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Friday, December 13, 2013

Rail Costs - the Facts

     As I have said before I think there is a place for rail, if we get it running fully automated, with lighter vehicles and a braking system that would allow trains to run close together. All of that is currently technologically possible. If not probably best to tarmac them over and call them roads.

    This, from Transport Watch, is a listing of current technological specs. It is damning:

1. Capacity and use
(a) Rail has one third to one quarter the capacity to move people compared with motor roads managed to avoid congestion - go look at Waterloo.
(b) National Rail carries an average flow per track equivalent to only 300 buses plus lorries per day. It is difficult to find a minor road anywhere in the country so lightly loaded in terms of vehicles.
(c) The density of use achieved by the National Rail system is one third to one fifth that obtained from the Motorway or from the Trunk road and motorway network.
(d) Only 3% of passenger journeys go by national rail corresponding to just 6% of all motorized passenger miles. (Now, August 2013,  7.5%)
2. Energy consumption
In 2003 the fuel consumption of national rail in the UK was equivalent between 280 and 298 million UK gallons of diesel - passenger rail returning 115 passenger-miles per gallon and rail freight 181 tonne-miles per gallon, ignoring the drag in and out to the rail head, and 144 tonne miles per gallon if the drag in and out is 10 miles at each end of the line haul. In comparison:
(a)  An express coach may return 10 miles per gallon in uncongested conditions. With 20 people aboard that yields 200 passenger miles per uk gallon
(b)  A lorry may return 8 miles per gallon and deliver and average of 15 Tonnes (30 tonnes out back empty). That yields 120 tonne-miles per UK gallon
Applying those values to the national rail function yields 222 million gallons - 20-25 % less than by rail.
New data is available at facts sheet 5, leaving the conclusion in tact
3. Journey lengths, speed and fares
(a) Dividing passenger-km by passenger journeys available from Transport Statistics Great Britain yields an average passenger journey length of 41 km (25 miles).
(b) The 2004 National Travel Survey data shows that 50% of passenger rail journeys are less than 30 km (19 miles) long and that 90% are less those 120 km (75 miles) long. For most of those journeys the express coach, given the right of way, would match the train for journey time particularly after taking account of a service frequency up to 12 times greater.
(b) Fares by express coach are often a fraction of those by train despite the coach paying taxes and making a profit. If rail were to operate without subsidy fares would have to double at least without loss of passengers.
4. Safety
The railway lobby has embedded in the public mind the notion that rail is overwhelming safe compared with road. That has been achieved by (a) ignoring usage, so exaggerating the relative safety of rail by a factor of 18 and (b) comparing passengers killed in so-called "train accidents" with all those killed system-wide on the road network. E.g.
In contrast to that we find that (a) if ordinary traffic, void of motorcycles, pedestrians and cyclists were to be transferred to railway alignments, then the deaths per passenger-km (the death rate) would be similar to, or below, that imposed on society by the railways and (b) if rail passengers transferred to express coaches using rail's rights of way the death rate suffered by those passengers would be halved - see facts sheet 2  (This now out of date.  We now believe deaths to passengers are so few in number and so variable, by either rail or express coach as to make comparisons impossible, See facts sheet 2)
5. Widths and headroom  (See Facts sheet 3)
Despite many examples of successful conversions the railway lobby pretends railways are too narrow and lack adequate headroom to be converted to roads. The reality is that although greater widths may be desirable:
(a) A two-track railway typically offers room for a UK standard 7.3-metre carriageway with one-metre marginal strips but no other verges.
(b) On the approaches to towns and cities there is often room for a dual two or three lane highway.
(c) Where there is overhead electrification headroom would often be adequate for a triple-decker.
6. Costs
(a) The annual capital cost of rail passenger rolling stock is 3 times as high as equivalent floor space in express buses.
(b) Track maintenance for rail costs are between 5 and 10 times that required by road transport.
(c) The cost per track-km of the West Coast Main-Line Modernisation programme is 10 times higher than the cost per lane-km of building the M1 built from scratch including the cost of land.
(d) The net tax revenue per lane-mile for the Motorway and Trunk Road network has the range £(275-360) thousand per year. In contrast the 20,000 miles of rail track is being subsidised to perhaps £5 billion per year or at the rate of £250 thousand per track-mile.
(e) The rail Modernisation Programme was to cost over £60 billion. Its target was to increase passengers by 50%, e.g.. from 6% to 9% of passenger-km, and to increase rail freight from 11% to 17% of tonne-km. However, that could have only a negligible effect on traffic - reducing growth from 15% to 13% over 10 years. Further, despite the Government's guarantee Railtrack's share price collapsed prior to receivership. Hence, in purely financial terms, the £60 billion was and is being almost entirely wasted - equivalent to burning the residential accommodation for a city of 1.5 million people.
(f) In contrast, replacing the railway lines by a road surface managed to avoid congestion would cost at most £12 billion. The effect would be to offer faster journey times for all but the longest journeys at fares a fraction of those charged to most by rail passengers.
For more detail see the facts sheets 7 to 9
Wp ref. Website/Topic 2
 "a unit cost of £12.5 million per track-km. (Source is the SRA).

Alternatively .... (at decade old prices) ..... the cost of the national programme had the range £(6.25-8.7) million per track-km.

In contrast to that the Independent of 17th February 1999 reported a Treasury study which estimated the replacement cost of the M1 as £2.1 billion for all works and land, or £2.5 billion at 2007 prices.  The lane length, assuming 6 lanes all the way from the M25 to Leeds, is 1800 km. Hence the cost is £1.5 million per lane-km......

Furthermore the motorway and trunk road network is used 2.5 to 3 times as intensively as is the national rail network despite the latter having the advantage of serving the hearts of our towns and cities.  That widens the cost advantage of road to a factor in the range 12.5 to 30."

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It's nice to have somebody confirm what I have been saying for years. At Stirling a great deal of money( and a lot of local inconvenience ) is being spent raising bridges to allow electrification. The electrification may still not go ahead and the electric trains that would replace the relatively new diesels are not ( so far ) as reliable.
As the late John Wayne might well have said "It's real simple buses can stop better , turn better, and go up and down steeper gradients".
As your article showed the much vaunted energy efficiency advantage of trains is not as large as put about and when hybrid buses become the norm will not exist. Air quality from diesel exhausts at street level could be largely eliminated by the exhausts poiting upwards at roof level. This could be further improved by surrounding the exhaust with the warmed air from the radiator, which would be even hotter( and therefor more bouyant) if the radiator was replaced by a contra flow heat exchanger, which is more efficient. Railway stations take up a lot of expensive urban land because for the most part they are only on one or two levels.
It is entirely possible to build multi story bus stations serving many more bus routes, using less land, and passengers having less distance to travel from one rank to another.
With endemic unemployment I see no great need to make buses driverless, especially as in my limited experience the present drivers do so with a high quality of service and safety.
Neat Idea about exhausts. I am unconvinced such pollution is as destructive as we are told since, if it were, then the much higher levels in China should be killing off a susbstantial portion of China's urban population.

Driverless busses are much more complicated than trains because they operate within traffic. I think we will get them someday but some considerable time away.
Hi Neil - BTW if you can get access to a copy of Scientific American March 1996 you will find an excellent article about how Brazilians made a very efficient public transport system with buses in the city of Curitaba ( at that time a bit larger than Glasgow ) A key element was the major bus halts were made into mini stations where the passengers could get on and off quickly, and the fares were collected at these stations. Had the "so called" experts from Edinburgh done their research properly this type of development would have been far cheaper to implement than their trams and much more capable. The key to successful bus lanes is to keep the buses moving and not blocked by stationary buses.
Another scheme that might have merit is to give taxi drivers incentives to drive vehicles with greater passenger capacity during peak periods. Any way you look at it, the seat or standing space capacity to move everybody quickly is greater at peak times and that extra capacity has to sit around unused at other times. Per seat available, small to medium sized buses are probably better for this than private cars or large buses, and certainly cheaper than anything that runs on rails.
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