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Facts Sheet 2. Casualty rates and costs

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This note contains casualty data for the national rail network and for the comparable Motorway and rural trunk road system, here called the strategic road network. 

The variability in the deaths per year to rail passengers is so great as to make estimates of deaths per passenger-km almost meaningless, although often cited.  For example, in the five years 1999 to 2003 44 passengers died in train accidents, but in the five years 2008 to 2012 there were no such deaths. Against that background, the only comparisons that can be relied upon are the system-wide death rates. Nevertheless the attached spread sheet providing casualty rates for the decade to2005 may interest, but with the caveat that suicides would be better  subdivided into trespassers, suspected suicides and suicides.

Data for the five years to 2012 is as follows.   Detail is available here

Rail: Excluding slips and falls, on board and abuse
Killed per
Bn Pass-km
Weighted: Fatal
+ 0.1 times serious
All except suicides or suspected suicides
As above plus suspected suicides
As above plus suspected suicides and suicides
Strategic Roads – (UK)
Casualties excluding pedestrians, cyclists and motor cyclists
All casualties
The data shows that, the strategic road network would be the safer than rail’s if pedestrian cyclists and motorbikes were excluded – as they would be from any converted rail network.

Railway industry presentations

The railway industry represents rail as uniquely safe.  For example, in paragraph 186 of the House of Commons’ Transport Committee’s report on the Future of the Railway, published in April 2004 we read ‘The SRA (Strategic Rail Authority) points out that “On  average more road users die each day in accidents than rail passengers in a year”’.  However:

  • The comparison ignores usage. Hence, since there were 18 times as many passenger-miles by road than by rail, the comparison exaggerated in favour of rail by a multiplier of 18.
  • The comparison is between the system-wide deaths on the entire road system, including pedestrians, cyclist and people on motorbikes, with rail passengers, probably those killed in so called Train Accidents.  That introduces a further massive exaggeration in favour of rail.

Against that background we say that the railway lobby’s presentations mislead politicians and the public inthis vector as with most of the others on a vast scale.

TABLE A12 Fatal train accidents with 5 or more fatalities


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