High Speed Rail Plan is Transport Hypocrisy
Different Rules for Road and Rail
The ABD today condemned plans to spend £27 billion on a network of 250mph trains that are likely to benefit a very small percentage of the population, while the road network on which we all depend languishes in disrepair and endemic congestion.
Most disturbing of all are the double standards applied to justify this scheme when compared to the arguments used to avoid investing in better roads. They plan to spend billions to save 20 minutes on a London-Birmingham journey and the government is claiming this will pay back £2 for every £1 invested — yet the economic benefit of better road speeds is regularly dismissed.
Each 1mph reduction in average road speeds costs the economy at least £1bn (DfT figures applying to motorways only), a truth that has been consistently undermined and denied by campaigners like CfBT (formerly Transport 2000) who are, of course, funded by the rail and bus industry.
"We are in favour of appropriate investment in both road and rail," said the ABD's Nigel Humphries. "But the cost/benefit analysis has been loaded against road schemes. While drivers are fobbed off with cheapskate motorway ‘improvements’, like hard shoulder running, here we have an all or nothing proposition — £27bn or the status quo. How much of the quoted benefit could be accessed at a fraction of the cost by increasing the capacity of existing tracks? The Government needs to be consistent in its approach across modes and to answer this question first of all."
All this investment to save a few minutes that people can use productively on trains for work or leisure — but real time saved on the roads cannot be entertained — because ‘speed kills’. When anyone argues this is not the case, they are admonished with the idea that slowing everyone down is good because it reduces noise and pollution whilst enhancing the ‘quality of life’ of residents and travellers alike. With proposals for 250mph (yes TWO HUNDRED AND FIFTY MPH!) trains thundering past rural communities, surely the ‘slower speeds’ argument is dead.
Furthermore, we have been told for 20 years that improving transport links just encourages people to use them for no apparent reason, resulting in congestion remaining just as bad in the future, whereas if you remove transport capacity then the demand for it will just disappear like the morning dew without any economic effect. Another anti roads argument consigned to the dustbin of history when it so blatantly is not applied to rail.
"Why on earth are they now proposing to spend colossal amounts of money we simply don't have on 250mph trains that connect city centres? Who makes such journeys without a tortuous train, bus and car ride at each end?" asks Humphries. "Government offices tend to be in city centres — I think I just answered my own question!"