Brigadier Lloyd (originator of conversion) said Waterloo’s peak would be no problem, with buses departing every four seconds. Transwatch sees Waterloo as easy prey, “if roads are managed to avoid congestion”. No bus timetables have ever been prepared to prove conversion claims. The core assumption from the beginning to the present day is that all buses would depart immediately they are full, and that buses would be continually available to meet any demand, hence timetables are not needed. It is a totally impractical method. The time taken to fill some buses would vary immensely according to destination. Conversionists have laboured under an illusion that passenger distribution is equal for all destinations. That is the basis of their arithmetic. An option which cannot apply – even on paper – is for untimetabled buses to depart when part filled. That would leave control in the hand of drivers, as terminal supervisors have never been mentioned in proposals. Such an option would increase fleet sizes. Timetabled buses are unavoidable for passenger, crews & management.     

Transwatch states that Victoria coach station is “said to be able to handle 10,000 passengers per hour” five times its present level, and compares this with what rail terminals are actually handling already! It was not stated who had said so.

In its submission to the Select Committee, Transwatch referred to the nimble bus versus the cumbersome train. See Select-8 for a complete rebuttal of their submission.

In its web site, Transwatch claimed that ‘probably a bus would use a terminal space 3-4 times as efficiently as the train. With similar calculations, it can be shown that, in terms of both capacity & use, road transport out-performs rail by a factor of 3-5 across the network. This is important. It suggests that alternatives to rail are not only technically feasible, they would be technically highly efficient’. (Journal of the Institute of Economic Affairs Volume 24, No. 2, June 2004). Again that mysterious plan - with no costs, nor building timescale.  Claims must not start with probably and end with certainty.

Transwatch claimed on Radio2 (Jeremy Vine programme, 24 July 2007) that ‘its calculations showed that only 25% of the space of a rail passenger terminal would be required for buses replacing trains’. No formula or costs, or timescale was given to support this wild claim, which were not challenged. It did not mention that it envisaged them having three levels (which research shows would be insuffucient), or for buses to ‘do a loop beyond the terminal’, see Fact 5 below.

According to Transwatch: ‘terminal capacity is a separate issue and more difficult to demonstrate simply’. It is crucial and only difficult in the absence of a timetable based on a full analysis of the precise journeys which passengers make. Conversion proposals have tended to ignore the practicalities of operation, at which any transport operator - road or rail - would regard as the first essential step. Lloyd sought to dispense with timetables for the very reason that they would prove the impracticability of his dream


Fact 1 – Only one study has been published of a rail route conversion – part of the route from Liverpool Street station. The station area which would be a bus station was virtually the same. However, the number of buses departing in the peak would be eight times as many as the number of buses departing from Victoria coach station, and using an area half that of Victoria coach station. There would be a bus every 9 seconds, and they would cross – on the level – a flow of over 28,500 passengers per hour. Moreover, the number of buses envisaged departing is seriously under-estimated. (see Railway Conversion – the Impractical Dream)

Fact 2 – This study included a plan drawing of the station (Liverpool Street), which reveals that it would have 30 bays for 37 destinations. The plan showed a series of unexplained dots, which research revealed represented 57 slender cast-iron columns supporting a vast roof. Unlike, the so-called “nimble bus” which cannot travel in reverse at speed, the ‘cumbersome’ train can. This means the bus must have the facility to turn. Buses – especially articulated buses - would have to more nimble to manoeuvre between these columns without bringing down the roof of this listed building. A photo (from the collection of from Bishopsgate Institute) of the station showing these columns is included in Railway Conversion – the impractical dream. (click to see photos)

Fact 3- The route from Liverpool Street station & five branches was selected by the scheme’s author, who claimed it was the busiest commuter line in the world. Waterloo was busier. Moreover, it concerned only half of its commuter journeys & none of the main line passengers. My book (see above) reveals that the width available leaving the station would not accommodate a lane in each direction – as the study required - but only one single-lane for two-way traffic.

Fact 4 - The idea of multi floors has not been thought through. The time required by buses to pass to/from upper floors has not been evaluated. There are no drawings, no costs, no assessment of the area that would be occupied with ramps. It is overlooked that local authorities can block such schemes as they did BR plans to build above Fenchurch Street & Euston, and would be very likely to do so, especially with stations that are listed buildings with large roof spans. It would be costly. Every terminal (over 50) will be out of action for at least a year. Some large through stations will require multi-story replacements to avoid buses clogging the ground floor area. Passengers will be diverted to existing roads, which will double up as “terminals”. As there will be hundreds to be rebuilt simultaneously, along with increasing clearances of many tunnels & bridges, removing rail infrastructure and laying concrete, the entire system would be out of use for years.

Fact 5 - To ‘do a loop, beyond the terminal’ – as the conversion mini lobby advocates - is ridiculous. The narrow congested streets around most major city stations make this totally impractical. They would have to cross pedestrian flows outside the terminal, leading to more accidents. Some terminals are not at street level anyway, and surrounding streets would give no space for ramps. Buses would return to the terminal at unpredictable times.

Fact 6 – ‘Managing roads to avoid congestion’ has yet to be achieved. It should be proven on an existing road that has widths similar to a railway double track, before attempting it from a converted city rail terminal.

Fact 7 – Liverpool Street is already handling six times as many passengers pa, as Victoria bus station in a similar acreage. The volume it could handle if there was greater passenger demand is even higher, merely by lengthening all trains to equal the longest currently in use. A further increase would arise from signalling alterations. Victoria coach station management do not subscribe to the view that it could handle an increase of 500%.

Fact 8 - Claims must not start with ‘probably’ and end with certainty as they do with many conversionist claims.

Fact 9 – No mention is made of the manpower required to clean buses, lorries, bus stations, etc., nor to maintain and clean toilets, waiting areas, etc. Existing railway manpower is included in total railway staffing with which the crudest “comparisons” were – occasionally - made with a handful of lorry or bus drivers. The analogous manpower required to maintain and repair structures (and route) are completely ignored.


See also “Railway Conversion – the impractical dream

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