david begg and road v rail - cryhavock
So Professor Begg has now noticed that the govt is unlikely to meet its transport plan targets. He says that, by 2011, car transport is likely to be 20% cheaper than now, and rail 20% more expensive. Therefore, the conclusion is...: make the more efficient mode of transport more expensive!

In 2001, 93% of all passenger movement was by road, 6% by rail and 1% by air. Of the road traffic, 6% was by bus. These proportions have been quite static over the last few years.

So now for a sanity check: if we could double the use of rail, road traffic would decrease from 93% to 87% of the total, i.e. it would reduce by 6.5% - you might not notice the difference. If on the other hand, we totally abolished all rail services, road traffic would increase by 6.5% (assuming no former rail passenger went by air) - and you might not notice that difference either!

There is of course one big exception, where the difference would be noticed, and that's commuter traffic into the big cities (and even then, it's mroe or less only London commuters that make significant use of rail).

So, logic would seem to say - let's forget about long-distance rail services and put all that money into commuter services, where rail makes a difference to congestion!

But no - we are to spend £10 billion on upgrading the West Coast mainline. Just think about that money for a moment. It is more than one and half time the total public expenditure on all roads in all of Great Britain in 2001. It would pay for 40,000 nurses for 10 years. Or, if you had it in £10 notes, you could cover the entire surface of a 55 ft wide, 400 mile long dual carriageway with them.

Alternatively, think of it in terms of repayment: suppose that you ask each rail passenger on the line to pay an extra £10 fare. That means you need a billion passengers to repay the investment. That's something like 30 full trains a day for 150 years!

Does any of this make sense, or have I missed something?
david begg and road v rail - Gen
No, you're right, trains outside cities are a waste of money and space.
david begg and road v rail - SteveH42
You've not really missed it, but the point is that the way this has been done has lead to the costs skyrocketing unnecessarily. Similar work was done on the ECML about 15 years back for around £300 million.

Few points though, an extra 6% would make a lot of difference on some routes as they are already close to saturation. Also, are the figures you quote journeys or distance? Don't forget also that railways take a lot bulk freight off the roads - that would make a difference if lots more big, slow trucks were let loose on the road network.

Considering countries that until recently were considered fairly backwards such as Spain now have more extensive high speed rail routes than us that are widely used, I think it's more down to the way things have been done in this country than anything else.

Consider also that the same money would only build about 1000 miles of new motorway which would cost a lot more to maintain in the long run, plus would cost more again in costs relating to accidents.

Overall I think you do have it about right - costs are getting daft and more needs spending on local services. This especially - the WCML works are actually going to adversely affect a lot of local services on the route.
david begg and road v rail - cryhavock
The figures are (from the DfT website) for passenger-kilometres.

It's true that 6% does make a difference when the roads are almost full, but that's where spending the money specifically to alleviate those choke-points (either by widening roads, or by providing alternative modes of transport, of course) would make sense.

The funny thing about freight, though, is that rail has a very similar market-share as for passengers (in tonne-kilometres, in 1999). Overall, road takes 64%, water 23%, pipelines 5%, and rail 7%. The main contribution is for coal and coke, (rail 4.8 billion tonne-km, road 2.2 b t-km, water 0.5 b t-km). As a comparison, road haulage of petroleum products is about 4.9 b t-km.

However, coal carriage by rail tends to be on very specific routes - so let's keep them too, together with the commuter lines... :-)
david begg and road v rail - Sheepy-by-the-Sea
As SteveH42 mentioned, the costs of rail projects have shot up since privatisation - because of the number of companies involved (each of which wants a slice), because they have been too ambitious with what could be achieved on a saturated, ailing infrastructure (new lines are much cheaper and easier to build), and because rail is expected to operate in 100% safety which will never be achieved.

Maybe we should go for a freight-led railway, removing the need for 125mph running and with less political resistance to forcing freight onto the rails (sorry truckers, including my brother). A passenger service could be fitted around the freight, there wouldn't be as many but it would provide an acceptable service to those people without cars.

I often wonder why we are so obsessed with outright speed on our railways - after all, if passengers perceive that the service is unreliable the speed is academic.

If we want high speeds for trunk routes, a network of very high-speed routes could be built cheaply if we follow French practice (rather than reinventing the wheel) - but the Nimbys wouldn't want that.

I speak as someone who loves rail and also loves driving.
david begg and road v rail - SteveH42
It's not just due to the number of companies involved, a lot of it is down to sheer incompetence. For starters, Railtrack ordered and began installing an Italian signalling system which, once it was almost complete, they discovered wasn't approved for use in this country and had to be modified to suit. The current 'turn-on' date for that is now about 2005 when it should have been up and running by now.

Another drain is the HSE with a lot of very costly safety measures being enforced. If the sort of safety regimes that are imposed on the railway were imposed on the roads then nothing would move. That's not to say that it can be ignored completely, but you have to consider the lax attitude taken to road safety and the consequences of accidents compared to that on the railway which many think is OTT.

A major downfall of the railways is lack of integration. Actual centre to centre journey times can often be far, far faster than anything possible by road, but as very few journeys are centre to centre the fact you get dumped at the station and that's it is what can hurt the competetiveness of the rail network.

The concept of dedicated routes would be the way to go it the political will was there. After all, in the main motorways were built as new roads with the existing roads left for local traffic. Very few railway lines are under 100 years old, many are 150+, so they no longer best serve the country.

Railways DO have a part to play in transport in this country (which is why I hope the moderators will be kind to this thread) as there is no escaping the fact that little though the contribution may be, it is keeping a significant amount of traffic off the roads and if possible it needs increasing to ease the pressure on the road network and allow those who can't or won't change an easier driving life.
david begg and road v rail - Obsolete
20 years ago I used to travel on rail often, not having a driving licence. Trains were convenient and not too expensive. When privatisation came, the trains became very dirty and unreliable. It was not uncommon to board a train whose floor was literally covered in empty food cartons and other refuse, and the tables covered in food remains. Sometimes trains were so full that there was no room for passengers to board. There were quite a few occasions when I waited 30 minutes for a train, to find the train full, and I had to wait one hour for the next one. The cleanliness has improved, but reliability is still poor, and I don't want to risk a journey with a connection, as I know that often I won't make it. I also find the staff rude: tell them the truth at the ticket office and they call you a liar.

At the end of the day, for a family day out, a car is significantly cheaper, more convenient, cleaner and generally better. These eco-freaks who push public transport just don't live on our planet.
david begg and road v rail - Obsolete
Anyway, as regards the thread subject, I think the way to go is to improve the efficiency of current road usage. Encouraging people to use cars that do more mpg is a good start and one adopted by this government. Cars are significantly cleaner and more efficient than they were 20 years ago. Giving tax concessions for eco-friendly fuels is another good move. Maybe the government could go further to encourage the development of fuel efficient cars, including giving funds to research institutes.
david begg and road v rail - SteveH42
Better fuel efficiency is a starting point certainly. Heavy subsidy of alternative systems such as electric 'towncars' is also a must, even as far as possibly making dedicated 'urban electric' routes that allow small, light and simple 2 and 4 wheel vehicles be used safely away from larger infernal combustion cars. A good 85% of my journeys I'd say are under 3 miles and 95% under 10 miles, so an electric car with even a fairly limited range that I could *safely* use for these would be very attractive, and it needn't be big enough to carry more than 2 people or go faster than about 40. Not many people would feel safe sharing a road with SUVs and HGVs in a little dinky car though, so something would have to be done to allow these to be used safely.

As far as motorway driving goes, driver education would help. Techniques to minimise congestion-causing habits should be taught - even simple things like keeping pace with other traffic so it isn't having to funnel past you and actually overtaking rather than passing without increasing speed to the limit would help a lot.
david begg and road v rail - SteveH42
When privatisation came, the trains became very dirty and unreliable.

I wonder how much of the dirtyness is down to changing attitudes. In the past people generally took more care of other's property and generally behaved a lot more civilised. As for unreliable, I think it depends where you are. Many branch lines are more reliable these days, but busier lines are compromised by the system Railtrack use where if a train loses it's path then though, it's going to be fitted in wherever rather than any attempt made to give it sensible help to regain time. (Things like not putting an express behind a stopper etc)
At the end of the day, for a family day out,
a car is significantly cheaper, more convenient, cleaner and generally better.
These eco-freaks who push public transport just don't live on our

A car when fully occupied isn't too bad. However, think how many cars run around with 1 or 2 people in and how much congestion and pollution that causes. I'm not against cars - far from it, I find my car very handy, but I also recognise we simply can't go on using them the way we do these days without having to face the consequences sooner or later. Public transport is also *needed* for those who can't for one reason or another use the car. To be honest, I'd say that a good 10% or more of those driving probably don't have sufficient competence or ability to really be let out on the roads, but our driving test is so lax that it's actually quite hard not to pass if you have basic skills. Improved driver awareness and skill would help to reduce traffic jams and accidents in the first place, but whether or not that happens, people still need the alternatives.
david begg and road v rail - J Bonington Jagworth
"I'd say that a good 10% or more of those driving probably don't have sufficient competence"

I think you're being kind. If tests included a proper written paper (not multiple-choice) and some real-world experiences, including heavy traffic and motorways, not to mention a proper medical, then congestion would disappear! Of course, it wouldn't be terribly popular with the electorate, so we have the current mess. If it really is costing 10bn to sort out one stretch of railway, I don't imagine it would cost a lot more to let everyone use it for free! Without the figures to hand, I get the impression that the railways have cost the Exchequer just as much since privatisation as when they were publicly owned. I'd use them more if they were cheaper, but it annoys me that I'm still paying for them anyway.
david begg and road v rail - Tom Shaw
"Our driving test is so lax that that it's hard not to pass if you have the basic skills"

May have been the case a couple of decades ago, but not any more. Why don't you apply to take one yourself, and agree to hand your licence back if you fail?
david begg and road v rail - SteveH42
Has it changed a lot in the last 10 years? (It's about 10 years and 9 days since I passed acutally!) All I've heard of is the written paper which doesn't seem all that taxing. For me, the test doesn't teach you enough 'real world' situation, concentrating mainly on ability to control a vehicle. It's a good starting point, but I'd like to see stages beyond that for things such as motorway driving.
david begg and road v rail - Hawesy1982
I'd have to agree with SteveH42 about extra stages to the driving test.

I passed three years ago (first attempt :-)) and consider myself a fast learner, however i have a number of friends who, although i would now consider them perfectly competent drivers, took a long time to pass their test, ie a large number of costly lessons, and more than one test. If the initial test was made any harder, people like this may well give up learning due to cost and annoyance involved (maybe good for congestion, but everyone wants to be able to drive). However they then dont dare go near a motorway for months and months, and when they do they make themselves a hazard for other drivers.

I think a compulsory additional motorway course should be put in place, where the new driver goes onto a motorway for the first time with an instructor, and aslong as they dont make utter fools of themselves are then fully qualified. Up to then i think new drivers should be banned from motorway driving, as many dont realise the speeds involved or things such as proper lane etiquette.
david begg and road v rail - JamesH
"Our driving test is so lax that that it's hard not
to pass if you have the basic skills"
May have been the case a couple of decades ago, but
not any more. Why don't you apply to take one yourself,
and agree to hand your licence back if you fail?

Maybe the issue is that while bad new drivers are filtered out, there is nothing to stop people who would fail a current test but who passed years ago continuing to drive.

Back on topic, the government always forgets that not all of Britain is in London (not just related to cars). Working in the middle of London, there isn't a serious alternative to me taking the dirty overcrowded train. I use my car for most things other than commuting as it's then a quicker, more pleasant experience.

There seems to be cash for longer distance routes I'll never use but with Thameslink 2000 put on the back burner, improvements to (my) essential routes won't happen.

What's more, the train companies are keen to up the fares to put us back into cars. While I'm pro-car, in London that doesn't make sense.
david begg and road v rail - Nortones2
Its only about this "That's not to say that it can be ignored completely, but you have to consider the lax attitude taken to road safety and the consequences of accidents compared to that on the railway which many think is OTT." that I differ with in your post. Its not really possible for HSE (in reality the HSC which is the body that directs HSE on behalf of the Govt.) to downgrade rail safety for two reasons: 1 Its not for HSC to decide on such a radical step, but Govt. so no change likely unless radical instructions are given to these public servants. 2 Aversion to risk, or to put it another way, public expectations. Whilst we as a society accept death/injury on a small scale, its a very different matter if 30 are wiped out at one go. Now if we have a brave politician/party who sees logic in reducing rail safety to move towards some quality with the shambles on the roads, fair enough, but I somehow doubt it. Nor would you pursue such a course, if you were to take the can from the injured, relatives of the dead, and the courts.
david begg and road v rail - Nsar
Where is the word "time" in the congestion debate? Roads are only congested at certain points of the day and as a frequent user of the M6 M62 etc I know full well that those points of the day get longer and longer. But, where is the strategic effort to spread the load of congestion over the whole 24 hours?
Yes better rail, yes better integration, but these are huge policy even societal shifts requiring investment and effort way beyond the time horizon of any Government.

Why not offer really generous tax incentives to the freight industry for deliveries made outside daylight hours? Some of it passed on to drivers in terms of attractive pay for anti-social hours. The only trucks you see at night are the mail, newspaper and overnight express operators. They can do it, why not the whole industry?

david begg and road v rail - SteveH42
Nothing can be done on the railway these days without HSE approval, or whatever body has the relevant powers. (I've always seen HSE mentioned, so I'm assuming it's them, but I don't know for sure) It has got to the point where things are just stupid and millions are being spent with very little gain. Things such as TPWS are now mandatory even though they have very few safety benefits and slow services down as station times can be increased. And still, TPWS is just a stop-gap until ERTMS is implemented on the main lines - in many people's opinion it would have been much better to miss it out altogether and go straight to this system.

Also, the insistence on replacing slam-door stock when it is not full life-expired is adding extra cost even though the 'risks' in using such stock are so low as to be barely noticable. Also, vast sums of money are spent on certifying new rolling stock before it is even allowed in traffic. This paperwork is adding millions to the costs yet has no real benefit.

It's at the point now where a minor incident can result in a railway line being closed for days while a road accident is dragged out of the way as quickly as possible. A railway driver can pass a red signal by a foot and even if it was unavoidable he will still be suspended and a full investigation put in place. How many drivers do we see jumping red lights every day?

It should also be pointed out that all the delays and extra costs this is putting on the railway is encouraging more people to use their cars in the misbelief they will be safer, yet the death and injury tolls on our roads are over 100 times that on the railway. We are never likely to achieve 100% safety, but you are far, far less likely to die or be injured on a train than on the road yet the massive publicity given to even tiny incidents makes the railway *seem* far less safe, and is increasing the overall risk by putting people off trains and in to cars!

I'm not saying railways should be run slap-dash, just pointing out that massive sums are being spent for tiny gains, yet the carnage continues unabated on the roads. I'd imagine that if even 10% of road accidents could be avoided then things would run a lot smoother, not to mention the grief saved and recovery and medical expenses that wouldn't be needed.
david begg and road v rail - Nortones2
SteveH42: maybe you have inside information that I don't re "tiny gains" but i seem to recall a number of deaths through use of old designs of door. I'd just point out that before enforcement, HSE have to justify cost-wise. Agree there is little done re the anarchy on the roads, but judging by the reaction to limited (and possibly arbitrary) enforcement of the roads law, there'd be riots if motorists were constrained further. Despite the growing tendency to hit and run - 50% has been mooted. Which is the correct approach? we'll have to agree to differ.
david begg and road v rail - SteveH42
There were some deaths with slam-doors, mainly due to idiocy. This is easily stopped by fitting central locking which is far cheaper than building new stock. The other concern for this stock was the crashworthyness, although as has been pointed out on the relevant forums, they survive accidents *far* better than the Pacer that was nearly demolished at Winsford.

The whole point of the 'tiny gains' is that as I said before, rail deaths are *miniscule* compared to road deaths. Even the worst years recently have been <50 (not including trespassers) and many years it has been in single figures. Even a disaster such as Ladbroke Grove only killed a comparable number of people to that killed *every day* on the roads, and incidents such as that are very, very rare.

You say things can't be improved on the roads, but I think part of the reason this is perceived is that road users have been allowed to get away with far, far too much. Speeding is considered an every-day thing and most of the time people feel got-at for being caught - a train driver can be sacked for speeding and this sort of thing is now monitored! Careless driving, jumping lights and the like isn't taken seriously and if anyone threatens to do anything about it everyone shouts about their rights and civil liberties. What is needed is a big crackdown to make it clear to people that road use is a privilege and by no means a right.
david begg and road v rail - CM
In my recent and limited experience of rail travel, it all seems to run OK between main hubs, although I don't often seem to be able to find a seat!

I think that one of the big problems start when you reach one of these major hubs and want to go somewhere off the main line. By the time any other public transport link (be it bus or rail) turns up for the connection, it is often easier and quicker to have driven.

Having said that I usually travel with a wife and 2 young kids so it is (a) easier by car and (b) cheaper.
david begg and road v rail - Daedalus
This is a bit off your topic but relevant I think.
Following my off on the Blackbird I have been off work for 3 weeks but started again on Monday. I am going in by train while my arm is in plaster. My wife takes me to the station (11/2 miles I also did my knees some damage), I get the train to Manchester and then wait for a connection to get to the station closest to work (Brinnington) and then one of my staff collects me. Total door to door 2 hours, total cost per day £10.00. On the blackbird it takes 30 mins door to door at a cost of £5.00 in the car about 40 mins and £8.20. And proffessor Begg wants me to take public transport????? Stuff him basically. Today we setup my phone to transfer to my home number and I can now log onto my PC at work from my home PC so I am only going in 3 days Mon to Weds. I will be able to do this for a short time but as the Chief Engineer I do need to be at WORK to do my job properly. Some may say get a job nearer home, well I used to have a job nearer home but that brewery closed down so I now travel to the next closest, which I consider to have been a very lucky move. Many people are in similar positions to me, we need our bikes or cars to live. Fine if your a politician in London with a limo outside every morning but we need our cars and bikes.

david begg and road v rail - Nortones2
Bill: You compare only the marginal costs for your vehicles. Your fare (plus subsidy if any) pays for the cost of trains on hooks, waiting for you to need them, or to reject them until your magic carpet throws you off. In the land of the car, (USA) you'd have to get your minions to pick you up, without public transport as a fall-back. I'll bet that costs a trifle more. If you bother to rebutt please give the cost of employment total plus the opportunity costs of minions not doing their normal work. If you can detect I am irritated by this cherry-picking approach, well done!
david begg and road v rail - Mark (RLBS)
This place is getting far too irritable. If you want to discuss difficult subjects, then do it calmly without getting all petulant and het-up with each other.

And its so much easier to be calm then it is to involve me.
david begg and road v rail - Nortones2
OK: irritation withdrawn.
david begg and road v rail - Flat in Fifth
Personally I think Bill has picked a real life situation, in comparing the variable costs only that is how people really think!

We need cars because we cannot fulfill all of our family needs on public transport. Therefore many of the fixed and variable costs of owning a vehicle, eg ved, insurance, depreciation, maintenance, tyres what have you are all ignored. The only variable cost considered in the decision process is fuel. Its not a valid comparison but that is what is done.

Working in a previous job I could travel to and from work daily door to door for about a gallon of diesel a week. As you can see not far to travel. I should have cycled I accept but didn’t have a bike then. Fuel was around £2.00/gallon. The one way bus fare was 54p, plus a walk to the bus stop plus a walk to walk along a very unsavoury footpath where dog owners took their mutts for ... [you know!] and the local ladies of the night took their clients for... {again you know what}

Needless to say the bus never got a look in.

In a previous previous job I lived in the Peoples Republic of South Yorkshire, petrol prices were at the stage where we could never envisage it EVER being £1/gallon and the bus fare to work was 10p. Subsidised I know, but the buses were frequent and full. Even I, a dedicated petrolhead, used to go to work on the bus.

If we really want to get people on public transport then the only way is to reduce the hassle factor AND subsidise. The question is then how do we subsidise?

What I find personally offensive is the way that certain companies receive enormous subsidies even today, are able to post profits some of us can only dream about, and yet treat their staff and customers like dirt and are totally inefficient

Don't vote it only encourages them
david begg and road v rail - HF
>>a very unsavoury footpath where dog owners took their mutts for ... [you know!] and the local ladies of the night took their clients for... {again you know what}

Goodness, the 'clients' in your neck of the woods have very strange preferences ;)

david begg and road v rail - Flat in Fifth
And there HF I think we'd better leave it!

At least is wasn't Wales where.......
Don't vote it only encourages them
david begg and road v rail - Nortones2
FiF: Yes, certainly Sheffield in the early 70's was tremendous to get around, as most used the bus. Wasn't worth getting a car then, except for weekends. I suspect that people won't ride the bus now because it is really uncomfortable, what with poor passenger behaviour and bad driving. When the complaining classes used them,and the transport Commissioners had their beady eyes on them, the bus companies had to focus on transport "quality" and service rather than just the bottom line. Some scope for the suggested city mayors to push for a system to encourage transfer from cars ?
david begg and road v rail - Obsolete
I think Bill has given an excellent real world example. I don't understand the issue of congestion charging. The government are unhappy that the roads are congested because that slows journey times and increases pollution. So they introduce bus lanes and phased lights that increase congestion and congestion charging that taxes the low paid as much as the well off. Hence the 'riff raff' are 'encouraged' onto the buses. Clearly they would not have gone on the buses before 'congestion management' as they are less convenient. So they have made travelling less convenient for everyone except the rich who can afford congestion charges. The only winners are the owners and directors of the bus companies.

Value my car