fixed track defies logic.  Buses on those near sterilised rights of way would perform the same task as the tram or train but at a fraction the cost whilst enabling countless other vehicles to divert from the unsuitable city streets and rural roads which they now clog.


Ref. LTT 99b LIGHT RAIL2020
Date 31st October 2015

Local Transport Today.  Published 12th November 2016, Issue 685

TRANSPORT POLICY MAKERS HAVE LITTLE GRASP OF NUMERACY

Andrew Braddock, Chairman of the Light Rail Transit Association, claims I am mistaken in my calculation of the average passenger flow on the Manchester’s metro.  (Letters LTT 30th Oct). However, it is he who is mistaken.  Here is the data for 2014/15 along with sources and calculation:

  • TSGB table LR 0101 provides 31.2million passenger-journeys
  • TSGB table LR 0104 provides 202.5 passenger-km
  • TSGB table LR 0204 provides 57 route-miles

Mr Braddock divides the 31.2 million by 300 days per year and gets 104,000 journeys per day.  Quite so, but that has nothing to do with the passenger flow averaged over the network.  That flow is calculated by dividing the 202.5 passenger-miles by the route length of 57 miles and by the 300 days, providing 11,842 passengers per day, which rounds up to 12,000, or to 6,000 each way, as in my letters of 2 Oct. 

Mr Braddock’s 104,000 would equal the 11,842 if every passenger travelled, end to end, over every mile of every branch of the network.  The values taken together mean that the average journey covers only 11% of the network e.g. 11,842/104,000 =11.4%.  Otherwise divide the passenger-miles by the journeys to obtain the average trip length and get 6.5 miles; equal to 11.4% of the network length.

Our chairman goes on to say that, “contrary to [my] claim, trams are in fact the ideal answer where mass public transport is required and their continued introduced in cities all over the world is testament to their ability to transform urban living”.  

Perhaps he missed Dave Melia’s piece, ‘Time to explode transport myths’ (LTT 16 Oct).  Dave Melia pointed out that only 1.4% of Manchester’s commuters use the tram, illustrating that the “transformation”, as far as Manchester is concerned, must be vanishingly small.  In fact it may be negative since the rights of way carry such piddling flows and have reduced capacity elsewhere. 

The truth is that big bangers with no grasp of numbers have control of the political agenda:  think Boris Johnson, degree in Greek, and Lord Adonis (how much he must love himself), degree in modern history and a doctorate in the British aristocracy.  They are then served by people who will say almost anything, provided it furthers a career.  The consequence for the nation is dire.

Doubtless this cancer will continue until we adopt a financial approach to the matter. There should perhaps be two guiding principles: (a) if it makes a loss DO NOT BUILD IT (b) penalties should be imposed on those whose forecasts turn out to be the ‘Horlicks’, obvious from the start.  Think HS1 and, of course, HS2, let alone these vastly expensive, low capacity tram systems.


Ref. LTT 99 LIGHT RAIL 2020
Date 31st October 2015

Local Transport Today: Published 2nd October 2015, Issue 682

LIGHT RAIL

Andrew Braddock, Chairman of the Light Rail Transit Association, claims I am mistaken in my calculation of the average passenger flow on the Manchester’s metro.  He thereby provides one reason why he should not be the Chairman of anything (Letters LTT 30th Oct). Here is the data for 2014/15 along with sources:

  • TSGB table LR 0101 provides 31.2million passenger-journeys
  • TSGB table LR 0104 provides 202.5 passenger-km
  • TSGB table LR 0204 provides 57 route-miles

Mr Braddock divides the 31.2 million by 300 days per year and gets 104,000 journeys per day.  Quite so, but that has nothing to do with the passenger flow averaged over the network.  That flow is calculated by dividing the 202.5 passenger-miles by the route length of 57 miles and by the 300 days, providing 11,842 passengers per day, which rounds up to 12,000, or to 6,000 each way, as in my letters of 2 Oct. 

Mr Braddock’s 104,000 would equal the 11,842 if every passenger travelled, end to end, over every mile of every branch of the network.  The values taken together mean that the average journey covers only 11% of the network e.g. 11,842/104,000 =11.4%.  Otherwise divide the passenger-miles by the journeys to obtain the average trip length and get 6.5 miles; equal to 11.4% of the network length.

Our chairman goes on to say that, “contrary to [my] claim, trams are in fact the ideal answer where mass public transport is required and their continued introduced in cities all over the world is testament to their ability to transform urban living”.  

Perhaps he missed Dave Melia’s piece, ‘Time to explode transport myths’ (LTT 16 Oct).  Dave Melia pointed out that only 1.4% of Manchester’s commuters use the tram, illustrating that the “transformation”, as far as Manchester is concerned, must be vanishingly small.  In fact it may be negative since the rights of way carry such piddling flows and have reduced capacity elsewhere. 

The truth is that big bangers with no grasp of numbers have control of the political agenda:  think Boris Johnson, degree in Greek, and Lord Adonis (how much he must love himself), degree in modern history and a doctorate in the British aristocracy.  They are then served by people who will say almost anything, provided it furthers a career.  The consequence for the nation is dire.

Doubtless this cancer will continue until we adopt a financial approach to the matter. There should perhaps be two guiding principles: (a) if it makes a loss DO NOT BUILD IT (b) penalties should be imposed on those whose forecasts turn out to be the ‘Horlicks’, obvious from the start.  Think HS1 and, of course, HS2, let alone these stupid tram systems.


Ref. LTT 98 LIGHT RAIL 2020 
 Date 9th September 2015
Local Transport  Today Not published

LIGHT RAIL

There have been a tremendous number of column inches on light rail over the months, but little data.

Andrew Braddock (LTT Sept 4th) says buses do not have the capacity of trains or trams.  He is right if he is talking of a bus on a city street, subject to congestion etc.  However, the single contra flow lane serving the Port Authority’s coach bus terminal in New York is 11 feet wide and 4 miles long including 1.5 miles in tunnel.  It offers 30,000 seats in the peak hour in 700 45-seat coaches.  1,000 per hour at 100, kph would provide 100 metre headways.  Given 75 seats per vehicle we would have 75,000 seats per hour.  That is the realistic capacity of one lane of a motor road dedicated to express coaches.  In comparison at (London) Victoria Main Line 30,000 crushed passengers arrive in the peak hour in trains requiring four inbound tracks – and a vast terminal.

Light rail used to mean rail not subject to block signalling, but light it is not.  The typical weight per sq metre of floor space is in excess of 500 kg.  In comparison a bus may weigh as little as 200 kg per sq metre.  The cost differential is similar or larger, let alone the track.  Coupled with that, the tram is inflexible and prevents other vehicles from using the rights of way which, in highway terms, are substantially disused. 

For example, in Manchester we have an average of 36 passengers per tram, calculated by dividing the passenger-miles by the tram-miles.  Further, the average daily flow across the network amounts to 12,000 passengers, calculated by dividing the annual passenger-miles by the right of way length and by 300 days.  Hence, we have an average of 6,000 passengers per day in each way.  With 25 passengers per vehicle 240 buses each way each would suffice.  That is, equivalent to less than 24 vehicles per hour, a flow so piddling it boggles the mind.  Of course, in the peak and at the busiest point the flow would be higher and the vehicles full but, even then, it is difficult to see more than a fraction of the capacity available being used.

The Europeans are famed for trams. However, is it merely a case of the grass seeming greener over there. Whatever the case Terry Mulroy OBE, a old doyen of Multi-Modal Studies, said, at an Institution of Civil Engineers meeting held on 21st November 2002, that, "If one asks the Planners in Geneva, Home of the Tram, if they would do it again, they will say quietly, never again – far too expensive". Meanwhile Grenoble renewed its tram network after only 10 years.  The costs are mind blowing.

For source data see Transport Statistics Great Britain.  For relatively comprehensive but old data see topic 8 and the associated spread sheet in the Transport-watch web site.


Ref. LTT 96 Light Rail 2020
Date 10th July 2015
Local Transport  Today not published

LIGHT RAIL

Andrew Foster’s six pages on Light Rail LTT, 10th July, are absolutely brilliant.  They create the most glorious rosy glow whilst being completely fact free.  Well of course they are; how else can you sell a railway?

Sadly, if we are not to go bankrupt we need to base decisions on facts rather than glorious rosy glows.  In this case we need:

  • The capital costs of the vehicles, the life spans, the maintenance costs, the fuel consumptions, the floor areas available to passengers, and the weights (are these systems actually “light”?), along with comparable data for buses or other systems.
  • The capital cost and annual maintenance costs of the track and infrastructure.
  • The number of vehicles, the annual vehicle miles, the operating costs not subsumed in the above, the number of staff and the track length (equal to the right of way length, if it is single track, or double that if it is double track).
  • The annual passenger-miles, annual passengers, the fares take and the support from public funds.

Only then would we find whether this almost certain dodo is more than a complete waste of taxpayers’ money.  Probably it’s a great deal more than a complete waste – instead it may be a truly gigantic one. But beware, if the data were provided would the cost be underestimated by a factor of at least two and passengers overestimated similarly?  Think Edinburgh Tram but for heaven’s sake do not mention HS2.


Ref. LTT 95 Rail Overground 2020
Date 10th July 2015
Local Transport Today: Not published

RAIL OVERGROUND

John Helm’s piece to do with London Overground, LTT 29th May, is vast but omits sensible cost and operational data.

In 2013/14 the system it carried 863 million passenger-km on 124 route km.  Dividing the one by the other and by the 300 effective days per year and by an average of only 20 passengers per carriage or coach and we have the equivalent of a pitiful 1,200 vehicles per day or 600 in each direction – all day - a flow so piddling it would not be noticed on a minor B-road.

Mike Brown boasts that he runs 8 trains per hour on the core network.  Oh my golly! With 4 cars per train we have the equivalent of bus every 90 seconds, and nothing else. That’s on the busy bit.

The net cost or subsidy in 2013/14 was £67m (i) amounting to 7.8 pence per passenger-km or 12.4 pence per mile – excluding depreciation or interest on capital expenditure. 

Financial assistance to London Rail, here presumed to mean London Overground, totalled  roughly £2bn for the 8 years to 2014 (ii), an average of £250m per year.  Hence, probably at least £2bn of capital has been spent on the system over the years.  That, if repaid at the Treasury discount rate of 3.5% over 30 years, costs £110m pa.  Adding the £67m operating subsidy and dividing by our 863 million passenger-km provides roughly 20 pence per km or subsidy of over 30 pence per passenger-mile, for heaven’s sake. Boris the heehaw (mayor) can only be pleased about that because he has a degree in Greek.

Christopher Jolly, LTT May 1st, is nearly right where he says London should abandon its rail fixation in favour of low cost busways.  Instead these rights of way should be ordinary roads managed to avoid congestion.  Limiting them buses would ensure that they would remain as substantially empty as they now are.



(i) Table 9 of  the TfL Business plan 2011/12 to 2014/15
(ii) Annual reports sand accounts

Ref. LTT 94 Speed 2020 
Date 10th July 2015
 
Local Transport Today. Published 24th July 2015:
 
20 mph limits misguided

Ian Gillies, York’s cabinet member, is quite wrong to say that “if Residents of Acacia Avenue say a 20 mph limit made a big difference who am I to argue”, LTT July 10th

Firstly, finger-waggers will come forth in droves even if there have been no accidents in 20 years.  Secondly, if 20 mph is sensible most drivers will already be close to that.  Thirdly, if there is a problem then speed humps would be a better and less unsightly solution.  Fourthly, unreasonably low and unenforceable limits are doubly stupid.  Fifthly, how about asking the drivers.

Sadly the control freaks and Rod Kings of this World will eventually win.  There are lots of finger-waggers all dying to bring us to a standstill.  Sooner or later every car may be fitted with a gizmo recording every infringement, one of which will be talking to your wife (Woops political slip there, hang head in shame and resign) - partner I dare say – a dystopian world ruled by fools.

Meanwhile, Ian Gilles may like to know that speeding amounts to less than 3% of the recorded causes of personal injury accidents, and that the downward trend in deaths per vehicle-km, previously over 7% per annum, collapsed to 2.5% as soon as the distraction of the cameras took hold, see Topic 12 and Facts sheet 13


Ref. LTT 93 Speed cam
Date 30th March Anno Domini 2015

DISHONOUR AND FINGER WAGGING

Part published in Local Transpot Today 670; see below

This element not published

We in the West pride ourselves on our lack of corruption, but could it be that we have brought it to a new peak of sophistication? 

Instead of those grubby brown envelopes or smoothly accepted, under the counter third world, bribes, our officials will graciously accept vast salaries, and consultants vast fees, in return for the unpalatable task of supporting any official policy however disreputable.

The latest example might be HS2 Ltd.  After all, the Economic analysis of October 2013 provided the “right” answer, despite a reduction in the value of business time from £47 per hr to £32, mainly because the proportion of time on business was increased from 30% to over 50%.  Astonishingly 65% of HS2 trips from London to Manchester are now said to be on business.  In comparison the National Rail Passenger Survey provides 9% of Virgin passengers boarding at Manchester as on business.  But no, that seeming fraud or vast discrepancy, supporting the waste of £50,000,000,000, is not the immediate cause of my fury. 

Instead it is the TRL’s scandalous endorsement of speed cameras in a study commissioned by the very police force whose cameras David Finney showed had no effect, LTT 20th March. 

In addition to David Finney’s work we have the Transport-Watch analysis.  That shows the decline in deaths per vehicle-km collapsed from 7.1% to  2.5% under the impact of the cameras.  Had the previous trend continued, there would have been over 10,000 fewer deaths than actually occurred.  Worse still there is an almost perfect correlation between those extra deaths and the fines imposed, fines which approached 2 million per year and which will have included old ladies exceeding some unreasonable limit by a couple of mph. 

Who would be surprised at that disaster?  After all the main effect of the cameras is to divert motorist’s attention from the road ahead to the speedometer – but no, go, go away - of course these officials will persist until pensionable in the fiction that the infernal machines save lives.

Published forward from here LTT 670 17th April under the heading '20 Isn't Plenty - let motorists decide safe speeds' .

Then we have this highly successful but dismally conceived “Twenty is plenty for us” campaign by Rod King.  That too will be a scandal, with massaged data and bent questionnaires.  Doubtless it is easy to persuade mums and dads in housing estates to say they want the traffic slowed down but put the question so that those people fully understand the impact of the proposal and a different answer may be obtained.

Making 20 mph the default would enormously frustrate nearly all drivers along with their passengers and lead to air pollution whilst doing little to reduce speeds in the streets of concern. There speeds are naturally low, often below Rod King’s 20.  In much of London and for much of the day 20mph would be impossible.  But to creep along Pall Mall or Whitehall at 20 mph would be ridiculous particularly at times when traffic is light.  – Oh gosh, what a good idea -  why does he not go for the red flag and 4 mph? 

The plain fact is that all, or nearly all, drivers want to stay alive and do all they reasonably can to avoid damage to their vehicles or to others.   Of course those young men occasionally seen tearing up and down should have their vehicles, if not their bollocks, crushed, but to finger-wag the rest of us is insupportable.

As to limits generally, these are always either far too low or far too high, depending on the traffic conditions.  Instead motorists should be left to themselves.  Survival being high on the agenda, speeds would remain sensible with the benefit of a greater concentration on the road ahead. 

The effect of back seat drivers such as Rod King is to distract motorists and to diminish their sense of responsibility.  It would be an enormous relief if he would drive away to the horizon at a speed considerably above 20 mph, a speed which is nothing like plenty for the rest of us.


Ref. LTT 92 Rail Pol

Local Transport Today: Published  20th March 2015. Issue 668

Pacer debate is a distraction: railways are a waste of money - a vast wast of space

 

The latest issue of LTT (6th March) illustrates the grip that rail has upon the imagination of the nation.  Two pages are devoted to whether the “diesel train” has a future, as though anyone but railway anoraks care. Is there any other subject with less impact on transport policy as a whole, or on the public, than that? 

National rail carries 3% of the nation’s passenger journeys, 8.7% of passenger miles and 8.5% of freight.  Whether or not a proportion of that trivial product is dragged by a diesel or an electric loco will depend on costs, supposing the railway lobby does not allow its grasp of arithmetic to be fogged by either (a) sentiment for the great days of steam, now faintly echoed by the diesel’s chug, chug, or (b) by the joy of wasting squillions on behalf of the taxpayer.

What is important is the magnificent use which rail makes of its track. That is illustrated by the picture gracing the article. It displays four superbly aligned tracks carrying a one-car “train” believed to be a “Class 144 Pacer”, Oh Wow!!! Train spotters go mad.  Oh, my gosh! 

The waste of space is mindboggling.  It is mirrored across the network where, if the railway function were carried by express coaches and lorries, the flow per track would be less than 500 vehicles per day, a flow so small it would be entirely lost in one lane of a motor road.

Even in Central London and in the peak hour that vastly expensive, grade-separated multi-track system is, in highway terms, substantially disused.  At any rate, if the trains were replaced by 75-seat express coaches, sufficient in number to provide seats for all those crushed railway commuters, then those coaches would occupy only one seventh of the capacity of the network, if paved. 

Outside the peak, flows are six times less than in the peak, meaning (Oh gosh! Again) it would be even more nearly empty, but saved at the bell, if not the whistle, by the tens of thousands of lorries and other vehicles which could divert from the unsuitable city streets which they now clog.

Sentimentalists and vested interests are responsible for the vast waste that the railways are.  The opportunity cost of preserving the things, instead of paving over the tracks, is beyond calculation. 

What is certain is that it costs the Government seven times as much to move a passenger or tonne of freight by rail as it does by the strategic road network.  Furthermore, paving the railway would reduce both carbon emissions and casualties, offer faster journeys for all but the longest and reduce the fares endured by those crushed, often seat-less, railway commuters by between 50% and 75%.

Inadequate width? Bah!  Double track rights of way are wide enough for the carriageway of a two-way trunk road, even in tunnels.   The alignments would be vastly superior to the tarmacked cow trails which double as A-roads in the UK, let alone the typical city street.


Ref. LTT 91 The Great Dirty Diesel 

Local Transport Today. Published  9th January 2015

THE GREAT DIRTY DIESEL SCARE

The Media headline, that man-made air pollution causes “29,000 premature deaths” in the UK is from a report, dated 2010, by the Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollutants, COMEAP.  The snazzy title is The Mortality Effects of Long-Term Exposure to Particulate Air Pollution in the United Kingdom.  The report runs to 108 pages.

However, (a) The “29,000” are premature by only six months with an extraordinarily wide “75% plausibility limit” of one month to one year (b) the saving may be achieved only if all man-made particulates are eliminated (c) only about one tenth of man-made particulates are from road traffic.

My separate inquiry to COMEAP found that removing all particles attributable to local traffic may increase average life-expectancy by 16 days for England and Wales and approximately 41 days in Inner London.  I infer that plausibility limits may be from one sixth to double those numbers, e.g. from 7 to 82 days in inner London and from three to 30 days elsewhere.  Oh Gosh!!

The computation and assumptions underlying the data are opaque.  The report refers to an earlier report with the title, “Long-Term Exposure to Air Pollution: Effect on Mortality”, published in 2009, 196 pages.  That report refers to “Relative Risk” coefficients derived from the “American Cancer Society (ACS) study (Pope et al, 1995, 2002)”.  COMEAP uses those coefficients, together with other sources, to compute the changes in life expectancy.  However, the complexity and opacity of the whole undermines confidence.  Indeed common sense suggests that it may be nigh on impossible to isolate the effects of particulates from the other factors.

In any event, the paper by Joel Schwartz, Adjunct Scholar of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, with the title, “Particulate air pollution, weighing the risks”, demonstrates that the ACS paper is deeply flawed - probably particulates have no effect on lifespan whatsoever.  That conclusion is consistent with COMEAP’s own findings, where, at section 3.1.3, risk coefficients range from unity to 1.15 where a value of unity implies no effect.

Probably the present attack on the diesel vehicle has a basis only in junk science.  Nevertheless the nation, or at least the Lord Mayor of London, is embarking on a “ban the diesel” campaign likely to cost the economy millions if not billions of pounds. 

What a shame it is that Boris and his advisors prefer the grand gesture to bothering with the numbers.


 Ref. LTT 90 lots

SPEED CAMERAS AND OTHER NONSENSE - SHOULD THEY ALL BE SUED  Version published 3rd October 2014

Ian Drummond (Regression to the Mean? What nonsense! 05 Sept) does rather shoot himself in the foot.  He says that no one really dares challenge the notion [of RTM] for fear of seeming “uneducated or unsophisticated”.  He goes on to declare he is both of those things.

In addition to Idris Francis’s excellent research and his reference to David Finney’s RTM analysis showing that the speed cameras have done nothing to save lives, I cite the analysis carried out by Dr Geoff Luxford for us.  It shows that during the 13 years prior to 1995, the time when the cameras really started to bite, deaths per vehicle-km were declining at 7.1% per year but that that beneficial trend, instead of accelerating, then collapsed to 2.5%.

Had the historic trend continued there would have been at least 10,000 fewer deaths than actually occurred.  Dr Luxford also showed that there is a remarkable correlation between the extra deaths and the number of people fined – suggesting that the more they fine us the more we die, see  Transport Watch topic 12.

Against that background and the refreshing idea that consultants should be sued for making (wildly) optimistic forecasts, should we not add to that list all those who have, in defiance of the data, shamelessly canvassed for the speed cameras down the years?

Likewise, for those (including nearly every policeman in the land) who stridently proclaim that mobile phone use is a most heinous and dangerous offence worthy of six points, if not death by firing squad.  Of course no one would encourage such use but the fact is that, despite its frequency, mobile phone use accounts for a vanishingly small proportion of the recorded causes of road traffic accidents, namely one in 200 for fatals and one in 700 for all injury accidents, Transport-Watch facts sheet 13.

Then we have the HS1 forecast debacle, wrong by a factor of three, the impending HS2 £50bn to £100bn disaster – fuelled by the untenable, the £1bn cost estimate for the electrification of the Great Western, said to be far too low, the cost estimate for the Modernisation of the West Coast Main Line Modernisation Programme, too low by a factor of at least four (Transport-Watch facts sheet 6) and Bombardier’s scandalous evidence to the Transport Committee’s inquiry into the Future of the railway 2003/04.  (The firm claimed that “to carry 50,000 passengers in one direction we would need a 35m wide road used by buses or a 9 metre wide track bed for a metro”, wrong, with respect to buses, where 7 to 9 metres would suffice for 75,000 seats per hour).

Fines proportional to both the fees taken and the scale of the error would stop the nonsense to the immense benefit of the nation – supposing we could afford the benefit payments needed to rescue HS2’s erstwhile executives and the railway lobby - along with all those police men -  from penury


Ref, LTT 89 electric cars ASA letter 01

Local Transport Today. Published 5th September 2014

THE ZERO EMISSIONS ELECTRIC CAR.

In May of last year Transport-Watch lodged a complaint against an advert placed by Renault which claimed that the official fuel consumption for the Renault Zoe range of electric cars was “not available” and that the official CO2 emissions were zero, but (strangely) that the latter may vary according to driving conditions.

Both claims seem ludicrous since the electricity consumption is known along with the carbon emission per kW hour of power supplied. Hence, we were astonished when our complaint was summarily rejected within about a week.  We then pointed out that a similar advert by BMW, placed in 2010, had suffered a similar complaint and that ASA had told BMW not to repeat the zero emission claim. 

It took ASA a year to respond, but when it did it again rejected our complaint, concluding with the words: “We investigated the ad under CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 and 3.3 (Misleading advertising), 3.9 (Qualification), 11.1, 11.4 and 11.7 (Environmental claims), but did not find it in breach”.  Well, here is what the guidance says:-

3.1: Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so.

3.3: Marketing communications must not mislead the consumer by omitting material.

3.9: Marketing communications must state significant limitations and qualifications.

11.1: The basis of environmental claims must be clear. Unqualified claims could mislead if they omit significant information.

11.4 Marketers must base environmental claims on the full life cycle of the advertised product, unless the marketing communication states otherwise, and must make clear the limits of the life cycle. If a general claim cannot be justified, a more limited claim about specific aspects of a product might be justifiable. Marketers must ensure claims that are based on only part of the advertised product’s life cycle do not mislead consumers about the product’s total environmental impact.

11.7: Marketing communications must not mislead consumers about the environmental benefit etc.

We were bemused.  It could not be more obvious that a claim of zero emissions breaks every one of those guidelines.  Hence we appealed.  In that appeal we showed that the energy burnt in power stations and used to power the ZOE car provided a fuel consumption equivalent to only 56 miles per gallon and that the carbon emission amounted to 79 gms of CO2 per km, if the energy used in battery manufacture is ignored, and to 118 gms if the latter is taken into account.  We compared that with advertised data for the Peugeot 108.  After increasing the fuel consumption and carbon emission by 10%, to allow for refinery and distribution losses, that vehicle returns 60mpg and emits 109gms of CO2 per km.

At that point that it seemed obvious to us that no one could deny us the appeal.  How wrong we were.  Instead the independent adjudicator, in the form of Sir Hayden Phillips GCB DL, wrote that ASA had acted entirely properly and within the legal framework.  Among other he provides;

 “I see from your review request that you attached an email response from the VCA which says: “Following the 2013 amendment to the regulation, it became necessary to display the CO2 and fuel consumption figures for all vehicles – including electric vehicles, albeit that the results will be ‘0’ for CO2 emissions and ‘N/A’ (not applicable) for fuel consumption”. The advertisement you complain of follows this guidance precisely and I cannot see how you can reasonably expect the ASA not to follow the guidance of the responsible authority in this area. For them not to have done so could well have been a substantial flaw; but to do so was both defensible and reasonable and therefore not flawed”.

The fact that the VCA Guidelines are (a) not binding (its introduction says that “It is not offered as an authoritative legal interpretation of the meaning of the Regulations”) and (b) are in contradiction to the engineering reality, ASA’s own guidance and to similar guidance in the Green Claims Code published by DEFRA and BIS, the UK Code of Broadcast Advertising (BCAP Code) and the International Standard, ISO 14021:5.7h did not carry any weight.  Instead Sir Hayden stood firmly behind the non-binding VCA guidance, a stance which we find incredible.

We conclude that ASA and the adjudicator are not fit for purpose. At any rate it is clear that this extraordinarily misleading advert will continue until someone in high places forces the VCA to bring its guidelines into line with reality, or the ASA decided that its own guidance trumps the ludicrous guidance published by the VCA.

 Alternatively, could it be that (a) the ASA lacks scientists or (b) the adjudicator should be one in such cases or (c) we are in the grip of corruption driven by politics and by vested interests, such as car manufacturers paid to promote electric cars on the contested premise that they will reduce carbon emissions?


Ref. LTT 88 SUPIDITY
Date 15th August Anno Domini 2014 

LITANY OF STUPIDITY (continued) NOT PUBLISHED

In reply to Ed Gibbins and Norman Bradbury (8th Aug) our data, based on a range of conversions, suggests an all-in cost of £100 to £130 per sq metre. Applying £100 to the 16,000 km of rail right of way and assuming a generous ten-metre width throughout yields £16bn for the entire network (all-in).  See Transport-watch facts sheet 12.

Only those determined to sabotage the idea of conversion would insist on verges etc. as required for new rural roads, as does Norman.  Instead converted railways would make the best use of the (level) width available, typically 8.5 metres on a double track railway and 7.3 metres in tunnels or on viaducts.  (In Scotland and Northern Ireland six-metre carriageways are part of the standard where forecast flows are less than 5,000 per day).

Norman points to surveys which show that, when buses replace trains, two thirds of the passengers are lost.  Well of course they are.  However, if those buses occupied the railway alignments at one quarter the cost of the train and with matching or better speeds and a service frequency two to three times as great, then the reverse may very well be the case.

These pictures prove the point whilst illustrating the waste of space which the railways are.  – see Picture in previous letter.


Ref. LTT 87 STUPIDITY
Date 13th July Anno Domini 2014

NORTHERN RAIL AND CYCLISTS IN SCOTLAND PUBLISHED th JULY - VOID OF THE PICTURE

Andrew Foster’s article on the vision for the North’s railways (11th July) sports a dramatic picture of the Leeds to Carlisle line, complete with an absolutely magnificent two-car “train”!! 

The timetable provides two trains per hour between the two cities (hurrah, hurrah).  The 73 mile journey takes two and three-quarter hours.  A second class single may knock you back a splendid £45.   Absolutely brilliant, plenty of time for people like Malcolm Bulpitt (11th July), Ed Gibbins and Norman Bradbury, when on expenses, to compose letters saying they have often pointed out that such rights of way simply cannot be converted to roads.  What absolute nonsense particularly in view of the conversions which exist, e.g.. Yeadon Way Blackpool built on top of a railway embankment. 

The Leeds to Carlisle line is double track.  On such railways the clear distance between viaduct walls and tunnel walls is typically 7.3 metres, the same as required by the carriageway of a two-way trunk road.   On tangents the level widths are circa 8.5 metres.  On bends the widths are greater to accommodate carriage overhang.  That is of course not wide enough for the three metre verges which form part of the rural road standard.  However, a road with a carriageway 8.5 metres wide on a railway alignment would be very much better than the tarmacked cow trails, wending their ways through town and village, which so very often double as A-roads. 

Such a converted railway would extract countless lorries and other vehicles from the unsuitable rural roads which they currently clog.  Rail passengers would have an express coach service at a fraction of the cost of the train and, in the Leeds to Carlisle case, a journey one and a half hours shorter than the taken by the modern chuff-chuff which passengers now endure.

As ever, the Transport-watch credo is to make the best use of land already committed to transport in the interest of the community as a whole rather than to pander to the sentimental nonsense peddled by those wishing to play with a full sized railway set at taxpayers’ expense.
………...…………………………

Then we have Andrew Frazer’s batty business of the trends in deaths to cyclists in Scotland.  He cites the five year average falling from 10.2 to 8.8 to 6.4 and back up to 7.4.  However, that tells us almost nothing about the trend.  For example, if the five year total averages e.g.. 40 then take the square root and get 6.3.  Double it and add and subtract from the mean.  You will then have a rough estimate of the 95% confidence limits on the five year total.  That is to say, if there is no trend and if the average five year total is 40 we should expect anything in the range 27 (5.4 per year) to 52 (10.4 per year) in the next five years.  One time in 20 and by pure chance the rate may be outside those limits.  Putting it even more graphically, if there are on average nine deaths per year, then, by pure chance we should expect anything between three and 15 next year.


Ref. LTT 86 STUPIDITY
Date 16th June Anno Domini 2014 

LITANY OF STUPIDITY PUBLISHED BUT VOID OF THE PICTURE

Writing as a cyclist of nearly 75 years standing (70 peddling), proud owner of an 8-speed Sturmy Archer hub gear and still biking about, I find it extraordinary that the cycle lobby can have persuaded our law makers to make the motorist liable if he or she collides with a cyclist.  After all most of them are so stupid that they sport no visibility jacket and no lights whilst hazarding their lives by whizzing up the left hand side of lorries at junctions. Likewise with the behaviour of many pedestrians, often nearly invisible at night yet dashing across roads or stepping off kerbs at random.  Shiver m’ timbers; is it not time for those irresponsible people to be made liable for their irresponsibility rather than the motorist? And, Oh-yes!! – let us do our bit to solve unemployment by producing a pointless Cycle Forecasting Handbook.

Professor Overman is quite right to point the finger at the “Transport debate damaged by dubious job creation claims”.  Likewise with the Wider Economic Benefits.  E.g.. in the case of HS2, KPMG claimed WEBs worth 15bn per year.  Dividing that by the generated business plus commuter trips (the only ones which could provide these WEBs) produces a ludicrously high number.  As to the jobs created, even if the 100,000 claimed arise the cost per job will be in the range £500,000 to £800,000; destroying heaven only knows how many other jobs in that part of the economy which makes a profit.

In contrast there is a glimmer of hope in that the North’s rail franchise may cut services and charge higher fares.  Better still, take the railway lines off and create a reserved system of motor roads suitable for express coaches and lorries.  After all the Trans-Pennine “Express” (Ha, Ha) offers just four trains per hour between Leeds and Manchester. If each train has four 75-seat carriages the trains are equivalent to, twenty-four 50-seat express coaches, a flow so trivial it is difficult to conceive.  Meanwhile at best the trains average a magnificent 50 mph for heavens sake.  The right of way is of course wide enough for the carriageway of a two-way Trunk road. 

The opportunity cost lost by effectively sterilising the whole by surfacing it with railway lines is overwhelming.  Just imagine doing the same to the nation’s road network – the place would be at a near standstill, which is what the railway is in highway terms.

Then we have Edinburgh Tram at £775 million for 8.7 miles and 15 stops.  The cost at £44 million per track mile is more than twelve times the cost per lane-mile of a motorway capable of carrying 75,000 passengers per hour per lane.

As to the speed cameras – whether of not Dave Finney’s analysis is correct, and it probably is, the plain fact is that for the 15 years, prior to the camera campaign, deaths per vehicle-km were falling by over 7% per year.  However, from 1995, the effective start, to 2006 that beneficial tend collapsed to 2.5%.  Had the previous trend continued there would have been over 10,000 fewer deaths than actually arose.  Despite that, those making careers (and shed loads of cash) out of the infernal machines continue to finger wag whilst claiming that the campaign has saved lives.  Well they would wouldn’t they, leaving motorists to concentrate on theirs speedometers instead of the road ahead.

In parallel with that we have “research” showing that use of a mobile phone while driving is worse than being drunk, only to find that phone use amounts only one in 200 of the recorded causes of fatal road accidents and to one in 700 of the recorded causes of all injury accident (1). Bah! (I hasten to add I own no such phone).

(1)  The following table relates is from teh Transport-watch facts sheet 13.  It relates  to 2011 and is extracted from the DfT data here. It is clear that both speeding and mobile phone use are trivial recorded causes of road traffic accidents.   

 

Killed

Serious

Slight

All injury

Total number of casualties

1,752

20,396

142,198

164,346

Total causes

4,447

49,012

337,012

390,460

Speeding as % total causes

5.44%

2.81%

2.2%

2.3%

Phone as % total causes

0.52%

0.15%

0.14%

0.15%

 


 Ref. LTT 85
Date 5th May2014
Very much shorted version  

Shortened and altered version published in Local Tansport Today of 16th May 2014

IN REPLY TO A LITANY OF STUPIDITY

  1. Bizarrely, Norman Bradbury (Ltt 18th April) attacks the idea that the railways would be better as roads by pointing out that, “a  long time ago he and I had a conversation about my ‘misguided methodology’ in a pub following which I departed for home, not via Victoria Coach Station but by train from Euston to Northampton”. 
  2. Well of course I did.  The coach would have taken at least two and a half hours and was not available until midnight. However, had the railway been paved the express coach from Euston would have matched the train for speed and at a fraction of the cost.  Unfortunately I did not have that choice.
  3. Edward Gibbins makes the extraordinary statement that I ignore costs.  A glance at our web site will show nothing could be further from the truth.  For example there is, at topic 2, a spread sheet which provides the costs to Government, along with passenger-km and tonne-km for roads and Network Rail for the years 2006 to 2011.  It shows that the cost per passenger-km or tonne-km were seven times as high for rail as they were for the strategic road network. 
  4. Ed goes on to make the (daft) claim that bus stations “up to 20 floors would be inescapable”.  In contrast consider Waterloo main line.  There the peak hour flow of 50,000 passengers would all find seats in 700 75-seat express coaches.  If the dwell time were as long as six minutes, 70 bus bays would be required, a trivia compared with the vast area available.
  5. Ed and I agree about the length and cost of Yeadon Way, built mainly atop of a railway embankment with no widening.  It cost £190 per sq metre at 2012 prices.  At the other extreme we have Southport bypass costing £45 per sq metre.  The Hall Smith Report of 1975 provided a robust average for the lines studied of £130 per sq metre (2012 prices and including terminal costs).  Applying that to Network Rail’s 16,000 km and assuming a generous average width of 10 metres yields a conversion bill for the whole of £21 billion; a mere bagatelle compared with the circa £75bn paid to the railways these last 20 years, let alone HS2.
  6. Ed also refers to the chaos during conversion but overlooks the daily, but well ordered, disaster which the railways inflict upon us by effectively sterilising, at huge cost, a vast and expensive network which penetrates to the hearts of our towns and cities.  Just imagine what would happen if they paved the roads with railway lines.  The place would be at a near standstill, which is what the railways are.
  7. To appreciate the scale of that, consider central London.  There, some 250,000 surface rail passengers arrive in the peak hour.  There are at least 25 inbound tracks, implying an average of 10,000 passengers per track.  The 10,000 would all find seats in 150 75-seat express coaches, sufficient to fill one- seventh of the capacity of one lane of a motor road the same width as required by a train.   Those who cannot believe the numbers may care to view the contra-flow bus lane in New York.  It is 11 feet wide and offers as many seats in the peak hour as there are crushed passengers arriving at Victoria Main Line in trains requiring four inbound tracks.
  8. That is to say, London’s vast, clunking, grade-separated and immensely expensive network is, in highway terms, scarcely used, even in the peak hour.  Outside the peak the network is a place of dreams.  My critics should perhaps visit the platforms of any central London terminal at lunch time so as to experience a cathedral-like peace, a peace which may bolster the almost religious, but fact free, fervour which inspires them. Meanwhile the adjacent city streets are clogged with unsuitable traffic. 
  9. Of course these people claim railways are generally “too narrow”.  However, the level width on a double track railway is everywhere wide enough for the carriageway of a two-way trunk road.  On the approaches to towns, where greater widths may be needed, the widths are vast.  The alignments, compared with the tarmacked cow trails, which double for many of our A-roads, are superb.
  10. William Barter (2nd May) calls the average 170 passengers per train on Virgin “an abstraction”.  It is not my fault that the number comes out that way.  Of course there is variability, hour to hour, but the number is real and right enough.  That is why he cannot overturn it. 
  11. The idea that the WCML railway is, or will be, out of capacity overlooks the possibility of balancing supply and demand by price; a strangely time-honoured technique, particularly useful where a business makes catastrophic losses, as does the WCML after taking capital into account.
  12. William also criticises the £80 billion cost which I assigned to HS2. The costs amount to £43bn for construction and the £7bn for the trains.  Tax at 20.9%, included in the economic analysis, should be added, providing £60bn.  After all, no project is in isolation from the rest of the economy.  Instead, all must bear their tax burden.  Billions more may be required to upgrade stations and to connect to the parkways, the connection to HS1 will return, and the system will, if ever started, be extended.  Hence the final bill may spiral ever upwards into the hundreds of billions. 
  13. Ronald D Utt, PhD, in his paper “America’s Coming High Speed Rail Financial Disaster”, points out that Japan’s HSR debt is $300 billion and that the debts for the rest are similarly vast.  Should the UK aspire to “compete”, then we may very well spend, and effectively waste, the same.  Hopefully, we are not stupid enough to emulate these lemmings, but the signs are not good.
  14. On 29th April 1974 Frances Caincross, now, among other, the Chair of the Executive Committee of the Institute of Fiscal Studies, wrote, in the Guardian  “….when trains are still the theme of nursery rhymes and children's stories, it is small wonder that the railways have a romantic fascination for most adults. Only years of nursery conditioning can explain the calm with which the public has accepted a bill of £3,000 millions (£37bn at 2013 prices) to subsidise British Rail over the last decade”.  She went on to canvass for conversion (1)
  15. Likewise Stewart Joy, Chief Economist to British Railways in the late 1960s, castigates the Railway lobby, in his book ‘The Train that Ran Away’ as being “prepared cynically to accept the rewards of high office in return for the unpalatable task of tricking the Government on a mammoth scale, those men”, Joy wrote, “Were either fools or knaves”.
  16. As in my previous, when is irrational exuberance mis-selling and when is mis-selling purely cynical if not plainly fraud?

Note (1) See Item 6 in topic 7 in the Transport-watch web site and find quote 25. 


Published in Local Transport Today on 18th April 2014

Thirteen reasons why HS2 is a colossal waste of money

HS2 is not, as claimed by Graham Nalty, a great idea being led by the wrong kind of people (Viewpoint LTT 4 Apr). It is a disastrous idea being by led by scoundrels. Here’s why:

  1. The cost, including the trains and the often omitted links to the new stations, will be at least £80bn. That is equivalent to nearly £3,000 for every household in the land. Meanwhile, 45% of us use a train less than once a year and 99% of us will seldom, if ever, use a high- speed one.
  2. The financial loss faced by those living in 2036, assuming the fares out to the remote year of 2096 actually arise, will be £74bn at 2011 prices – equivalent to pouring the wages of 74,000 working men’s lives down the drain. Not quite World War One levels but trying hard.
  3. Transformational? The trips generated by the network will add a trivial 1.5% to rail journeys and an even more trivial 0.05% to all passenger journeys. It is only those that can be transformational since the rest obviously pre-exist. With numbers as small as that it is impossible to sustain this “transformational” storyline whilst maintaining a straight face.
  4. Regeneration: The network is said to generate 100,000 jobs although many, if not most, may be relocations. If the project proceeds each of these supposedly new jobs will have cost the taxpayer £800,000. How many will that destroy in that part of the economy that makes a profit? Again the official storyline (economic regeneration etc) is destroyed.
  5. Wider Economic Benefits, the WEBs: The KPMG report claims that the proposal will generate WEBs worth £15bn a year. Those can only arise because of new or generated business and commuter trips. They number circa 7.75 million a year.  Dividing the £15bn by that number provides £1,930 or over £4,000 per return trip. In contrast, dividing the nation’s GDP by the business plus commuter trips by all modes yields WEBs of only £141 per trip or £282 for a round trip – an extraordinary 14 times less than the value of the business plus commuter trips supposedly generated by HS2!!  
  6. Existing trips must have higher WEBs than those generated merely because a journey time has been reduced somewhat. The usual theory suggests double.  Hence if KPMG’s £15bn is to be believed, existing trips on the West Coast Main Line generate WEBs with an average value per round trip of £8,000! The charitable conclusion is that KPMG did not carry out this reality check. If it had, surely it would not have been so stupid as to publish its £15bn estimate.
  7. The passenger forecasts: the original forecasts made for HS1 were three times as high as the numbers that materialised. Those for HS2 require eighteen 1,100-seat trains per hour, an extraordinary thing not yet achieved on any high-speed network in the world. No risk is assigned to that, indicating a flamboyant disregard for reasonable caution.
  8. A key driver for the passenger forecasts is the growth in Gross Domestic Product. However, between 1955 and 1995 GDP grew by 150% but rail use did not change. In contrast, since 1995 GDP grew by 40% but rail use has increased by a whopping 70%. The comparison suggests GDP has little to do with it. Instead the recent growth will be due to the razzmatazz of privatisation. If so, this greatly strengthens the case for applying a risk factor to the forecasts.
  9. Capacity: Virgin’s trains carry an average of 170 passengers in 2012/13. An 11-car Pendolino offers over 600 seats with over 700 available if first class, restaurant and shopping areas are converted to second class.  In the peak three hours half the seats out of Euston are said to be empty. Additionally, substantial increases in capacity could be achieved at relatively low cost by lengthening the trains and some platforms etc. More importantly, the sensible approach, when demand exceeds supply, particularly if a product makes a loss in the billions of pounds, is to balance supply and demand by raising the price. Against that background would a straight face break in half if it had to maintain the notion that the lack of capacity on the West Coast Main Line justifies spending £80bn on starting a high-speed network?
  10. Ludicrously the Campaign to Protect Rural England  and DfT claim that HS2 will have the same capacity as a 12-lane motorway. Well, the supposed eighteen 1,100-seat trains per hour will offer a paltry 19,800 seats. That is nearly four times fewer than the 75,000 available from one lane of a motor road carrying one thousand 75-seat coaches per hour at 100 kph.  At that speed the headways would average 100 metres. The single lane would then offer 75,000 seats, four times that of the railway!
  11. The quaintly called “Willingness to pay calculus”, upon which the economic analysis depends, allows fares to be subtracted from costs and the difference – the net cost to the Government – to be compared with the supposed social benefits. However, the theory reduces to the absurd when it is realised that changing the economic boundary of the scheme or changing the tax regime, changes the net costs. The theory was cooked up by Professor Sugden of the University of East Anglia. It persists because, without it, no railway scheme would ever pass the cost benefit test – suggesting dishonesty at the highest level.
  12. The North-South divide is hardly likely to be reduced by the proposal; quite the reverse. For example, Phase One was said to generate 40,000 jobs with 9,000 in construction and 1,500 attributed to operating the line. Of the remainder, 70% would be in London. 
  13. International comparisons confirm that such schemes benefit capital cities rather then the regions and that the financial losses are vast. For example, the debt due to the much-lauded Japanese system is $300 bn. Why on earth would we want to copy that?

 At what point is irrational enthusiasm mis-selling and at what point is mis-selling plainly fraud?


 Ref. LTT83 Cost Benefit and land values
Local Transport  Today, published on 21 March 2014

COST BENEFIT AND LAND VALUES etc

David Metz canvases for changes in land values to be the measure of benefits rather than the traditional times savings etc, LTT 10th March.  I canvassed for the same in the now defunct journal, “The Surveyor”, 8th and 15th December 1972. 

Among other I pointed out that the standard cost benefit analysis would not capture benefits in a range of circumstances.  E.g. Suppose we have an uncongested road upon which traffic doubled over 20 years whilst remaining uncongested.  Time savings would be zero.  Consequently the significant economic effect of doubling traffic would be beyond the standard benefit calculation.

However, I wrote tongue in cheek, omitting the obvious problems inherent within the land value approach.  For example, suppose every single journey in the land had its time, or cost, halved.  Since the cash in circulation may remain the same, land values, or at least the prices people would pay for land, would remain unchanged.  Moreover, as pointed out by David Metz, the time spent travelling would remain the same.  Instead of saving the time, we would all travel further.

Alternatively, consider two towns A and B, both with no good link to London.  If town A acquires a fast link to the capital then property prices may or will go up, but those in B may go down – the professionals moving, over time, to the town A.  Nation-wide, the increases and decreases in these values would probably balance out unless there was a real increase in the total cash available..

My view is that cost benefit analysis is only sensible in situations where there is no market, as in road construction.  There, time, accident and resource savings are reduced and may be compared with cost. That seems sensible.  However, where there is a market, as would be the case if there were road pricing, or congestion charging, or as there is with the railways, this cost benefit approach should have no place. 

Instead the obvious principle should be  - If it makes a loss, particularly if the loss is in the tens of billions of pounds, then DO NOT BUILD the stupid HS2 thing.

Instead of that common sense principle, cost benefit has been distorted to support the cases made for public transport and rail in particular.  For those schemes the quaintly called “Willingness to Pay Calculus”, cooked up by Professor Sugden of the University of East Anglia, enables the Government to subtract fares from costs and to compare the net cost to the alleged social benefits. 

That leads to the absurd.  For example, if taxes are changed at the stroke of a pen then the net cost changes, let alone the consequence of widening or narrowing the economic boundary for which the Government is responsible.

My view is that this “Willingness to Pay calculus” endures only because, without it, no railway scheme would ever pass scrutiny – unless, that is, the nation thought it sensible, for purely sentimental reasons, to preserve what is in fact an immensely expensive, fully modernised, working transport museum – a vast Rembrandt, writ large and in steel – puffed up for ever by a scandalous railway lobby and its vast salaries.

If, instead of the railway lobby’s fact-free flummery, the market were allowed to take its course, with the proviso that land already committed to transport should be retained in that use, then, in no time, the railways would be converted to a system of immensely profitable motor roads managed to avoid congestion.

All London commuters would then all have seats in express coaches at a quarter the cost of the train whilst using less fuel, and emitting less carbon than the train and occupying only one seventh of the highway capacity then available.

Sadly the idea is too large for those whose brains are stuck between tram lines – doubtless reduced to making stupid comments about the railways being too narrow whilst never acknowledging the success of conversions such as Yeadon Way, Blackpool, built on top of a double track railway embankment.


ICE26 HS2
Submitted 24th February 2014

New Civil Engineer

HIGH SPEED RAIL  

Mark Hansford, the New Civil Engineer’s interim editor, writes on 20th Feb that “The effect of postponing HS2 on our future prosperity would be crippling”. 

HS2 is to cost £50bn including the trains but not the connecting infrastructure.  The latter may inflate the cost to £80 bin.  The financial loss to the nation will be similar or larger if the extraordinary passenger forecasts do not arise.  How crippling will that be?

HS2 is said to generates some 76,000 passengers per day, (FoI request), corresponding to roughly 22.8 million per year.  It is only those which can be “transformational”, since all the rest exist already.   In contrast there are currently 1.5 billion passenger journeys per year by surface rail, and 43.5bn passenger journeys by all modes.  Hence, HS2’s supposed generated traffic amounts to 1.5% of all surface rail journeys and to 0.05%, or one in 2,000, of all passenger journeys. Transformational?  Ha, Ha.

HS2 Ltd say the proposal will generate 100,000 jobs. Others say most of those will be relocations.  Whatever the case, the £80bn and 100,000 implies each job (if it exists) will have cost £800,000.  How many would that destroy in that part of the economy which actually makes a profit?  Crippling again if you ask me.

Perhaps it is because of comment such as Mark Hansford’s that Engineers have such low status.


Ref. LTT79 Freight
Date 7th July 2013

Local Transport  Today

Freight stats and Discrepancies report

Your report of the discrepancies between data from the DfT’s Road Stats and Road Freight teams (28th June) underplays the problem as does the DfT’s Discrepancies report.  You       correctly cite that the Road Freight team has 18.8bn Goods vehicle-km compared with 26.3bn HGV-km from Road stats.  However, for the two to match the 18bn would have to be increased by 40% or the 26.3bn reduced by 29%.

The difference between the sources arises because (a) the road stats data includes vehicle-km for vehicles not licensed as goods vehicles, such as fire engines, mobile cranes, agricultural tractors, fair ground transport, etc. (b) the freight survey excludes (i) foreign lorries and (ii) HGVs that are not licensed as goods vehicles (c) the freight survey underreports vehicle-km by artics by 11% and vehicle-km by rigids by 20%. There is no corresponding correction to the estimates of tonne-km.

Our calculations show that if the underreporting is randomly distributed, rather than being concentrated on empty running then the road freight tonne-km in TSGB table 0401 should be increased by 24% for the year 2010 and by lesser amounts in earlier years, before being compared with freight by rail, water and pipeline.

The other factor which is being ignored by the DfT is that the traffic counts used by the Road Stats team classify vehicles according to the number of axles touching the ground.  That used to be of little significance but axle-raising is now common to the extent that perhaps half of six-axle artics have one or two raised.  Consequently comparisons of the vehicle-km by axle class with earlier years will underestimate the growth in multi-axle vehicles.

Additionally, the numbers of vehicles in the higher axle classes will be grossly underestimated whilst those in the lower axle classes will be correspondingly overestimated. We have encouraged the DfT to carry out sample surveys so that the data may be corrected but have had no response - probably because the department is overstretched.


 Date 26th May 2013
Ref. Sundays\ice22 Rail
RAIL

Letters  New Civil Engineer

Antony Oliver’s leader of 16h May says “… The Railway now sits firmly at the heart of the UK’s transport network”.  Has he not noticed that the railway carries only 3% of passenger journeys, 7.5% of passenger-miles and 8.5% of tonne-miles?

Over the six years 2006 to 2011 the strategic road network carried 4.2 times as many passenger-miles and 5 times as many tonne-km as did the railway.  The corresponding annual expenditures at 2011 prices were: strategic roads £3.7bn, rail £5.4bn.  Dividing costs by the sum of passenger and tonne-km provides a unit cost to the taxpayer by rail which is 7 times that for the strategic road network, or 6.5 times the value for all roads.  Meanwhile the taxes less costs taken from road users and attributable to the strategic road network were circa £13bn pa, or, for the road network as a whole, £40bn.

 The data illustrates a massive distortion in favour of rail that can only be explained as a response to the almost religious fervour which the railway enjoys.

 The one place where rail is “central” is London.  However, if all those crushed surface rail commuters were seated in 75-seat coaches using the rights of way now sterilised by trains then those coaches would, in the peak hour, occupy only one seventh of the capacity available. 

 Outside the peak the network is, in highway terms, a place of dreams.  Go view the platforms of any central London terminal at lunch time and enjoy a cathedral like peace.


Ref. Modern rail01

Date 15th April 2013
Modern.Railways@googlemail.com 

ROAD VERSUS RAIL.

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.


 Ref. LTT77 RAIL POL
Submitted 5th April 2013

Local Transport  Today

RAIL and BEECHING                                                                                        Part published LTT 620 19th April

What a relief it was to read Professor Cochrane’s measured article, 5th April, to do with Beeching.  The professor rightly points out that the Great Doctor was mainly right.  The only failing was to overlook the immense value that these superbly engineered routes would have as roads. 

Likewise it was a relief to find Mike Crowhurst bewailing the subtraction of tax lost in the BCR calculations.  The reason for the absurdity identified by Mike is that the “Willingness to Pay” theory, cooked up by Professor Sugden of the University of East Anglia, upon which such analyses depend, is itself absurd.  Instead of comparing resources used with the social benefits the theory compares the loss to the Government with the benefits.  That leads to both the tax absurdity and to the absurdity that, by arbitrarily widening or narrowing the Government’s sphere of influence the net cost, and hence the end result can be changed.

Instead, both the fares subtracted from costs and the tax changes should be struck out.  They are transfer payments, contributing nothing to resources.  That leaves the value of the resources as the cost to be compared with benefits.  The argument is extended in topic 24, entitled “NATA refresh and the burger bar”, in the Transport Watch, TW, web site. What a taster that is!  Sadly for Mike and his colleagues, such honesty would have a bitter taste.  It would destroy the so called case for rail every time.

Better than carrying out those dishonest calculations, just stick with the finance.  In a sensible nut shell, if people are not “Willing to Pay” then do not be so stupid as to build it, particularly when there is a profitable alternative which would be both four times less costly and four times as effective.  

Yes, you guessed it, express coaches and lorries in place of trains using rail’s rights of way, [END OF PUBLISHED] ........................

paved at last would be vastly profitable (see  the TW topic 18, items 6 and 8, providing our evidence to the Transport Committee), cutting fuel consumption and emissions (see the TW Facts Sheet 5), providing all London’s crushed rail commuters with seats at one quarter the fares, see map and pictures at TW topic 15.   Examine the arithmetic and make sensible comment if you can.  Otherwise recommend – SHUT UP.

Sadly we then have Elisa Woodward, 5th April, claiming that “Beeching ushered in decades of railway decline”,  a statement that bears no relationship to the facts, see mine of 22nd March.  Ah well, you cannot win them all.  Nobody can stop those who really want to believe in fairies from doing so.
…………..

As to your headline to do with road fatalities, it is amusing (or not) to note that prior to 1995 deaths per vehicle-km were declining at 7% per year, but as soon as present policies bit, that decline, instead of accelerating, flattened off to 2.5% for a decade or more.  That has lead to over 10,000 deaths in excess of those that may have otherwise have occurred. 

It was not until 2006/7, that the previous trend began to reassert itself.  At that time two things happened.  Firstly, as noted in the article, the financial crisis loomed and hit, taking the more dangerous drivers off the road and leading to more caution in the rest of us  secondly, there has been a gradual withdrawal of the cameras.  Perhaps they should try harder at the latter.  After all topic 12 of the TW web site shows a remarkable correlation between fines and extra deaths, suggesting that the more they fine us the more we die.


 Ref. LTT76 RAIL POL
Submitted 14th March 2013

Local Transport  Today

RAIL and BEECHING                                                                                            Published LTT 618 22nd March

Is it not extraordinary that Beeching continues to be held up as the reason for the railways continuing failure, (LTT 21st March)?  Beeching’s pointed out that 30% of the route miles carried only 1% of passenger-miles and 1% of tonne-miles.  He recommended closures in the vain hope that the remaining network would be profitably.

Those who lament often claim that the loss was very much greater than the 1% on the basis that those passengers would be making onward and longer journeys, overlooking both the fact that the main line stations could more easily be reached by car or bus and the benefit to passengers and freight operators of concentrating resources on the busier part of the network.

To demonstrate: in 1959 the railway carried 35.8bn passenger-km.  That had fallen to 30.7bn by 1963, the year in which Beeching published.  Clearly usage was on a sustained downward trend.  That continued until 1968 when 28.7bn passenger-km were carried.  Had the pre-Beeching trend continued the railways would have been left with only 24.3bn passenger-km.

Thereafter usage recovered to circa 30bn remaining sensibly static until privatisation.  Since then there has been sustained growth.  Hence it is difficult to see any signal in the data that supports the notion that Beeching did anything to reduce usage, instead the data weakly suggest the reverse. 

Likewise with freight.  In the ten years prior to 1963 the railway lost 12 billon tonne-km.  Over the ensuing 20 years the annual loss was reduced by a factor of three to 0.4bn tonne-km per year.

The idea that those cuts left the UK with an “inflexible” transport system (LTT headline) is bizarre.  There is little that could be less flexible than a branch line carrying perhaps one 2-car train every couple of hours.  Instead the car enabled the greatest flexibility of movement that can be desired, bringing together places which were inaccessible to each other by train or bus.

The greater tragedy is that the Railway sold off the rights of way to the highest bidders, so fragmenting routes.  If instead there had been an obligation to maintain the right of way in transport use then those routes could, at low cost, have been converted to roads.  Had that happened we would now have a superb network of rural motor roads overlaying the paleotechnic system that continues to carry modern motor traffic.

Even more bizarre is the idea that the closures ushered in a vast expansion of car use.  Here are the numbers.  In 1963 there were 185bn passenger-km by car, over 6 times that by national rail and over 600 times the amount carried on Beeching’s proposed closures.  Does anything more need to be said?

Because of this railway mania schemes like the Borders line, with a BCR of 0.5 (LTT  8th March ) suck in resources so that the Normans of this world can play with a full sized train set at taxpayer’s expense.  Instead such rights of way should be paved and managed to avoid congestion thereby relieving historic roads of unsuitable motor traffic and enabling express coaches to provide an essential need at fares that ordinary folk might afford.


SUBMITTED:  23rd February 2013 
Ref. LTT75 RAIL POL

Local Transport  Today

HSR and motorway capacity: a repost                                                                                           Not published

Norman Bradbury (8th February) persists.  He says,  “Whilst Ralph Smyth may have ‘overegged’ the capacity of French high-speed rail routes, it is a fact that HS1, the Channel Tunnel rail link, have stated the route has a design capacity equal to seven motorway lanes”.

Well what do we know? 

Nowhere in the world are there as many as the 18 trains 1000-seat HSR trains per hour claimed by HS2.  As in my letter of 25th Jan, the claim provides 18,000 seats.  In comparison a single express coach lane may carry 1,000 75-seat express coaches per hour providing four times the claimed rail capacity.

In contrast the people who could be carried in cars, with the average occupancy of 1.5 per vehicle, on a motorway amount to circa 1,500 per lane.  To compare that with rail’s seating capacity would fit the claims by HS1 and the SNCF but would be fundamentally dishonest.

French Rail and HS1, as cited by Ralph Smyth and Norman, have not “overegged” their cases.  Instead they have misrepresented the truth on a mammoth scale.


 Date 27th January 2013
Ref. Sundays\ice22 Motorways
New Civil Engineer

A repost to a peculiar belief:                                                                                                               Not published

 Graham Law states in his letter of 24th that the  “motorways were primarily built to provide safe, long distance, high speed travel by HGV” and that “The right direction is to upgrade the A-road system so that it can take away private cars from motorways”.  I am bound to say I am astonished.  The motorways carry seven to ten times as many cars as they do lorries, which, left to themselves, would fill a fraction of the capacity of one lane.  Doubtless the A-roads should be improved, particularly at junctions, but the idea that that would attract cars away from motorways in any number is incredible. (Potty would be a better word but I am too polite).

By way of example, the average daily vehicle flow on the M1 in Northants in 2011 was 98,500 of which 12,800 (6,400 each way) were lorries with three or more axels.  Those lorries use the nearside lanes alone, except when overtaking.

For interest and by way of comparison the West Coast Mail Line carries 80 trains per day amounting to over 40% of all rail freight.  Much of the freight is confined to night time running, for lack of daytime capacity.  Typically the trains have 30 wagons, equivalent to perhaps 45 lorries.  Hence those trains equate to circa 3,600 lorries, or to one third of the HGV flow on the M1.  The way to get the lorries onto the railway would, of course, be to pave the railway.  Its right of way may then be fully used, instead of largely wasted.


 Ref. LTT74 RAIL POL
Date 19th January 2013
Local Transport  Today                      

Freight on the West Coast Main Line and the M1, comparisons:                         Published  25th Jan 2013

Norman Bradbury’s (11th January), recites my finding that freight moved per track-km by rail is one-third of that moved per lan-km on the motorway and trunk road network.  Norman goes to point out that the West Coast Mail Line carries over 40% of the nation’s rail freight and to claim that the route carries 85 freight trains per day each way. Those who have a serious interest in the numbers may welcome the following.

Chris Stokes, an expert on rail, wrote, in Appendix 7 of the paper on the WCML produced for the 51m group, that north of Nuneaton there are 40 freight trains per day each way and that the practical maximum is 80.[i]  Those trains are generally confined to one track. Our counts show that typically there are 30 wagons per train, equivalent to perhaps 45 lorries.  Hence, today the WCML carries the equivalent of 1,800 lorries per day per (freight) track, with the possibility of that rising to 3,600 or to perhaps 5,000 if trains were lengthened.

On the M1 in Northants there are 6,000 lorries (artics plus 4 axel rigids) per day in each direction.  Those lorries are generally confined to the nearside lane.  Hence, supposing I need to point it out, with regards to freight, the motorway lane is used over three times as intensively as is a track on the WCML.  The practical maxima is 1,000 lorries per hour.  If that continued for 16 hours we would have 16,000 per day, again over three times the maximum value suggest by Chris Stokes for the WCML – very much in line with the factor I calculated for the networks as a whole.

To appreciate the depths to which the railway lobby will go so as to dupe the politicians and the public consider this.  In evidence to the Transport Committee’s inquiry into the Future of the Railway, 2003-04, Bombardier told the committee that, “to carry 50,000 people per hour in one direction we would need a 35 metre wide road used by buses or a 9 metre track bed for a metro or commuter railway”

The reality is that 1,000 express coaches per hour may offer 75,000 seats.  If those coaches were travelling at 100 kph in one lane of a motor road the headways would be 100 metres.

Similarly, Ralph Smyth, of the CPRE, when speaking at the Westminster Forum’s seminar “Getting UK rail on track, 6th Dec 2012, said,  “the SNCF say that a 2 track high speed railway has the same capacity as a 10 lane motorway”.

Again the gap between the claim and reality is stunning.  If HS2 achieves 18 1000-seat trains per hour in one direction there will be 18,000 seats. In contrast one lane of a motor road used by express coaches could, as we have seen, offer four times that.  Incidentally we heard at the same seminar that half of all rail commutes are less than 15 miles long……..

I note that Professor Bent is reported as calling for penalties on consultants who produce misleading data (LLT 11th Jan).  In the same vein, I ask, is there is any possibility of jail time for those, such as the railway lobby, who mislead Commons Committees on a mammoth scale or for those who give out wildly inaccurate data at seminars chaired by MPs and members of the House of Lords?  Think HS2



[i] 51M, Appendix 7 Freight Capacity Issues the 51 M Chris  Stokes http://www.51m.co.uk/sites/default/files/uploads/App%207%20-%20Freight%20Capacity%20Issues.pdf


Ref. LTT72 RAILFREIGHT
Date 12th November 2012
Local Transport  Today ED.LTT@LANDOR.CO.UK 

Freight and a problem:                                                                                          Published 7th December 2012

Note - see topic 33 for a resolution

We asked Freight Stats at the DfT to provide the goods-vehicle vehicle-km and tonne-km by axel type so that we could calculate the average load per vehicle.  Multiplying those values by the vehicle-km on the strategic road network, available from the Road traffic Stats team, would provide an estimate of the tonne-km on that network.  Unfortunately the vehicle-km on all roads from Freight stats totalled 18.8bn whereas the value from Road stats was 26.3bn, 40% more than the Freight stats number. The inconsistencies at the vehicle class level were even more marked, casting doubt on both the Road and Freight stats data.  The DfT have been investigating the matter for some months but have provided no explanation to date. 

If it is the Road stats vehicle-km that is correct then the implication is that the tonne-km by road, published by Freight stats, may have to be increased by up to 40%.

Philippa Edmunds (9th Nov) extols the growth in rail freight referring particularly to consumer goods and containers.  However, TSGB Table 0401 provides 19bn tonne-km by rail in 2001, 22bn in 2005/6 but only 19bn in 2010/11, implying no growth in rail freight as a whole.  Furthermore, supposing the numbers can be believed, rail freight in 2010/11 was a smaller proportion of the road plus rail total than it was in 2005/6.

The same table provides, for 2010/11, 151bn tonne-km by road, the 19bn by rail referred to above, 42bn by water, and 10bn by pipe (where the latter is the previous year value). The road freight omits international freight.  Ignoring the omission, and supposing the road freight data can be relied upon, that provides 68% of freight by road, 8.5% by rail, 19% by water and 4.5% by pipe, or, if water and pipe are ignored, 88.8% by road and 11.2% by rail.   If road freight is to be increased by 40% then rail’s share of the road plus total falls to 9%. 

If freight tonne-km are proportional to goods vehicle-km then 64.5% of road freight were on the strategic road network in 2010.  That network has a lane length of circa 50,000 km. Dividing the tonne-km by lane length and by the days in the year provides an average daily flow per lane of 5,340 Tonnes.  The corresponding value for rail per track is 1,680 tonnes, three times less than achieved by the competing and comparable road network. Similarly with regards to passenger-km.

Taken together the numbers illustrate that, despite serving the hearts of or towns and cities (a) rail makes a trivial contribution to the nation’s freight and passenger movement (b) the productivity of rail, compared with that achieved by the strategic road network, is astonishingly low.


 Ref. LTT71 Electric cars
Date 29th September 2012
Local Transport  Today ED.LTT@LANDOR.CO.UK 

Electric cars -                                                                                                                                         Not published

The dent put in the minister’s electric car (EV) ambitions, LTT of  28th Sept, is to be welcomed.

The Government’s belief that these vehicles will emit 40% less carbon than ICVs depends largely on the Arup/Cenex paper, with the snappy title, “Investigation into the Scope for the Transport Sector to Switch to Electric Vehicles and Plugin Hybrid Vehicles”, October 2008.  That paper relies on the wild claims of manufactures.  Furthermore, Arup have confirmed to us that they ignored the energy required to manufacture the batteries.  That may amount to between 50% and 100% of the energy transmitted during the battery’s life, so bashing another huge hole in the “analysis”.

In contrast, we compared the emissions and energy efficiencies of the two classes of vehicle by multiplying together the efficiency of each link in the chain from energy production to forward motion.  We also took account of the greater weight associated with the EV and of the energy expended in battery manufacture.  That approach avoids the problem of the differing performances of different models and the risk inherent in relying on manufacturers’ claims.

Our conclusion is that, given the UK’s generating industry, the electric vehicle may very well emit more carbon than do diesel vehicles with the same performance.  Improved IC vehicles would widen the gap.  Our analysis is here: http://www.transport-watch.co.uk/topic-31-electric-cars . We have sent that to the Transport Committee.  Perhaps that helped to dampen its enthusiasm for the EV.

Brian Dalton (LTT 26TH Oct), suggests the EV will be overtaken by the hydrogen powered.  However, the energy required to manufacture hydrogen, followed by its use in an internal combustion engine, plus the energy to compress and store the gas, would lead to an overall fuel consumption far worse than burning fossil fuel in situ.  

Hence, unless the generating industry has been decarbonised, the net result would almost certainly be to increase rather than to decrease emissions, let alone the very large technical problems in providing a supply network and storage tanks for the most volatile gas on earth.  (Terrific fun refuelling).

Instead of those blind alleys the better course is to press on with improvements in the IC engine and perhaps to adapt it to shale gas.  After all, consumptions in excess of 60mpg are now common place whereas a few years ago 40 mpg was a mirage for most of us.


 Ref. LTT70 RAILPOL
Date 26th October 2012
Local Transport  Today ED.LTT@LANDOR.CO.UK 

A repost Rail versus road                                                                                                                  Not published

Malcolm Bulpitt accuses me of being convinced of the strength of my own arguments (LTT 12th Oct).  If I am so convinced it is partly because of the week arguments put up by such as Malcolm and Norman Bradbury, also in LTT 12th Oct, let alone Ed Gibbins.

The reason railway conversion has not been taken up is because railways have become a kind of religion, impervious rational argument.  That does not absolve me from trying.  After all, and as previously, in the peak hour London’s vast surface rail network is, in highway terms used to only about one seventh of its capacity supposing it were paved and all those crushed railway passengers had seats in 75-seat coaches - at fares one quarter to one half those imposed by the train.

Norman Bradbury cites the Campaign for Better Transport.  That organisation is a railway lobby group in disguise.  It was originally funded by the railway unions at a time when some closures were threatened. Norman says the organisation found that motorway widening cost “one thousand pound an inch”, rather than the £100 per square metre for railway conversion that I cite.  If Norman had bothered with the data, and not confused the units, he would find, by way of example, that the M25 widening from J25 to J30 cost an astonishing £2,388 per sq metre, which is four to five times as much as required for green field motorway construction after counting the hard shoulders and central reserves in the area. 

Our value of £100 per sq m for railway conversion relies on a detailed study of a range of completed schemes.  But then Norman is not a man of detail.  Instead he is a railway romantic, impervious to the logic flowing from the careful use of data.

Norman cites the 1984 Cooper and Lybrand Study into the conversion of some routes in London, commissioned by BR.  That study selected some eccentrically narrow routes.  Professor Foster, a member of the steering committee, said that the report’s findings had been misrepresented and Michael Posner, another member of the committee and a part-time BR Board member said “Boards are not arbiters of intellectual honesty”.  As to widths, the standard of 7.3 metres is available nearly everywhere on two track railways.  Furthermore, and by way of example, the Dartford tunnel, offering only 6.4 metres was carrying in excess of 25,000 vehicles per day in 1984.

Norman then compares the single driver of a 12 coach train with the number required by replacement coaches.  Firstly few trains have 12 coaches, and most have other crew, let alone the vast numbers required to maintain the track and signalling conflated by the trivial use made of the right of way.  Secondly, and as an indicator of the manpower required, the cost to the Government per passenger-mile or per tonne-mile by rail is at least six times that for the motorway and trunk road system where taxes received far exceed costs..

The reasons why only some 200 miles of the 8,000 miles or so of railway closures have been converted include the obligation on British Rail to sell to the highest bidders, namely developers, the lack of strategic vision, the inability to run the conversions into mainline railway stations and the determination of the railway industry that no such conversions should arise as evidenced by BR's handling of the Cooper and Lybrand report.

For the sake of the profession let us hope Norman and Malcolm have no Engineering qualifications.


 Ref. LTT67 RAILPOL
Date 15th September 2012
Local Transport  Today

Railway conversion costs                                                                                  Published 28th September 2012

Sadly the command of language that Richard Pout attributes to me is insufficient to overturn the almost religious fervour which rail enjoys, fanned as it is by decades of shameless propaganda, misinformation and children’s nursery rhymes along with rose tinted memories of the great age steam.

Richard asks how railways might be converted.  Let us first appreciate the immense disruption suffered every time some modernisation is attempted.  For example, the West Coast Main Line programme, originally billed to cost circa £1.67bn finally cost at least £9bn.  During construction there were blockades lasting months.  Strangely the world did not come to an end.  Further, a trivia such as a rope thrown over a centenary by a child is sufficient to disrupt a railway for hours, let alone the wrong sort of snow, sun or leaves.

To appreciate the overwhelming disruption caused by retaining the railways as railways imagine the motorway and Trunk road system paved with railway lines – the place would be at a near standstill, as are the railways in highway terms.  My previous pointed out that even in central London and in the peak hour that vast, grade separated surface rail network is, in highway terms, substantially disused.

A sensible unit cost, based on a range of actual conversions and the costs of new road construction, is £100 per square metre including all ancillary works.  If we generously assume a 10 metre carriageway width for the 16,000 km of right of way we arrive at a total of £16bn, a fraction of the billions wasted on rail over the past decade. Doubling that and we still have a bargain.

During conversion there would of course be disruption.  Consequently each line would be divided into lengths a few kilometres long with a view to completion, adequate for coaches, within months if not weeks.  The target for surfacing should be a mile a day.  Traffic management at the London end, reminiscent of the Olympics, would be in force along the route being converted.  Lanes may be reserved for express coaches and lorries on the motorway system and elsewhere.  The public, being forewarned, would of course adjust their lives for the duration.

Once complete many thousands of lorries and other vehicles would divert from the unsuitable rural roads and city streets that they now clog.  There would be a substantial saving in fuel and accidents.  Passengers previously travelling by rail would do so by express coach at a fraction of current fares.  Even at peak times they would all have seats.  Journey times would match or beat rail’s except for the longest journeys.  The environmental benefit, by way of relief on the existing road system, would be vast as would the financial gain both to the Government and to the commuter.  Endless acres of near derelict railway land would become intensely valuable

It’s a no brainer, provided that we have the courage and providing the deadly grip of this century old railway mania can be broken. The alternative is another century of waste.

As to reserved bus ways, I counsel against.  Reservation ensures trivial use.  Instead congestion should be controlled by electronic tolling.  A converted railway would be ideal for that.


 Ref. LTT67 RAILPOL
Date 20th August 2012

Local Transport  Today ED.LTT@LANDOR.CO.UK 

Getting the facts straight: Road and rail                                                           Version Published 31st August

Readers will dismiss Norman Bradbury’s and Ed Gibbon’s critique (17th Aug) of my letter of 3rd upon appreciating that these gentlemen insist on really silly comparisons. For example, both of them compare rail’s loadings with that of the entire road network, 87% of which is made up of back streets, B-roads and unclassified country lanes.  That network has a length of 394,000 km.  In comparison the national rail system has a right of way length of circa 16,000 km and a track length of circs 32,000 km.  We reasonably compare that with the Motorway and Trunk Road system.  It has a length 12,000 km offering circa 50,000 to 55,000 lane-km. 

It is not my fault that despite rail having the advantage of serving the hearts of our towns and cities, the strategic road network carries passenger and freight flows per lane that are close to three times rail’s per track despite rail having the advantage of serving the hearts of our towns and cities.

As an example of rail’s inability to use track effectively consider central London.  There some 250,000 crushed surface rail passengers arrive in the peak hour.  There are 25 pairs of tracks.  Hence per inbound track there are some 10,000 passengers per hour.  They would all find seats in 150 75-seat coaches, sufficient to occupy one seventh of the capacity of one lane of a motor road the same width as required by a train. 

It is not my fault that there is an express coach lane four miles long and 11 feet wide in New York that carries as many seats (700 45-seat coaches) in the peak hour as there are crushed rail passengers at Victoria main line - where there are four inbound tracks.

It is not my fault that if we divide rail’s grant totals by passenger-km or tonne-km we get a cost to the exchequer that is at least six times the corresponding value for the Motorway and Trunk Road system.  Likewise it is not my fault if that the road network makes a vast profit for the exchequer (tax take far outstripping expenditure) whilst rail is a perpetual drain.

It is not my fault that half of all rail journeys are less than 20 miles long and that 90% are less than 80 miles, nor is it my fault if express coaches, using rail’s right of way, would discharge those journeys at equivalent, or shorter journey times, and at a fraction the cost of the train whilst using half the fuel - if only the rails were replaced by asphalt.

It is not my fault that the clear width between tunnel walls on a two track railway is identical to the carriageway width of a two-way trunk road, nor that outside the tunnels and viaducts widths are greater and that rail’s alignments are far better than those of nearly all A-roads.

It is not my fault that the cost of converting a railway to a road is a fraction of the cost of building a new road and an even smaller fraction of the cost of building a railway.  It is not my fault that, after applying sensible unit costs, the cost of converting the entire system turns out to be a a fraction of that wasted on rail modernisation, see  http://www.transport-watch.co.uk/facts-sheet-no-12-rail-road-costs-conversion-and-rates-return

Lastly it is not my fault if Norman makes the strange point that the motorway and trunk road system is served by all those other roads.  Of course it is.  Has Norman not noticed that those other roads also serve rail and much else besides, or do he and Ed think we fly to railway stations?


 Ref. LTT66 RAILPOL
Date 21th July 2012

Local Transport  Today ED.LTT@LANDOR.CO.UK 

£9.4 BILLION ON RAIL                                                                                                  Published 3rd August 2012

Rail’s receipts for passengers do not cover operating costs.  Hence the £16.842billion package for control period 5 (LTT 29th July), of which £9.4bn is capital, is not an “investment.  Instead it is subsidy, equivalent to wasting the lifetime earnings of 16,800 working men or to a tax hit of £650 upon every household in the land.  The tragedy is that the product will have trivial use compared that from equivalent roads.  For example:

  • In the 1970s Don Morin, Chief of public transport in the US concluded that a single express coach lane could carry 50,000 passengers per hour, the same as arrive at Waterloo – crushed and in trains requiring four inbound tracks
  • In New York there is a contra flow express coach lane, four miles long, one and a half in tunnel, which serves the New York coach terminal.  It offers over 30,000 seats in the peak hour in 700 45-seat coaches.  The seats equal the number of crushed passengers that alight at Victoria Main line in the peak hour.  The trains carrying those passengers require four inbound tracks, each the same width as the New York coach lane.
  • Surface Rail peak hour passengers to central London are sufficient to occupy one seventh of the capacity of the network if it were paved and if those passengers were all seated in 75-seat coaches.  Outside the peak the network and platforms are places of dreams.  See http://www.transport-watch.co.uk/topic-15-london-waste-battersea-and-north-marylebone.
  • There is fear that the much vaunted Javelin service to the Olympic Park will lack capacity.  It is to offer 12 trains per hour each with 680 seats.  Did they not realise that those seats could be provided in 110 75-seat express coaches, sufficient to occupy one tenth of the capacity of one lane of a motor road, the same width as required by a train or that speed above 60 mph over the distance involved is scarcely an issue?

East West Rail seeks to open a route from Oxford to Cambridge, closed decades ago because of lack of passengers.  If reopened it may carry a two or three-car, nearly empty, “train” two or three times an hour. If that does not demonstrate railway mania what does?  Likewise with the Northern Hub.

Have they not noticed that it costs the Government six times as much to move a passenger or tonne of freight by rail as it does by the motorway and truck road network?

If most of rail’s invaluable rights of way were paved, and managed to avoid congestion, replacement express coach services would be a fraction the cost of the train.  Furthermore, countless lorries and other vehicles would divert from the unsuitable roads that they now clog, bringing huge environmental benefits to city, town and village across the land.

How long will we have to wait before policy is aligned to the numbers rather than to fairy stories?


 Date 25th April 2012
Ref. Sundays\ICE20 HS2

Letters  New Civil Engineer nceedit@emap.com

HS2 CASE IS UNDERMINED.                                                                                               Believed published

Alexandra Wynne’s article (19th April) points to a reduction is the BCR from the January 2012 value of 1.4 to 1.2 for HS2 and from 1.6 to 1.4 for the Y.  The January value for the Y’s benefits amounts to £44.1bn of which £5.2bn is for improved reliability (rubbish, they could make the trains run on time without spending tens of billions), £6.7bn is for reduced crowding (rubbish, they could solve most of that by adding a couple of carriages to peak hour trains), £5.5bn for other rail user impacts (rubbish, it is inconceivable that those cannot be largely realised without this scheme) and £2.1bn for other impacts (again suspected rubbish), a total of £19.5bn of rubbish – and that’s before noting that time is not entirely wasted on a train. Worse still the benefits assume no risk associated with the wildly optimistic passenger forecasts - requiring up to 18 1000-seat trains per hour each way.

Furthermore, the underlying economic theory, the so called Willingness to Pay Calculus, cooked up by Professor Sugden of the University of East Anglia, is wrong.  It compares the financial losses with the supposed benefits.  Those losses are the costs minus the incremental fares and allow for the changes in tax take.  However, the theory reduces to the absurd when it is realised that the incremental fares depend on where the economic boundary is arbitrarily drawn.   The right place is not round the railway or round the Government but round the nation as a whole.  When that is done the incremental fares and tax effects vanish, as of course they should.  After all, fares and tax are transfer payments.  They are vital to a financial analysis but should play no part in an economic assessment where the intent is to compare resources with social benefits. Just try creating resources by passing a £50 note to your neighbour, you lose, he gains, net benefit nil.

My view is that those promoting this scheme should be ashamed of themselves. Already over a billion pounds of taxpayers money has been spent on a scheme which will make a financial loss in the tens of billions.  The losses, supposing the ludicrous passenger forecast arise, will be over £2,000 for every household in the land*.  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.


 Date 1st July 2011
Ref. Sundays\ICE19 HS2

NEW CIVIL ENGINEER

HS2  - A LONG TERM SCAR                                                                                                      Believed published

One of the most specious arguments for high speed rail is that “France has one” (A G Mordey’s letter of 30th June).  That argument would have traction if it could be shown that the immense expenditures in Europe had actually benefited the nations concerned.  However, no such evidence, beyond the vacuous declarations of politicians and of those who built the things, exists.  If anything the contrary is the case.  For example, Spain, with an HSR network likely to exceed 3,000 km, has a 20% unemployment rate.  Perhaps its parlous state would be better had the vast sums expended on these loss making projects been left in private hands.

The construction cost of HSR to Leeds and Manchester is £32.2b.  Adding, £5.3b for rolling stock, and multiplying by the market prices adjustor, yields £45bn, or £1,700 for every household in the land. The financial loss after accruing fares and costs out to an astonishing 2092, is £17b at the 2009 price and discount base.  Rolling that up at the Treasury Discount rate to 2030 yields £35b or £1,340 per household.   How many jobs will that destroy in that part of the economy that makes a genuine profit?

HS2 to Birmingham is said to generate 30,000 jobs excluding the 10,000 for construction.  The cost, including the trains and market prices adjustor, is £24b, amounting to £800,000 per job.  Can anyone conceive of a more expensive job creation scheme?

 


23rd July 2010  
Ref. LTT55 NATA
Local Transprot today

YES, Transport appraisal is biased in favour of rail.                                               Published 23rd July 2010

When evaluating public transport proposals NATA requires “Incremental fares” to be subtracted from costs thereby providing the net cost to the Government. In the case of HS2 the incremental fares are the full fares minus the revenue lost by the existing railway. However, if the economic boundary is widened, as it should be, so as to embrace the economy as a whole, then those incremental fares fall to zero, and the economic cases collapse.  We put it to the DfT as follows:

“Let us call those services which would lose revenue to HS2 the ‘liquorice all-sorts industry’. Why should we exclude that industry’s loss from the analysis upon finding that the services are “liquorice” whilst including the loss on finding that the “all-sorts” are buses and trains? There is, of course, no rational answer, and the economic case underpinning HS2, and all other rail projects, collapses”.

The response opens with the paragraph:

 “Your letter of 08 June suggested that rail services were in principle no different from any other goods and services. If this were the case, we would leave the provision of such services and the networks on which they operated entirely to the private sector”.

We comment, by claiming rail is a special case, when it is not, and by ignoring the point being made, the DfT has effectively thrown in the sponge on this issue. The implication is that Incremental fares should indeed be struck out, in which case projects such as Crossrail and HS2 fail the cost benefit test by wide margins. 

Other items of note follow:

  1. Within NATA the value of time is inflated at circa 1.8% per year for ever and ever.  The effect of this largely hidden assumption is to double the supposed benefits compared with those that would arise with no such inflation. 
  2. The analyses assume that passengers’ time is entirely wasted when it is not.  If that reality were included a large proportion of the supposed savings associated with shorter times by rail would vanish.
  3. The evaluation period is set to 60 years from opening.  For HS2, and indeed most projects, circa 40% of the calculated benefits come from the last 30 years of the period ending in 2085.  That generates considerable uncertainty.
  4. The HS2 passenger forecasts, upon which the economic analysis depends, are ludicrously high. They require a train every 5 minutes, or thereabouts, in each direction all day throughout the year.
  5. The sensitivity tests carried out by HS2 Ltd show that if the extraordinary annual growth in demand were reduced by 25%, or if growth were curtailed in 2026 instead of in 2033, then the proposal would fail the cost benefit test.
  6. No rail project, or railway, ever pays for itself out of fares revenue.  Instead the railways create an endless call for subsidy running to tens, if not hundreds, of billions of pounds.  For the most part, that subsidy is enjoyed by the better off since they travel 5 times as far annually by rail as do the poor.
  7. Financing projects that are certain to make vast losses by loans guaranteed by the Government is a fraud on the taxpayer and upon future generations.

2nd June 2010
Ref. LTT54
Local Transort Today

Minsiters are right to end speed camera funding.                                                 Published 11th June 2010

Lord Nelson held the telescope to his blind eye so as to ignore a stupid order whilst keeping his good eye focused on what was needed.

In contrast the “road safety professionals” cited in your lead story of you last issue appear to have patches over both eyes so as to contemplate their navels rather than the unfortunate facts (‘Coalition risking lives by ending camera funding say safety chiefs’ LTT28 May).

These are that the deaths per vehicle-km declined at 7% per year for the decade prior to 1995.  Between that date and 2007 that beneficial trend, instead of accelerating, collapsed to 2.8%.  For details see luxford-damage-road-safety.pdf .

The slump happened despite the speed cameras, endless speed humps and traffic management schemes that create congestion all day where none need exist.

The plain truth is these so called professionals have lost their heads in favour of finger wagging.  In place of present policies nearly everything that they have done these last 15 years needs to be dug up leaving the motorist to develop mature behaviour and the police to catch the dangerous thereby maximising road safety and minimising congestion.


WP Ref ice13. May 2010Cross and High-Speed rail
 

The benefit to cost analysis for HS2 contains tests that show the scheme would not achieve the desired return if the assumed, and extraordinarily high, exponential growth in rail passengers were curtailed in 2026, instead of continuing until 2033, or if the annual growth were reduced by 25%.  Worse still, in line with the DfT’s procedures, so-called “incremental fares” are subtracted from costs leaving the net costs to be compared with the benefits. That is absurd.  After all, the value of the incremental fares depends upon where the economic boundary is arbitrarily drawn. The truth is the DfT procedures muddle economic analysis with financial analysis. If the two approaches were properly separated, such schemes would fail both tests by wide margins. Even worse, if it is possible to be worse, 40% of the supposed benefits accrue from the later 30 years of a 60 year evaluation period. Similarly, except for sensitivity tests, with Crossrail.

We conclude that these schemes will be a burden upon the taxpayer for ever and ever, never paying for themselves in financial terms and never returning social benefits sufficient to cover operating and capital costs.


Ref LTT 30th April 2010
 

Rail-road conversion makes sense, whatever critics say

Edward Gibbins claims that he has demolished the railway conversion argument in his book, Railway conversion – the impossible dream (ibid). Well he would, wouldn’t he?

In that book, Ed refers to the Inverness to Wick conversion proposed by Sir David Robertson MP in 1955. Sir David had Balfour Beatty produce a detailed engineering estimate. The price was £4.5m, equivalent to £86m at current prices, or £45 per m2 all-in. That was for a single 22ft carriageway. Ed moans that there was no explanation of how the estimate was made, as though an estimate made by a prestigious firm of engineers can be simply set aside. The Department killed the project by producing an estimate for an elaborate dual-carriageway that raised the cost to £12m (which at least provides some confirmation of the Balfour Beatty value). The scandal is that 40 years later the old road was rebuilt – as a single carriageway. Today the Wick line carries four ‘trains’ per day in each direction. Those ‘trains’ probably sport a couple of carriages each. How stupid can you get? The plain fact is railway men are determined that a railway must either be a railway or abandoned for ever and ever. Ed goes on to misrepresent the New York contra-flow bus lane. That is four miles long, including 1.5 miles in tunnel. It carries up to 700 45-seat buses in the peak hour, so providing over 30,000 seats. That is consistent with Don Morin’s view, namely that a single express bus lane may carry 50,000. In the 1970s Don Morin was the chief of public transport in the USA’s Department of Transport – probably nowhere near good enough for Ed, or perhaps he will say the rules of arithmetic have changed in time. Ed also claims that the Hall Smith report was discredited. Perhaps he has not read the companion volume, Comments and Rejoinders. There the critics turn out to be complete fools. For example, they used Smith’s surfacing costs when they should have used his all-in costs and ignored inflation at a time when prices rose by over 50% in three years. Smith’s all-in conversion costs have the range £76 to £180 per square metre at current prices. In comparison the Southport bypass conversion cost £31 per square metre, again at today’s prices.

Even in the peak hour London’s immense surface rail network carries sufficient passengers to occupy only between one seventh and one fifth of the capacity that would be available if the rights of way were paved and if those previously crushed rail commuters all had seats in express coaches. Such an overwhelming fact should lead to amazement and a reversal of policy. However, the sentimentality that surrounds rail makes sensible discussion about the best use of rail’s invaluable rights impossible – leaving the roads clogged and rail subsidised at 16 pence per passenger-mile when half of us use a train less than once a year and the richest 20% travel five times as far annually by rail as do those from either of the bottom two quintiles.


WP ref LLT 50a 16th April 2010High-speed rail case rests on questionable assumptions

The HS2 proposals for a high-speed line propel railway nonsense to new heights of foolishness. The passenger forecast is for 145,000 passengers per day at Euston in 2033. Such a flow would be satisfied by 15 trains per hour in each direction, each with 400 passengers aboard for 12 hours throughout every weekday of the year. The economic analysis is based on that unlikely scenario. In addition to that the analysis assumes, in line with DfT advice, that the value of time will grow exponentially at circa 1.8% for ever and ever and that incremental fares may be subtracted from costs. On that basis the scheme is deemed to have a benefit to cost ratio of 2.4 or 2.7:1.

However, if the analysis had considered the wider economy then “incremental fares” would have fallen to zero and the benefit to cost ratio would have fallen to between 1.0 and 1.2, thereby killing the proposal stone dead. Furthermore, the proponents themselves say that trivial changes in assumptions (either curtailing passenger growth to the 2026 value instead of assuming continued growth to 2033, or assuming annual growth should be reduced from 3.6% annually to 2.7%) would reduce the BCR to below 1.5, the level below which the project should not be supported.

Perhaps all this is the modern way of enabling the politicians to factor in an almost infinite value for the joy that schoolboys and trainspotters may experience upon being nearly deafened by 1,100 seat, 250mph trains dashing through the night at somebody else’s expense. Have they not realised that high taxes destroy jobs?


Wp Ref. LTT49 19th March 2010A Childhood fascination with trains shapes transport policy

Transport 2000, now named the Campaign for Better Transport, was originally funded by the railway unions.  Today many of its corporate members have large railway interests.  Hence, although the organisation masquerades as an environmental transport group it is, in truth, a railway lobby group.  How else can one explain its secretary’s letter of 5th March, advocating trams in Oxford Street? After all, it is well known that there is nothing wrong with a tram apart from the fact that it takes three times as long to stop as a bus, costs four times as much, offers little or no routing flexibility and that the track would have a fraction of the capacity of a bus based system, witness the contra flow lane in New York, which provides 30,000 seats in the peak hour and, given larger buses, could offer double that.
 

In any event, Terry Mulroy said, at an Institution of Civil Engineers meeting on 21st November 2002, that, if one asks the planners in Geneva (home of the tram) if they would do it again, they will say quietly, Never Again – far too expensive.

The reason trams are so prevalent in Europe is their appeal to sentiment in defiance of the facts.  Similarly with rail and high-speed rail in particular.  There the nation’s devotion reminds me of Francis Caincross’s comment in the Guardian of 29th April 1974.  She then wrote “When trains are still the theme of nursery rhymes and children’s stories, it is small wonder that the railways have a romantic fascination for most adults. Only years of nursery conditioning can explain the calm with which the public has accepted a bill of £3,000 millions (£36 bn at current prices) to subsidise British Rail over the last decade”.  Francis Caincross went on to be the Managing Editor of the Economist and is now the Rector or Exeter College, Oxford.  Today the Network Rail’s subsidy is running at £50 bn per decade.

Is there no end to the amount that can be extracted from taxpayers on the basis of railway fairy stories?


5th February 2010Electric car revolution will be another transport disaster LTT

The Radio 4 programme “The Derailing of Transport 2010” (18th Jan) was as shallow as the White Paper it referred to.  The notion was that congestion could be largely eliminated by increasing rail use by 50% and bus use by 10%.  However, the advisors appear not to have noticed that rail accounted for less than 2% of passenger-journeys and 6% of passenger-miles and that bus accounted for only 10% of passenger-miles. Hence the hoped for increases could, at best, have a marginal effect on car use, itself projected to increase by 10%.
In any case it is the car that has enabled the dispersed land and trip making distribution to arise. So, if the car vanished so would the way of life upon which it depends. If it were otherwise that distribution would have arisen in the past.
 

The cuckoo-twittery of it is rivaled only by the notion that light rail might help despite being at least four times as expensive as the rubber tyred option, and by the waste of £100 billion on national rail which, even in central London, and in the peak hour is, in highway terms, substantially disused.

The latest twittery is the electric car.  The belief, that it will emit 40% less carbon than the conventional vehicles, depends on the Arup/Conex report with the natty title “Investigation into the Scope for the Transport Sector to Switch to Electric Vehicles and Plug-in Hybrid Vehicles” dated October 2008.  Unfortunately its conclusions depend on the wild claims of manufacturers, rather than upon sensible tests.  Not surprisingly the gap between those claims and the anecdotal performance of the vehicles is so large as to beggar belief: 

  1. An electric car provided to a journalist for tests was alleged to have a 70 mile range.  The journalist decided to be safe and planned a 50 mile trip only to find the specially prepared car failed at 37 miles.
  2. A user of a G-Wiz found that the battery expired after 2 years and 3 months instead of after the hoped for 5 years.
  3. Jeremy Clarkson of Top Gear found that the Tesla ran out of power after 55 miles on his test track rather than after the 220 miles claimed by the manufacturer.
  4. An electric Ford Transit-sized van provided to a manufacturer, who wants to remain anonymous, was alleged to have a range of 100 miles.  The manufacturer found that on the level, and with no load, the vehicle managed 60 miles, but that on hills in Wales it managed six (yes six).
  5. Adverse weather conditions are said to reduce battery performance by 40% to 50%.

Further, section 6 of the paper “demonstrates” that the cost of running EV will be less than that for an IC powered vehicle. However, the costs assigned to petrol and diesel include tax, so exaggerating the economy of the EV by a factor of at least three. Against that background we regard the paper, a paper upon which national policy hangs, as worthless.

What better illustration do we need of the poor quality of the advice given to Government and of the naivety of those who receive it?


20th June 2009What an almighty mess LTT

I sympathise with John Siraut (LTT of 8th May) where he says he reads my letters with a “mixture of agreement and bemusement”.  The problem that John has may be is the same as I had when I first did the arithmetic, namely the difference between the railway myth and reality is so large as to beggar belief.

For example, the railway lobby has established the belief that rail is overwhelmingly safe compared with road.  The lobby has achieved that by statements such as “every day more people die on the roads than passengers in a year on the railways” (a form of words cited in the Transport Committee’s report into the future of Rail).  However, that statement ignores usage thereby exaggerating in favour of trail by a factor of 17.  Secondly our propagandist has compared passengers killed in so called train accidents with all those killed on the road system including motorcyclists, pedestrians and those on bicycles. In contrast we found that the deaths per passenger-km by rail, including trespassers but not suicides, is 50% above the value for the motorway and Trunk Road network. The shock to the system of that comparison does indeed lead to a feeling of bemusement, but there is no trick.

Similarly, when I found that, in the peak hour and in central London, the (surface) rail network is, in highway terms, scarcely used, I could not believe it. However, the sum demonstrating that is delightfully simple and impossible to overturn in a discussion devoted to finding the truth.  Here it is.  Some 250,000 surface rail passengers enter the capital in the peak hour.  There are at least 25 pairs of tracks serving the centre.  Hence the passenger flow per track is a mere 10,000.  They could all find seats in 200 50-seat coaches or in 150 75-seat coaches.  Those coaches would occupy between on seventh and one fifth of the capacity of one lane of a motor road the same width as required by a train. Outside the peak the network is a place of dreams. To experience a cathedral like peace I recommend a visit to the platforms of any central London terminal during the lunch hour. Despite that the railway lobby told the transport committee that rail has a far greater capacity than a road can ever have.
I comment, if accountants behaved as do our railway lobbyists then those accountants would soon be in prison.

Our letter of 24th April was in response to Mike Crowhurst’s astonishing claim that “If (Edmund King’s) visitor from the moon finds that as much is being spent on railways as roads he is on anther planet by mistake!”  Well, even railway enthusiasts such as Christian Wolmar, acknowledge that railway subsidy is running at some £5 billion per year.  In comparison we found that the annual tax take from the comparable motorway and trunk road system amounts to £16 billon compared with £3 billion was spent on that network.

I am then berated by Norman Badbury of Railfuture who, among other, wants us to compare rail with the entire road network including, no doubt, unclassified roads and urban backstreets. That would be entirely stupid.  Instead we, of course, compare the rail network with the comparable strategic road system.  In so doing we overlook the fact that rail has the advantage of serving the hearts of our towns and cities whereas the strategic road network generally peters out on the edges of urban areas. 

Norman goes on to bewail the fact that the rail network contains hundreds of miles of single track rural branch lines and freight only routes.  I respond by pointing out that many, if not most, single track lines have double track formations, that their use is pitiful – perhaps a one or two car “train” every couple of hours -, that the adjacent road network will be carrying thousands of vehicles per day, often on very narrow roads, and that there are hundreds of miles of sub-standard trunk roads in remote areas each carrying thousands of vehicles a day. 

Against that background I leave readers to decide whether or not to dismiss Norman’s analysis and Railfuture as, at best, misguided.
 

 


5th June 2009TRENDS IN ROAD DEATHS. LTT

Francis King (5th June) is absolutely correct in saying that the fall in deaths per vehicle-km has flattened off since 1950.  That was inevitable. After all, if the earlier reductions had continued we would now have zero (or negative) deaths.  However, the annual fall in the deaths per veh-km is not the sensible metric. Instead it is the percentage reduction, year on year that should be considered as the indicator of progress. That averaged 5.1 percent between 1950 and 2007 (please oh please note the word percent and that the value is applied successively year on year. That is why the curve “flattens off”). 

Contrary to Francis’s assertion, we carried out considerable analysis to determine the break points within the overall trend. To that end we plotted the the 7 year moving average of the deviation from the (1950-2007) best fit trend line.   The analysis identified four distinct phases, namely, 1950 to 1960, 1960 to 1982, 1982 to 1995 and 1995 to 2007, see fig 1.  The annual percentage reductions were 4%, 4.8%, 7.1% and 2.8% respectively.  Those values were obtained using the statistical package within Excel.  All correlations were above 95%.

Against that background we feel robust in our assertion that there was a remarkable collapse in the rate of decline around 1995, down from 7.1% to 2.8%.

We then calculated the extra deaths, defined as the difference between actual deaths and those that would have occurred had the 1982 to 1995 trend continued. Plotting those deaths against speeding fines produced the most remarkable fit that could be imagined (a correlation of 99%).  Of course that fit does not mean that the fines caused the deaths, a ludicrous idea.  However, the fines, all 13 million of them (a) are a proxy for the vigor with which present polices have been pursued (b) correspond to nearly 10,000 extra deaths (c) indicate an obsession with speed and (d) are at the expense of far more important factors.

Francis then makes some (ludicrous) comments about delay.  We pointed out that if present traffic management policies have delayed journeys by an average of two minutes then the annual cost to the nation tops £11 billion.  That is of course only indicative although personal experience suggests that 2 minutes may not be far from the mark.  Furthermore the value overlooks the undoubted frustration that sitting in traffic jams causes, particularly when it is clear that it is the traffic management people who have caused the jam in pursuit of some politically correct agenda or other.
Francis concludes his letter by saying we “suggest” that speeding is a minor cause of accidents. Instead we pointed out that speeding as a percentage of all recorded contributory factors amounts to 5.4% for fatal accidents, 3.2% for accidents where the worst injury was categorised as serious, and 2.4% for all severities.  The source is table 4(b) from the DfT publication “Road Casualties Great Britain 2007”.  However, a word of caution, that tabulation provides the percentage of accidents in which causes arise.  Since there is usually more than one cause per accident some sensible arithmetic is needed to find speeding as a percentage of all recorded contributory factors. 

We conclude by noting that, in contrast to speeding, “speed” must be a contributory cause in 100% of accidents.  After all, there would be no accidents at all if we were all brought to a complete standstill – but then could it be that a complete standstill is the target of those pretending to promote road safety?

 


24th April 2009What an almighty mess LTT

Mike Crowhurst says in his letter that if Edmund King’s “visitor from the moon found as much is being spent on the railways as roads, he must have landed on another planet by mistake”. 

Well, Mike may like to know that Table 6.2a of the ORR Year book cites Network Rail’s revenue support as £ 5.2 billion in 2007/8.  “Investment” is in table 6.3.  The ORR cannot say whether that money is subsumed in Table 6.2a or where it comes from.  Our current view is that it is additional and effectively Government money by way of loan guarantees.  It amounted to £4.5 billion in 2007/8. Adding the two yields £9.7 billion.  Fares revenue amounted to £5.5 billion.

In contrast taxes from the road network including VAT on motoring amount to about £50 billion annually. If that is apportioned according to vehicle miles then the tax attributable to the strategic road network is circa £16 billion.  Government expenditure on that network in 2007/8 amounted to only £3 billion in 2007/8, i.e. over three times less than the circa £9.7 billion spent on the (comparable) rail network.

Furthermore, not only is the strategic road network used three times as intensively, in terms of person-km or tonne-km  per lane-km, as is the rail network per track-km, but the road network offers circa 50,000 km of lane compared with rail’s 32,000 km of Track.

We conclude that on his issue Mike C is indeed in an almighty mess. However that does not stop him bewailing that we build roads not railways.  Perhaps he overlooks the fact that rail accounts for only about 2% of the nation’s passenger journeys, or 6% of passenger miles, kills 50% more people per passenger-mile than does the strategic road network and that rail is no more fuel efficient that a diesel powered car containing two people.  Moreover in central London and in the peak hour this benighted system is, in highway terms substantially disused – carrying sufficient passengers to fill between one seventh and one fifth of the capacity that would be available if the network were paved and all those crushed rail passengers had seats in express coaches.

Still, Mike is in good company for Philip Basset is astonished that rail connections are omitted from new town proposals.  I comment, the reason for that is the immense cost and poor, if not pathetic, use of resources that rail achieves.

Despite the overriding importance of motor traffic to the economy, traffic management measures these last 10 years had scant regard to the need to minimise delay.  Instead the capacity of the network at the most critical points, namely the junctions, has been reduced so causing congestion where none need exist.  If that has added two minutes to the typical car journey then the annual cost to the nation is in excess of £10 billion, equivalent to the value that the DfT would assign to 6500 fatalities, let alone the air pollution.

 


Published 14th NovemberRoad traffic accident statistics

In response to my letter of 3rd October, Robert Gifford **, on 17th, points out that the rate at which deaths to road users have declined since the war varies, that the growth in traffic should be taken into account and that motorbike deaths may bedevil comparisons. Here is some data that meets some of Mr Gifford’s concerns.

Annual percentage changes in deaths per billion veh-km

 

Year Peds Cy Mc All ex Cy And Mc All in
1970-80 -6.90 -5.03 1.20 -6.21 -5.12
1980-90 -5.34 -5.62 -9.34 -4.57 -5.39
1990-2000 -7.78 -7.96 -2.12 -5.85 -5.39
1970-2000 -6.68 -6.21 -3.52 -5.55 -5.30
2000-07 -5.23 -0.36 -1.73 -3.92 -3.37

It shows that, rather than present polices (effective since 2000) leading to an acceleration in the rate at which deaths per vehicle-km had, for 30 years, been declining, there has been an astonishing collapse in that beneficial trend for all classes of road user. In view of that it is difficult to maintain that the current punitive approach has saved lives.

Other than that we are happy to report that in 2007 deaths per vehicle-km were nearly 4 times less than in 1980, over 6.5 times less than in 1970 and over 16 times less than in 1950, an overwhelming improvement if ever there was one.

Paul Withrington (Director)

** Robert Gifford is the Executive Director of the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety.
Copy to Robert Gifford, Teresa Villiers MP, John Redwood MP, Philip Hollobone MP, Brian Binley MP, Louise Ellman and John Gray (Road User Safety Division of DfT).

 


Published 17th October 2008CUTTING CO2 TO SAVE THE PLANET – IS THIS THE GRANDES DELUSION OF ALL?

Bjorn Lomborg, whilst conceding Global Warming, pointed out in The Times of 30th September that even if all the policies to restrict emissions were implemented world-wide then by 2100 global temperatures may be reduced by only one sixtieth of a degree at the astonishing cost of £5,000 billion. Further the UK’s contribution would be of the order of one three-thousandth of a degree. How stupid can we get?

Paul Withrington (Director)


Published 3rd OctoberFatality reduction claims of speed camera advocates don’t add up

LLT of 19th September (Page 13) reports Dr Mountain’s research as showing the cameras saving 50 lives per year rather than the 100 claimed by the DfT. However, the system-wide the situation appears to be much worse than that. Here are the numbers.

In the decade 1986 to 1996, before any substantial effect from the speed camera and associated polices could take effect, deaths per year fell by 33% or by 4% annually. In comparison, the decline in the decade 1997 to 2007 was only 18% or 2% annually. The implication is that we would have had some 500 fewer deaths in 2007 than actually occurred had nothing been done. That has arisen despite the cameras being supported by tens of thousands of speed humps and endless traffic management schemes busily causing congestion where none need exist.

Strangely the same trend is not mirrored by the reported KSI casualties. There the previous established decline has continued, albeit at a slightly lower rate. That has reduced the ratio of KSI casualties to fatalities by 25%. We ask, how can that possibly happen except by under-reporting serious casualties compared with the past (an option that scarcely exists for fatalities)?

In any event, if present trends continue to 2010 then the Government will crow that its target of reducing KSI casualties by 40% (compared with the average for 1994 to 1998) has been met. However, (a) a 40% reduction also arose during the corresponding periods ending in 1996 and 2000, both of which are prior to the surge in camera installation and speed humps and (b) deaths will have declined by only 22%.

Not only do we appear to have a dreadful outcome in terms of lives saved but it is reasonable to doubt that the reported saving in KSI is real.

That has been at the cost of prosecuting millions of people, most of whom were, by any reasonable measure, driving sensibly. Furthermore, tens of thousands have lost their licenses and many will have lost their jobs (or continued to drive - illegally and uninsured). Not surprisingly, this punitive approach has undermined respect for the police and for the other authorities.

Against that background we plea for an end to this finger wagging in favour of education designed to develop a mature and deferential driving population. After all, give responsibility and people will behave responsibly but treat people like idiots and they will behave like idiots.

Paul Withrington (Director)


A DOUBLE BRAIN HERNIA

Published in Local Transport Today 8TH August 2008 under the heading Public Transport advocates need to get a grip of reality

Reading Francesca Medda’s piece, with the snappy title “NATA should acknowledge that better public Transport improves access for all – unlike roads” (Viewpoint 25th  July)  nearly gave me a brain hernia.  Among other Francesca croons that “Only accessibility through public transport can enable everyone similarly equal access”.  What nonsense.  Has she not realised that, once off the bread line, the whole purpose of earning money is to buy advantage.  That is why the rich have more access to nearly everything than do the poor. The tragedy is that decades of soft-centred, fact free writing such as Francesca’s, has given give our numerically challenged politicians the will to pursue polices that will damage us all – including the poor.  A fine example of a truly daft “idea”, driven in part by “thinking” such as Francesca’s, is the Eco Towns stupidity so brilliantly exposed by Andrew Foster’s dead-pan factual reporting – enough to give any sane person a second brain hernia.

Those who do not have cars often get lifts. The trips served by cars cannot generally be served by bus let alone the train. The poor use trains 5 times less than the rich.  If a poor person wishes to go from London to Glasgow (an example used by Francesca) they will use the express coach – several times less costly than the train. Coaches, strangely, use roads.  Of course public transport has a place –12% of passenger miles go that way.  However, to overlook the other 88% is plainly nonsense.

Paul Withrington


CROSSRAIL’s ABSURD COST BENEFIT ANALYSIS

To New Civil Engineer 31ST July 2008 – Not published

“Reductio ad absurdum” is an accepted technique often used to destroy absurd propositions. The cost-benefit analysis for Crossrail provides an illustration.  There (a) incremental fares of £7 bn were set against costs and (b) a tax loss of £1.2 bn was added to the cost.  However, transferring resources from the taxpayer to Government can do nothing to increase the nation’s wealth (quite the reverse – probably the Government would waste the lot).  Similarly, the fares paid will exactly balance the gains to the service provider, yielding zero net benefits.  To labour that point; if the provider were to run the whole economy then fares to Crossrail would be lost to other “services”.  Consequently, incremental takings would be zero.

Hence the inclusion of fares and tax in the economic analysis is indeed absurd. Removing them destroys the case for Crossrail. That case should of course be destroyed, unless we welcome death by taxes.  After all, the £16 billion cost amounts to £640 for every household in the land - none of which will ever be recouped from the fares.

Paul Withrington

Copy to:

Treasury, Rosie Winterton MP, Louise Ellman MP, Theresa Villiers MP, Philip Hollobone MP, Brian Binley MP


RURAL BUSES ARE NO GREEN SOLUTION

The first paragraph below published in the New Civil Engineer of 31st July 2008

Rosie Winterton’s and the Government’s belief that congestion and emissions may be significantly reduced by encouraging or bullying people out of cars on to buses and trains is misplaced.  After all (a) if the bus and train could serve today’s dispersed land use then that dispersal would have arisen in the past, but it did not (b) buses and trains account for only 12% of passenger-miles. Hence, large percentage increases in their use can affect car use only marginally (c) few vehicles are less environmentally friendly than a subsidised bus trundling around with a couple of passengers aboard.  Even in London, outside the centre 70% of motorised journeys are by car, probably representing 80% of passenger miles.

As for the fuel consumption of rail, Michael Shabpas, letter of 24th is correct in saying that diesel powered trains are more fuel efficient that trucks.  However, express coaches are far more fuel efficient than trains.  Consequently if the national rail function were discharged by express coaches and lorries, using the rights of way enjoyed by the railways, then the fuel consumption would be substantially reduced along with carbon emissions.  In nearly all other vectors the express coach and lorry outperform rail be very wide margins indeed, e.g.. by a factor of four with regard to cost.

P F Withrington


REALISM

Published in Local Transport Today 25th July 2008

On 30th May David Smith called upon Ministers to grasp the need to electrify transport.  However, as pointed out by the RSSB in its report on Traction Energy Metrics, July 2007 (and others), any large scale increase in electricity demand will postpone the retirement of coal powered power stations.  For that reason emissions associated with electrification should be those from coal fired generation.  That emits double the carbon of the industry average.  On that basis we found that, if rail were replaced by diesel burning express coaches and lorries, carbon emissions would be reduced by 37%.  We also found that Ryanair would emit substantially less per passenger-km than high speed electric powered trains

On June 13th Peter Miller ruminated under the heading “How could anyone still doubt catastrophic climate change”.  He hangs his belief on all those worthy Government bodies full economists, politicians and bad scientists.  Those of us who are skeptics look at the data.  The overriding five million year long cooling tend; ice two miles thick in Scotland 18,000 years ago - melts by 10,000 years ago with no help from us; the Holocene Optimum when temperatures were 2-3 degrees warmer than now; the medieval warm period followed by the little ice age; the subsequent warming, which started long before any truly massive emissions from mankind; the 20th century when there was warming until 1940, cooling to 1975, warming until the end of the century, and now cooling since 2002, reference Bernard Abrams on 27Th June.  Man made warming? Bah.

As for “getting people out of cars into buses and trains – that is a pipe dream.  After all the car has enabled a dispersed land use that is well neigh impossible to serve by bus let alone the train.  That is why today’s land use did not develop in the past.  Hence, if for catastrophic reasons the car vanished, instead of trips by car transferring to public transport most would either go by bike or disappear.  Life would then return to the ambience of the 1950s and beyond. In any event, with only 12% of passenger-miles by public transport a large percentage increase in usage can only effect car use to a trivial extent.  It should also be noted that there are few less environmentally friendly vehicles than a subsidised bus lumbering around with two or three passengers aboard.

The idea that car users may transfer to the train is even more stupid than that they will transfer to bus.  After all, half of all car journeys are less than 5 miles long and nearly all are to places where trains do not go whereas half of all train journeys are 20 miles long and nearly all are to city centres where cars cannot park.

Oh what fun it must be to be in power developing policy in defiance of the facts.  After all everyone loves massive failures and what better way is there of guaranteeing a gigantic one than that?

Paul Withrington, Director Transport-watch


SPEED CAMERAS 16th April 2008

Not published

The Association of British Drivers is castigated for being hysterical about the speed cameras.  Well, here are the hysterical facts:

Road Research Laboratory Report LR 323 published in 1998, found that “excessive speed” accounted for only 7.3% of the recorded “contributory” factors in road traffic accidents. Table 2 of the DfT’s report on Contributory Factors (referenced to 2005 data) shows that exceeding the speed limit was recorded as a contributory factor in 12% of fatal accidents, 7% of accidents where there was a serious injury and 4% of accident where there was a slight injury.  However, in nearly all accidents there are more than one contributory factor e.g.. the speeding driver may also be drunk, or distracted by a car full of children or driving without due care and attention or caught out by an outrageous action of some other road user.  When that is taken into account we find that speeding as a percentage of all contributory factors amounted to 5.7% for fatalities, 3.4% where there was a seriously injured casualty and 2.2% where there was a slightly injured casualty.

Despite the compelling picture that these numbers paint, namely that speeding (defined narrowly as breaking the speed limit) is an entirely trivial cause of road traffic accidents, the authorities are determined that breaking the speed limit, or speed generally, is the villain.

Worse than that the authorities have muddled the data in the public mind by (a) routinely saying that 30% of the accidents are “speed related”, when in a pure (and entirely stupid world) 100% would be the more accurate number and (b) dishonestly (in our view) allowing that percentage to be related to “speeding”.

Allied to that we have LR 421 and 511.  Those reports set out to find a relationship between speed and accidents.  Since reducing speed to zero would also reduce accidents to zero it was scarcely surprising that a relationship was indeed found.  That is often summarised as a 1 mph reduction in speed leading to a 5% reduction in accidents, although the number varies according to road type.  We believe that is a spurious finding that can in no way inform policy.  Instead it is a stick that has been used to beat the motorist and to justify speed limits so low that the law is being brought into contempt.

The speed cameras are supported by ever lower speed limits, tens of thousands of speed humps, and the endless traffic management schemes that now create congestion where none need exist.  Despite all that the long established downward trend in road deaths appears to have been sabotaged - In the decade ending 1996, when there were few special road safety polices, road deaths fell by 32% but in the 10 years to 2006, the rate of decline collapse to a mere 11%.

Probably the reason for that failure falls within the slogan “treat people like idiots and, surprise, surprise, they will behave like idiots”. In any event the motorist is now expected to “drive by numbers” both with regard to speed and to his use of road space, particularly at junctions.  That has eroded driver responsibility and sabotaged the development of mature behaviour. 

Quite apart from the apparent failure of the policy, the cost of this punitive approach, both in terms of the damage to relationships with the police, seen as the enforcing agency, and damaged livelihoods, has been huge, let alone the congestion caused. The alternative that we and the ABD advocate is education, designed to develop a polite and deferential driving population.

Paul F Withrington


BE REALISTIC

To New Civil Engineer 12th July 2008 – not published

Government backed loans and grant to National Rail may reach £100 billion over the 20 years to 2015.  That is equivalent to £200 per year for 20 yrs for every household in the land. It arises when rail accounts for only 6% passenger miles or 2% of journeys and when the richest 20% of households travel 5 times as far per head by rail as do those from the poorest 40%. In contrast the net contribution to the Exchequer from the comparable strategic road network is £13 billion annually.  That is equivalent to a profit of £500 per year from every household in the land. That network is used 2.5 to 3 times as intensively as is the rail network

In the peak hour in central London there are sufficient surface rail passengers to fill one seventy to one fifth of the network’s capacity if it were paved and those passengers all had seats in 50-seat or 75-seat express coaches.  The cost of paving the entire network would be a fraction of the modernisation programme.  Likewise in all other vectors.

Do the facts not speak for themselves or is the Engineering profession too dazed by the heroics of the great days of steam to notice?

Paul F Withrington


OVERRATED RAIL

In the New Civil Engineer – published void of picture and notes 3rd July 2008

Antony Oliver, 26th June, cheers the prospect of 5 new high speed lines and regrets that the Government has “gone lukewarm” on the idea.  Thank goodness it has.  After all the cost would exceed £100 billion, none of which would ever be recovered from the fare box.  That is equivalent to £4,000 in taxes from every household in the land.  The resultant toy would do nothing to reduce road congestion (half of all car journeys are less than 4.3 miles long, 90% are less than 20 miles long).  Furthermore the facility would be used by the rich at least 5 times as much as by the poor, or at least that is the case with normal rail.

Meanwhile Battersea power station awaits an extension of the Northern line so as to unlock the site’s development potential notwithstanding that there is a multi track rail way right past its front door.  What greater illustration do we require that rail is quite incapable of meeting today’s needs?  Even in the peak hour London’s immense rail system is used to no more than one fifth of its capacity if paved and the passengers allocated to seats in express coaches.
Notes

In the peak hour circa 250,000 passengers enter central London by surface rail.  There are 25 pairs of tracks.  Hence the flow per track is 10,000 pax per hour, sufficient to fill 200 50-seat coaches.  The capacity of one lane of a motor road, the same width as required by a train, is 1,000 coaches per hour – five times the 200 needed.

High speed rail will turn out to be less green than air travel but that is another story.

Copy to
Treasury
George Osborne MP
Oliver Letwin MP
Theresa Villier MP
John Redwood MP
Brian Binley MP

Paul Withrington


SPEED CAMERAS

To Local Transport Today 16th April 2008 – not published

The Association of British Drivers is castigated for being hysterical about the speed cameras.  Well, here are the hysterical facts:

Road Research Laboratory Report LR 323 published in 1998, found that “excessive speed” accounted for only 7.3% of the recorded “contributory” factors in road traffic accidents. Table 2 of the DfT’s report on Contributory Factors (referenced to 2005 data) shows that exceeding the speed limit was recorded as a contributory factor in 12% of fatal accidents, 7% of accidents where there was a serious injury and 4% of accident where there was a slight injury.  However, in nearly all accidents there are more than one contributory factor e.g.. the speeding driver may also be drunk, or distracted by a car full of children or driving without due care and attention or caught out by an outrageous action of some other road user.  When that is taken into account we find that speeding as a percentage of all contributory factors amounted to 5.7% for fatalities, 3.4% where there was a seriously injured casualty and 2.2% where there was a slightly injured casualty.

Despite the compelling picture that these numbers paint, namely that speeding (defined narrowly as breaking the speed limit) is an entirely trivial cause of road traffic accidents, the authorities are determined that breaking the speed limit, or speed generally, is the villain.

Worse than that the authorities have muddled the data in the public mind by (a) routinely saying that 30% of the accidents are “speed related”, when in a pure (and entirely stupid world) 100% would be the more accurate number and (b) dishonestly (in our view) allowing that percentage to be related to “speeding”.

Allied to that we have LR 421 and 511.  Those reports set out to find a relationship between speed and accidents.  Since reducing speed to zero would also reduce accidents to zero it was scarcely surprising that a relationship was indeed found.  That is often summarised as a 1 mph reduction in speed leading to a 5% reduction in accidents, although the number varies according to road type.  We believe that is a spurious finding that can in no way inform policy.  Instead it is a stick that has been used to beat the motorist and to justify speed limits so low that the law is being brought into contempt.

The speed cameras are supported by ever lower speed limits, tens of thousands of speed humps, and the endless traffic management schemes that now create congestion where none need exist.  Despite all that the long established downward trend in road deaths appears to have been sabotaged - In the decade ending 1996, when there were few special road safety polices, road deaths fell by 32% but in the 10 years to 2006, the rate of decline collapse to a mere 11%.

Probably the reason for that failure falls within the slogan “treat people like idiots and, surprise, surprise, they will behave like idiots”. In any event the motorist is now expected to “drive by numbers” both with regard to speed and to his use of road space, particularly at junctions.  That has eroded driver responsibility and sabotaged the development of mature behaviour. 

Quite apart from the apparent failure of the policy, the cost of this punitive approach, both in terms of the damage to relationships with the police, seen as the enforcing agency, and damaged livelihoods, has been huge, let alone the congestion caused. The alternative that we and the ABD advocate is education, designed to develop a polite and deferential driving population.

Paul F Withrington


RAIL EXPANSION 

Local Transport today April 2008, not published

A rational man can only read accounts of the proposed expansion of the rail network with despair. The plain fact is, rail is beggaring the nation.  Subsidy for the 20 years to 2015 is likely to top £100 billion.  That amounts to £4,000 for every household in the land at a time when half the population uses a train less than once a year.  Furthermore those from households in the top quintile of income travel five times as far by rail as do those from households in either of the bottom two quintiles.  Why on earth should we subsidise rich folk?

Now we have Jim Steer and others canvassing for tens of billions of pounds to be spent on three 200 mph rail links.  Together those may cost a further £(50-100) billion.  Cost benefit analyses for two, said to cost £31 billion, pretend that the proposals would produce £63 billion of benefits.  However that analysis erroneously counts fares as benefits (when they are actually transfer payments) and includes the “regenerative” effect on Northern cities.  The latter may benefit far more if given the cash directly and even more if tax were generally reduced so that the market, instead of schoolboy thinking, may drive the economy. If such proposals are not viable in purely financial terms then they should not be built.  Any other approach will leave the taxpayer paying for fairy gold for ever and ever.

In this context it is salutary to look at the modal split of the longer distance journeys.  National Travel survey data for the years 2004-2006 shows that in the range 250-350 miles 72% of trips are by car, 8% by bus and 14% by rail leaving 5% to air.  For journeys longer than 350 miles 42% or trips were by car and 39% by air, leaving a trivial 10% to the train and 4% to the express coach.  If at immense cost to the taxpayer some of the air travellers transferred to rail the effect on global emissions would be almost impossible to measure.

Bah – go look at the fares.

Paul Withrington


CROSSRAIL and COST BENEFIT ANALYSIS

Local Transport today published 25th January 2008

With special reference to Crossrail, may I make a plea for an end to cost-benefit analysis as presently applied to public transport projects? Instead decisions should be based on financial analyses.  Alternatively, we plea for a radical change in how cost-benefit analysis is applied.

Cost-benefit was originally developed for the evaluation of road schemes where, because there were no direct payments by the users, the cash value of the time plus accident savings were compared with the costs. When the same process is applied to public transport, benefits are inflated by the “incremental” fares – the additional fares to the operator that the proposal would produce. My view is that that is quite wrong. All such payments are transfers where the loss to the one party (the customer) balances the gain to the other (the operator).

To illustrate: for Crossrail the present value of the fares revenue is some £13bn. That extracts some £7bn from existing rail services leaving incremental fares of circa £6bn. That huge sum was subtracted from the present value costs (£13.7 bn) to provide £7.7bn. Loss of indirect tax at £1.2bn was then added to yield a net cost of £9bn. It is that net cost that has been compared with the user benefits of £16bn.

Now, if by way of illustration, we suppose the railways ran the entire economy then, as well as subtracting the £7 billion (lost to existing rail services), we would have had to subtract the £6 billion lost to the wider economy. That would of course lead to zero “incremental fares”. Likewise, the change in tax take is a transfer payment and should also be ignored.

What has happened is that clever men have been looking at two dimensional pieces of paper forgetting that incremental fares are at the expense of other sectors of the economy. In short they have muddled financial analysis with cost-benefit. That has vastly (and erroneously) increased the benefit to cost ratios of public transport proposals.

Further, the proponents of Crossrail canvass for very large benefits under the headings Agglomeration and Benefits to the Wider Economy.  However, there is a deafening silence as to the damage that would be caused to that wider economy by the huge subsidy required by this project.

Lastly, the evaluation period is 60 years and the discount rate, 3.5%. The effect is that a project may pass the cost-benefit test while not running into “profit” until long after many of us will be dead. Crossrail does not yield the DfT’s medium Benefit to Cost ratio of 1.5 until 40 to 50 years after opening. Without incremental fares it would not breakeven, in cost-benefit terms, until perhaps 55 years had elapsed or perhaps never.

Financial analyses would reject projects where whole life costs are greater than whole life fares plus the associated changes in land values. On that basis Crossrail should not be built unless likely to yield an increase in land values greater than £7.7bn (the gap between net fares and costs). Willingness to pay would be a proxy for that increase.

Any other approach will leave the taxpayer paying for fairy gold for ever and ever.

Paul Withrington


DEDICATED TRAMWAYS ARE SIMPLY A WASTE OF SPACE

Local Transport Today 8th November 2007

Professor Lesley (Letter LTT 25 Oct) says that Tram Power will offer a system as economical as a bus service once certain technical items are established. But why wait? Instead just do it by bus now. Not only may buses offer a similar or greater line haul capacity, given a right of way managed to avoid congestion, but (a) the buses may leave the right of way so as to drop-off and pick-up and (b) other vehicles could use the track, which would otherwise be occupied to only a small fraction of its potential. When the latter is taken into account the unit cost of the bus option must surely undercut that of the rumbling tram by a factor in the range two to ten.

As an example of the trivial use that tram systems make of track, consider the Manchester Metro. It carried 206 million passenger-km in 2005/06. Dividing the passenger-km by the track length (78km) yields a network-wide average flow of some 7,200 passenger per track per day. Dividing by an average load of 20, to convert to equivalent bus flows, yields 360 bus equivalents - a flow so trivial that it would pass unnoticed on a motor road.

In the peak hour and in the centre the passenger flow may be three times the average, here set to one tenth of the daily flow. Hence the morning peak hour inbound passenger arrivals at the centre may number circa 2,100 per track. However, the vehicles would then be full, carrying e.g.. 50 passengers each. Hence those passengers would all find seats in 45 50-seat buses or in 30 bigger ones. Outside the peak it's definitely feed the pigeons time. After all, the capacity of one lane of a motor road is at least 1,000 buses per hour. With lay-bys for buses at one to two mile intervals that may be reduced somewhat but even so…

Surely there must be a more entertaining way of wasting a right of way than blocking it with tram lines?

Paul Withrington


PERSONAL ATTACKS ARE A POOR SUBSTITUTER FOR DEBATING THE FACTS

In Local Transport Today 25th June 2007

Mike Crowhurst would have me silenced out of hand, (Letters LTT 26 April) without addressing any of the inconvenient truths to do with the railways that we have researched so carefully. Chris Oldham (Letters 10 May), asks what motivates Transport Watch. He then mounts a personal attack instead of addressing the issues. Richard Evans, 24 May, has joined those who prefer the sport of shooting the messenger to answering the case. Hence it is heartening to find Jim Russell, Derek Reynolds and Paul Biggs supporting sensible debate.

Chris Oldham asks the question, what motivates Transport-Watch? The answer is that we have a passion for the truth. To illustrate, the railway lobby likes to say that every day more people die on the roads than passengers in a year by rail. However, the statement exaggerates in favour of rail by a factor of 18 by ignoring usage and by another similar factor by comparing passengers killed in train accidents with all those, system-wide, including pedestrians, cyclists and bikers, killed on the road network.

In comparison our detailed calculations show that (a) deaths per passenger-km by express coach and bus on non-urban roads and motorways are substantially less than (perhaps half) those suffered by rail passengers within the envelope bounded by the ticket barriers and (b) if ordinary traffic, void of pedestrians, cyclists, and bikers occupied a reserved road system, such as the rail network, then the system-wide deaths per passenger-km would be less than that imposed on the community as a whole by rail.

We find similarly in most other vectors to do with road and rail. Indeed it turns out that the railway myth has no basis. The tragedy is that that myth provides the motivation for the waste of tens if not hundreds of billions of pounds. Hence I quote Stuart Joy. He was chief economist to British Railways in the 1960's. In his book The train that ran away he writes that there were "those who were prepared, cynically, to accept the rewards of high office in the British Transport Commission and the railways in return for the unpalatable task of tricking the Government on a mammoth scale. "Those men", Joy said, "were either fools or knaves". We comment, then as now.

Paul Withrington


LOSING THE WAY ON THE PATH TO A LOW EMSISSION TRANSPORT SYSTEM

In Local Transport Today 24th May 2007

LTT seems to me to have rather lost its way by debating global warming. As other correspondents have suggested, massively reducing the energy intensity of transport will still be necessary even if transport emissions have no impact on warming. It is true but irrelevant to our task that in the past climate has got warmer or colder without any emissions from transport.

It is distasteful that this peripheral debate has led to unprofessional attacks on Mr Withrington, director of pressure group Transport-Watch. With respect to the relative energy intensity of transport modes, the position he takes has real support. In its 18th report the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution concluded that the energy use per capacity-kilometre of the small car was superior to the electric suburban multiple unit and the French high-speed train.

These conclusions were supported by extensive references. Transport-Watch also gives meticulous accounts of how its conclusions are reached and makes rational challenge even easier through the willingness of its director to enter into debate. It is possible to review the work of both the Royal Commission and Transport-Watch and, where appropriate, to reach other conclusions based on better evidence. Unfortunately, some lobbying groups make unsupported assertions that cannot be examined in this way.

For example, Rail Future asserts that rail travel is between two and three times more efficient than going by car but gives no supporting evidence.

Transport is publicly funded so professionals must engage with politics and cannot completely avoid polemic but this does not excuse assertions without evidence or the sort of letters written by Mssrs Crowhurst and Oldham.
Jim Russell  (Past Director General, South Yorkshire PTE)


Give less oxygen to those who don't believe in man-made global warming

LTT 24th May 2007

Like Mike Crowhurst (Letters LTT 26 Apr) I too am tiring of the tedious letters from Paul Withrington, Bernard Abrams and other climate change deniers in these pages. I do, however, understand the need to maintain editorial balance and publish both sides of the argument.

May I suggest an expedient solution: since 99% of the world's scientists agree with the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) that man-made climate change is happening and is a serious threat to future life on earth, the balance of letters here should reflect that. Just one letter in every hundred on this subject from the likes of Mr Withrington and Mr Abrams should help relieve the tedium.

Richard Evans


Can rail advocates be expected to look at the facts dispassionately?

LTT 24th May 2007

It is unlikely Mike Crowhurst, the chairman of Rail Future (Letters LTT 26 Apr), will be persuaded that rail is inferior to road as is suggested in Mr Withrington's letter (Letters LTT 1 Feb).

Mr Crowhurst is perhaps a little too near the wood to see the trees. I have found personal retorts often emanate from a weak argument and that of Mr Crowhurst and Mr Oldham (Letters LTT10 May), might be based upon information gained from too much government and media presentation, seldom a source of accurate information. The IPCC is an Intergovernmental panel, designed to supply policy advice. It has been found biased, its findings flawed and criticised by scientists working within, let alone without.

The desire for many to return to steel clad streets under a web of wires has as much to do with nostalgia and the physical attraction of modern trams than necessity. Implanting rails in roads creates a straight jacket for public transport. Why is there such an aversion to the rubber tyred, go anywhere vehicle? It requires no expensive overhead wire system to maintain and cause problems for emergency services; no rails to hamper ground works for water and gas etc; offers complete flexibility of dispersal; and better end of life resale value (school/scout buses, preservation groups).

Derek Reynolds


What are the motivations behind Transport-Watch's campaigns?

LTT 10th May

Without any wish to sound rude, it would be interesting to know what motivates the thoughts of Paul Withrington.

As stated in his letter in LTT on 12 April, Mr Withrington is director of Transport-Watch. This appears to be largely a campaign against "cumbersome trains", to turn railways into roads. It uses cherry-picked "facts" to discredit trains and promote roads, which blissfully ignores both the many realities of doing so and the many virtues of trains.

Away from this campaign, he now appears to dispute mankind's contribution to global warming (Letters LTT 12 Apr). In LTT letters on 26 April, Matthew Ledbury very eloquently addressed the questions raised by Mr Withrington but why were they being asked?

Interestingly, both the pro-road/anti-rail and global-warming-denial views are held by Jeremy Clarkson but at least Clarkson does it because he earns a lot of money from being deliberately provocative (so excessively as to sometimes be humorous I have to admit). However, it's not because he thinks carefully and then offers a view backed by sound reasoning.

Are Messrs Withrington and Clarkson regular drinking partners? Having never seen Mr Withrington, one wonders whether they are in fact the same person?

Chris Oldham


Claims that transport policy can help 'save the planet' are absurd

LTT 10th May 2007

Matthew Ledbury appears to suggest that when climate realist viewpoints are "argued out" or "extensively written about" this equals refutation (Letters LTT 24 Apr). Are we reading yet another unscientific proclamation that 'the science is settled'? Climate science is most definitely not settled. Moreover, transport policy should stick to addressing the challenge of moving people and goods while avoiding bogus attempts to 'save the planet' via carbon envy.

When addressing Mr Withrington's points 1-3 and 6 (LTT 12 Apr) regarding previous eras of climate change alongside current emissions of carbon dioxide, Mr Ledbury points out that the difference now is the extent to which human activity (fossil fuel burning) is helping to drive climate change. Apart from shamelessly taking for granted that the unproven human influence is indeed non-zero and significant, one must ask why a period is chosen stretching back only 650,000 years. The reasons for choosing this short pre-industrial timescale out of millions of years are that, firstly, it allows man-made global warmers to say that atmospheric CO2 levels nowadays are high when over the full pre-industrial geological perspective they are low and, secondly, it seems a long time to the general public and therefore impressive when it isn't. Levels of CO2 have been far higher than now, up to 18 times higher, totally naturally.
 

There is never any mention from the man-made global warming industry of the Beer Lambert Law, which is a law of diminishing climate returns from greenhouse gas concentrations, which tells us that there is nothing worthwhile to be gained from immeasurably small manipulation of emissions at this time. As to the last few decades, the work of Henrik Svensmark et al is re-writing this chapter of climate science and there is no definitive judgement available via exploitation of a microtrend.

Mr Ledbury's claim that the atmosphere has changed "largely as climate models have predicted" requires a redefinition of the word "largely". Consider the model NASA GISS 'A1B'. This has as its most prominent output pronounced tropical tropospheric warming yet this is absent from observations. This is failure, not success. Inadequate, expensive but politically correct computer games are no basis for making international energy and mobility policies. An accurate full climate model operating with appropriate spatial scales and degrees of freedom would require ten to the power 24 times longer than the current age of the Universe to run only a 40-year projection (Dr Willie Soon, Harvard

To take the discussion back to transport, we hear calls - usually directed at cars alone - to make further reductions in CO2 emissions, as if this would be remotely significant. So we see pop stars buying hybrid vehicles, which is good for sales of both hybrids and CDs, and we hear comically pompous adverts regarding tyre pressures and emissions that forget to remind listeners about safety implications. To see how pointless this is, within the new green religion of evil plant food gas, if all UK CO2 emissions were to stop overnight with consequent regression to a localised medieval lifestyle, unacceptable loss of life and economic collapse, China would make up the shortfall in 700 days.

As the previous generation of CND unilateralist bigwigs are currently in Government deciding on a replacement for Trident, it seems remarkable that they would volunteer this nation as the first lemming over the economic cliff in a similarly pointless act of posture politics that simply would not work. The modest extent and rate of climate change that we see remains within the level of natural variation, so the precautionary principle actually dictates that we avoid premature drastic action. There is no basis for engaging in Armageddonist ecohype - unless there is a preconceived agenda requiring it. Attempts by politicians to micromanage a complex planetary climate system using fiscal policy are risible and futile. Focusing this King Canute strategy on transportation takes us from the ridiculous to the utterly preposterous.

Bernard Abrams


Transport should not be exempt from carbon dioxide cuts

LTT 10th May 2997

Could you please help me keep my New Year's resolution by not publishing letters from Paul 'tiresome' Withrington? I had resolved to stop replying to them and managed to resist replying to his rant against George Monbiot (Letters LTT 1 Feb). (Monbiot does occasionally use some ill-advised language to get his point across.) But I am now breaking my resolution with this letter.

I will leave it to those more expert than me to dissect Paul's eight questions in the last issue and just make a simple point. Even if he were right that global warming is wholly or mainly natural in origin, is it really sensible for humanity to add to it by continuing to use and develop technologies that are either certain or highly likely to increase the problem and may risk tipping the planet beyond a point of no return?

Personally I would be much more worried if I thought global warming was largely a natural phenomenon, as that would imply that there was little or nothing we could do about it, whereas if it is substantially man-made then we certainly can do something about it, provided we apply our minds to it and ignore the likes of 'tiresome' Paul!

Turning to the more serious discussion of Government strategy on climate change ('Climate Bill clause averts need for deep cuts to transport CO2 levels' LTT 29 Mar) and Richard Craig's letter (LTT 12 Apr), I must say I find the idea of putting the emphasis on the energy sector rather than transport rather worrying. Of course we can all do our bit with energy saving at home and work but the real levers of change in this sector are in the hands of the power generators and the Government. Changing to 'green' suppliers seems to me (like carbon trading) something of a gesture that achieves little except to raise the profile of climate in the public mind.

We all need heat and power at times but we do not all need to travel as much as we are doing. As individuals we have far more opportunities to make meaningful decisions on our travel choices than on our domestic energy needs. Which is why I am attracted to the idea of personal carbon trading in transport and why it is so depressing that the current Government approach has led to a virtual standstill in both tram/light rail schemes and in electrification of the existing railway network.

Would it not make more sense to have more of our transport infrastructure equipped to take advantage of renewably generated power when it comes on stream, rather than wait until it does and then belatedly start a programme of rail and transport electrification?

Mike Crowhurst  Chairman, Railfuture

Transport should not be exempt from carbon dioxide cuts

LTT 26TH April 2007

Could you please help me keep my New Year's resolution by not publishing letters from Paul 'tiresome' Withrington? I had resolved to stop replying to them and managed to resist replying to his rant against George Monbiot (Letters LTT 1 Feb). (Monbiot does occasionally use some ill-advised language to get his point across.) But I am now breaking my resolution with this letter.

I will leave it to those more expert than me to dissect Paul's eight questions in the last issue and just make a simple point. Even if he were right that global warming is wholly or mainly natural in origin, is it really sensible for humanity to add to it by continuing to use and develop technologies that are either certain or highly likely to increase the problem and may risk tipping the planet beyond a point of no return?

Personally I would be much more worried if I thought global warming was largely a natural phenomenon, as that would imply that there was little or nothing we could do about it, whereas if it is substantially man-made then we certainly can do something about it, provided we apply our minds to it and ignore the likes of 'tiresome' Paul!

Turning to the more serious discussion of Government strategy on climate change ('Climate Bill clause averts need for deep cuts to transport CO2 levels' LTT 29 Mar) and Richard Craig's letter (LTT 12 Apr), I must say I find the idea of putting the emphasis on the energy sector rather than transport rather worrying. Of course we can all do our bit with energy saving at home and work but the real levers of change in this sector are in the hands of the power generators and the Government. Changing to 'green' suppliers seems to me (like carbon trading) something of a gesture that achieves little except to raise the profile of climate in the public mind.

We all need heat and power at times but we do not all need to travel as much as we are doing. As individuals we have far more opportunities to make meaningful decisions on our travel choices than on our domestic energy needs. Which is why I am attracted to the idea of personal carbon trading in transport and why it is so depressing that the current Government approach has led to a virtual standstill in both tram/light rail schemes and in electrification of the existing railway network.

Would it not make more sense to have more of our transport infrastructure equipped to take advantage of renewably generated power when it comes on stream, rather than wait until it does and then belatedly start a programme of rail and transport electrification?

Mike Crowhurst Chairman, Railfuture


Eight questions for man-made global warming advocates to answer

LTT 11TH April 2007

Matthew Ledbury's claim that the Channel 4 climate change programme, The Great Global Warming Swindle, consists of "tired old discredited arguments" would carry more weight if he, or any of the man-made global warming people, could throw any light on or contradict any of the following. If the answer is "no" then we may assume that the claim that the man-made global warming skeptics have been "discredited" is hot air.

  1. 18,000 years ago the ice was two miles thick in Scotland. It has melted without any help from us.
  2. 6,000-8,000 years ago temperatures were 2.5-3 degrees higher than today. The world did not end then.
  3. Neither medieval warming nor the Little Ice Age were due to man's activity.
  4. Warming arises in advance of increased carbon dioxide levels - implying that it is the warming that leads to the increase in carbon rather than the carbon causing the warming.
  5. Warming/cooling closely match sunspot activity.
  6. 96.5% of the carbon cycle is natural - leaving 3.5% to us. Animals and insects farting add far more to the carbon cycle than does mankind.
  7. Climate models allocate a maximum temperature rise attributable to carbon dioxide (regardless of its concentration) of 1 Deg C. Most of the rest of the predicted temperature increase is on the basis of warmer climes supposedly leading to more water vapour in the upper troposphere. However, the amount of water vapour there has not changed as predicted and the atmosphere has not warmed as predicted.
  8. Water vapour in the atmosphere drives 95% of greenhouse warming, with the rest of it coming from carbon dioxide (3.62%), nitrous oxide (0.95%), methane (0.36%), and miscellaneous gases (0.07%).

Sorry to be so tiresome.

Paul Withrington
 


Green' transport modes must provide fuel consumption data

LTT 30th November 2006

We congratulate you on your reporting of the climate debate and of the green or otherwise credentials of rail ('Climate change chief berates alarmists' and Feature LTT 16 Nov). Within the latter we have Professor Kemp saying "no one has train energy consumption at their finger tips". However, we do have a little.

For example, we had from British Rail in 1990 the electricity and diesel consumption used in traction by the system, divided by sector, along with passenger miles and tonne-miles. Converting the electricity to oil equivalents and adding the actual diesel consumed enabled us to calculate the passenger-miles per gallon. That provided 64 for Provincial Services, 83 for Network South East and 111 for Intercity, yielding a system wide average of 88.

It took us 13 years to get an update when, possibly by mistake, an employee of Network Rail provided similar data for 2002/03. It provides 108 for Network South East and 123 for both Regional and Intercity services, yielding a system wide average of 115. That compares with the 200 that might be expected from an express coach with 20 people aboard returning ten miles per gallon on an uncongested motor road (See www.transport-watch.co.uk fact sheet five).

In that context we have interested the Office of Rail Regulation in requiring the rail industry to provide its fuel consumption as part of national statistics. Clearly that should be available along with the same from all those rapid transit systems, which, in the absence of source data, claim green credentials.

Separately from that we have James Skinner wondering why the DfT has shunned light rail in favour of guided bus (Letters LTT 16 Nov). Our view is that, rather than guided bus, they should be settling for roads managed to avoid congestion via electronic charging, as are the Lexus lanes in the USA. Although the widths required may be slightly wider than for guided bus the cost may be less. Further, rights of way reserved for guided bus, or other fixed track, are, in highway terms, scarcely used. In contrast, if managed as motor roads those rights of way would carry countless lorries and other vehicles. That would bring very large environmental benefits to the unsuitable city streets that these vehicles currently clog.

Paul Withrington


Ministers should leave public transport provision to the market

LTT 10th August 2006

So, after describing my letter of 29 June as "balderdash", indicating by way of insult that he has perhaps lost the debate, Mike Crowhurst (Letters LTT 27 July) asks why councils should not control the revenue stream for bus operations when they provide subsidy. That question provides no answers. Instead it is a baseless plea that Government should be encouraged to meddle at taxpayer's expense.

One consequence of meddling is buses trundling around using up diesel at the rate of 5mpg with perhaps two to five passengers aboard. And, as for the railways, they will have cost every household in the land £2,000 over the decade at a time when half of us use the train less than once a year!

What better illustration could there be of why Government should not meddle? Instead the market should be left to decide. If there is a well deserving group of would-be travellers, pay them the money. For the most part, rail subsidy benefits the rich, not the poor.

Paul Withrington



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