More responses to mis-aimed jibes
Back to Anti-rail jibes
When challenged as to the location of his claim that the width of railways was published in 1961, Paul Withrington (aka Transwatch) admitted that the document related only to the length of railways – which was no surprise to me. Anyone with a knowledge of railways would realise that the measurement of the varying widths between fences of railway land over the then route length of 18,000 miles would have been costly and valueless. BR had data on the width of the usable formation inside the structural gauge (that is under bridges) which was not the same throughout the country – even for double track routes. He “challenged anyone to overturn the width and headroom data cited”. Well I have. He responded: “The people who produced it were engineers, ex-army and scarcely given to flights of fancy or lying. The width between the stanchions (he means ‘masts’) carrying the overhead electrification on the two track railway near me is nearly 10 metres.”
As BR never published the width
between fences, his ex-army engineers could not have got such information from
I have walked the track on many
His reference to the width between
stanchions (correct name: ‘masts’) on the limited route mileage equipped with
overhead electrification equipment is irrelevant, because the area between
sleeper ends and masts (the cess) has had nothing heavier than mens’ boots,
rather than the “heavy freight trains compacting the ground” which is advanced
to justify claims that a thin layer of asphalt laid thereon is adequate for
HGVs and PSVs. Land beyond the masts up to the fence has had not even that
weight – but conversion theory envisages asphalting up to the fence! Having
been personally involved in the erection of the overhead masts in the
Data regarding a minimum width for
a two track tunnel is not available from Network Rail and was not published by
Transwatch claims that “a proportion of bulk freight would obtain return loads, e.g., coal in ash out”. Ash is conveyed in special enclosed pressurised wagons to avoid contamination and does not go to collieries. Likewise ore and stone from quarries, oil & petrol from refineries have no return loads. If lorries wander off seeking a return load, they would need to be thoroughly cleaned to avoid contamination of other products. Triangular journeys would leave collieries grounding coal when lorries did not return immediately. Recovering coal from stacks would involve costly double-handling.
When told that Stobart - one of the UK’s biggest hauliers - had transferred freight to rail and substantially cut fuel consumption, he argued that they could get better fuel consumption on a converted railway – despite its thousands of level crossings, and delays caused by traffic turning right – than they could on the M1/M6. Transwatch advocates railways converted to roads “being managed to avoid congestion”. It is not clear how this would work or what it would cost, nor how it could function with buses and lorries entering the system at completely random moments. If such a system could be designed for existing roads, we could well find that we do not need all the roads we currently have – without converting railways, and without building more roads, with massive savings to the economy, and in fuel consumption and carbon emissions.
The mysterious Mr. Morin
In LTT (Local Transport Today), Paul Withrington asked if ‘the word of Don Morin is not good enough for me’ to try to prove that railways would provide adequate capacity for existing rail traffic in road vehicles plus millions of diversions from existing roads.
My unpublished response to the LTT stated: “Until I see Morin’s Report I cannot comment, and he has never revealed its location”. No one should have posed such a question without adding where to find the words of Mr. Morin – of whom I had read nothing other than a brief sentence on the Transwatch web site.
With no help from him, I found – quite by chance, whilst researching Parliamentary records – that he had identified the source of Morin’s words in his written submission to a Select Committee in 2004. This stated that Morin’s statement could be found in “Highway Progress” (August 1970)., but did not say where this document could be seen. The nature of “Highway progress” was not revealed. Was it a monthly journal? No one seemed to know.
There is no copy in Parliament nor
the British Library, and no University library nor public library could produce
Finally, I tried the British
Embassy in Washington, who referred me to the library of Congress. They
directed me to the
I found that Morin’s paper was an
arithmetical calculation. Morin states that his theory is to be subject to “a feasibility test in
The lead article in Highway Progress, by Francis C. Turner, Federal Highway Administrator (Morin’s boss) “endorses without reservation Government’s approach, which looks to all possible modes - rail transit, bus transit, or others to be developed. We welcome the contributions that rail rapid transit can make to meeting urban travel demands”. Click Highway Progress
Highway Progress contains another
relevant article which: “advocated protective barriers for overhead sign
trusses, bridge parapets & supports, etc., on roads, to reduce the severity
of potential collisions”.
The ‘financial justification’ for
conversion advanced by Edward Smith - in the only route specific conversion
study ever published - was that conversion costs would be covered by time gains
for motorists transferring from existing roads to use the new routes! Smith
also said converted railways would be used by freight. Hence, comparison with
bus-only lanes in the
Had he read my book with an open mind:
In his open letter to me, Paul Withrington (LTT 544) remarks that I ‘would say that my book demolishes the conversion theory’. He can’t say it didn’t, because he hasn’t read it. How do I know? Because he asks whether I have read Comments & Rejoinders, when my book has a whole chapter on it! He refers to it as a ‘Companion volume’ which it was not. It was to respond to criticism of flaws in the Hall/Smith Paper. It is undated, but includes criticisms dated 14 months after their Paper
In his letter, Paul Withrington refers to “Smith’s all-in conversion costs”, but that envisaged laying asphalt on raw ground, including uncompacted cess, ditches & embankments, where it wouldn’t last long with double deckers every nine seconds. They would tip over. Potholes would proliferate! Smith’s scheme required land acquisition and bridge reconstruction even to clearances below DfT standards – proving that railway width is inadequate for conversion. Withrington refers to ‘The fools, who challenge conversion costs’. They include county engineers, construction companies, scientific and road transport media. This is typical. Withrington – and maybe one or two others – are right, the rest of the world is wrong.