Pardon me Boy, but the Chattanooga Choo-choo is way out of line
I seem to have upset some railway fans by reminding them that it is an outdated technology. I wasn't able to answer them here or over at Longsider's as we were away for the weekend.
We drove a 100 miles to some friends, it took about 2:30 hours. I note that if I wanted to repeat the journey this afternoon by train we would have to get six miles to our local station and a similar distance by taxi at the other end. The train would take 3:51 and cost £63.50 for cattle class - a fairer comparison for comfort would be first class at £127.00, so for the four of us it would cost £500.
My car costs were a lot less than that.
Any speed comparisons with railways assume you want to travel from and to stations. It is door to door time that counts and railways lose to cars and long distance coaches nearly always.
(To answer the critics to get to York from my local station by rail is 4:17, by car from my home 4:20 according to Google maps).
The comparison for commuter travel should be against specialist coaches running in coach lanes.
To take an American example - The Lincoln Tunnel provides a dedicated bus lane, in the direction from New Jersey to Manhattan, during the morning peak hours of 06:10 am to 10:00 am. During these four hours, the typical flow is 1700 buses, each carrying on average 36 passengers.
I make that 61,000 on one lane through a tunnel. Waterloo doesn't manage double that on all its lanes. (Land value taxation on the space anyone?)
Look at the photo above from Google of Paddington station and the A40 - which one is moving more people? Go and search the line, look at other stations, you will see the same thing - the tracks are nearly always empty because you can't get the density of traffic onto rail that you can on road.
Safety - comparisons of safety are difficult because on roads we have traffic, including walkers and cyclists who not comparable to the rail network - the comparison should be with trunk roads and motorways and the figures and caveats are here. It is a wash.
But one area where rail is detrimental to public safety is the cost of safety measures. Lives are worth about £1 million in terms of public spend to save, that's not my figure that is what as a society we act as though we believe and the is the figure the Government uses in pricing road safety. On the railways figures of £30-50 million spend to save one life are mooted. Which is an extraordinary waste. That safety money could save 29 more people if spent on roads.
Coach - Full Coach: 26 grams CO2 per passenger mile
Car - Four People: 86 grams CO2 per passenger mile
Train - Average occupancy: 96 grams CO2 per passenger mile
London Underground 127 grams CO2 per passenger mile
Rounded figures from DEFRA July 2007 Report: Passenger Transport Emissions Factors.
So not cleaner, not faster, not more convenient, not cheaper, so what are trains better at?
I'm sure they can figure in the transport mix somewhere but at the moment they are worshipped beyond reason, maybe only Freud could explain.