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‘Pave over the tracks’, think tank says

A British think tank has suggested commuters could pay 40% less for their journeys if the UK government ripped up some railways and replaced them with dedicated bus roads.

The Institute of Economic Affairs this week released a report, ‘Paving over the tracks: a better use of Britain’s railways?’

“The reluctance of policy makers to consider more efficient forms of public transport has led to expensive fares and sardine-like conditions for commuters across the country,” the IEA said on Tuesday.

According to the IEA’s report, above-ground commuter railways transport a quarter of a million passengers into London during the morning peak hour.

That works out to about 10,000 commuters per track, “many of whom have to stand during their journey”, the IEA said.

“150 express coaches, each seating 75 individuals would be able to carry the same number of commuters while occupying one seventh of the capacity of a one-lane busway, of a similar width to that required by a train,” the IEA said.

The British think tank said the busways could offer comparable, if not shorter travel times, and could do so at a cheaper cost than existing railways.

The IEA said rail had received a “disproportional” amount of funding compared to alternate modes of transport, and that this needed to be fixed.

“Individuals in the UK are far more likely to travel by car than train, with 90% of passengers and 70% of freight traffic carried by roads,” the group said. “Despite this disparity, state funding of railways is just 30% lower than that spent on roads.”

Report co-author and IEA transport head Dr Richard Wellings said politicians were to blame.

“Ongoing interference by politicians in the rail industry has led to everyone getting a raw deal,” Wellings said.

“Passengers face increasingly expensive fares only to fight their way onto trains during peak times and taxpayers continue to prop up an industry whose importance to the country is disproportionally small relative to the level of resources it receives.

“Adopting more efficient methods of transport could offer considerable benefits to passengers and the taxpayer alike. But only when the sector is liberalised from rigid state control, will we see such alternatives being seriously considered.”

The report can be viewed here.

 

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