A new book answers Transwatch claims 

Reliable facts expose the impracticability of railway conversion

 

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19 July 2007            

 


In 1953, Brig. Lloyd initiated the conversion idea & said that rail passengers would all transfer to untimetabled buses. 3400 buses would give a bus at every station, to be boarded without waiting. BR had 5600 stations! Displaced UK rail passengers switch to cars not buses. Operators use timetables & rosters to work out fleet & manpower needs. His idea was demolished by road engineers & operators at an Institution of Civil Engineers Debate in 1955.

 

Lloyd’s costs were based on a 1954 plan - ‘having wide support’ - by Sir David Robertson MP to convert the 161 mile Inverness-Wick line to an all-weather motorway. There was total opposition to closure when it was proposed - not least by Robertson in Parliament! There was no call at any other Public Hearings into closures, for conversion. These included the 174 mile M&GN, 125 mile GC, 100 mile S&D, 98 mile Waverley line & 71 mile H&B. There were hundreds of closures. Doubtless, they feared ridicule or worse.

 

Significantly, road hauliers & bus operators have not supported conversion. If they did, it would be in the hope that all motorists would desert the motorways!

 

Claims that safety on the new roads would be better than on railways are flawed. Lloyd ignored recent years of good rail safety to compare current road safety with BR’s worst year ever - two years earlier (although current data was publicly available)! His disciples claim that deaths of pedestrians, cyclists or motor-cyclists can be ignored as they do not go near railways! Users of level crossings, footpaths, etc are ignored! They claim deaths of trespassers (aka pedestrians!) be added to rail passenger deaths, but do not add uninjured trespassers to total rail user! The problem was to be avoided on converted roads by uncosted frequent fast motor patrols!

 

Conversionists claim width & bridge clearance are adequate for roads. The only named line studied, specified alteration of over half of its bridges, purchase of adjoining private property at 13 places & would abandon 26 miles of railway - which had 53 bridges & 5 level crossings on a route mostly on embankments or in cuttings! Buses on tight round trip times would divert to existing roads to bypass the abandoned section, without conceding that must cause delay and extra deaths! Many bridges were not measured.

 

Changeover plans were mostly vague. One allocated 9 days for a 160 mile line. It could not be done at all with the planned bus fleet, as simple details were overlooked.

 

Transwatch says that most people are ‘open to reason’ on conversion. The reality is that 50 years of propaganda has not convinced them, MPs nor road biased Ministers - including one who was a Partner in a road building firm! The Directory of British Associations lists peak railway conversion league/campaign membership as 75, before it fell to 26, then zero!

 

Conversionists publish lists of closed lines converted. They include 109 yard lengths, routes widened from 12 to 102 feet, or crossed at a tangent or ‘unclear if road widened onto railway’, or just ‘very close’! Of over 10,000 miles closed, about 250 has been converted using a loose definition of the word conversion. Some were widened by a factor of 8.

 

Extracts of the views of ‘experts’ (non-transport professionals) are quoted to promote conversion. Unhelpful comments are replaced by ellipses! Opponents’ views in the same issues are ignored!

 

Conversionists used comparisons which would be jeered at a public meeting. They ignore the length of roads, without which there would be no traffic, to ‘compare’ only motorways & trunk roads with railway length, whilst claiming that deaths will fall on the very roads which they ignore!

 

Conversionists claim that bus & haulage services are unsubsidised, & relate road taxes to expenditure on roads. Consultants have proved that road haulage does not pay its full share of capital, maintenance & accident costs, and no national study has been made of bus costs. Taxpayers & motorists subsidise road operators. Without railways, road drivers’ hours would fall like a stone, wages would soar, vehicle safety devices would be enforced backed by meaningful checks on vehicles & drivers, with realistic fines or prison sentences. They could not remain in business, if these conditions applied now.

 

Attempts to compare rail & road fuel consumption are based on ‘comparing’ one hypothetical lorry - fully loaded by weight - with an average for all freight trains. They are unaware that thousands of lorries are fully loaded by cubic capacity - well below weight capacity, and thousands more have part loads. Independent studies show that road haulage consumes 5 times as much fuel per tonne-km as rail. Eddie Stobart’s web page shows that transferring some traffic to rail gives massive fuel savings.

 

Forecast huge fare reductions on replacement buses are proved - on conversionist figures - to be unreal.

 

 

E.A. Gibbins, author, ‘Railway conversion - the impractical dream’

                                         2007

 

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