Fact 1 – The conversionist mini-lobby claims benefits which would arise from converting railways to roads. These include “benefits” which they “convert” into money, and others which are intangible. They include a forecast massive reduction in fares, which is demolished elsewhere.
Fact 2 – The largest financial benefit is the saving to motorists and other road users consequent upon the alleged faster journeys that they would obtain as a result of making journeys on converted railways. For instance in the study which proposed converting 130 miles of East Anglian railway,
Ø A mind-boggling £19.25m gain was claimed for motorists who, it was claimed would transfer to the new roads. No survey of existing road journeys had been made to prove that even one motorist would benefit. Nevertheless, the scheme envisages a total of 39.3m motor vehicles transferring to the proposed conversion, although these are prefixed by “probably”, “assuming”, “it is expected”, “if”, etc. No contra debit was taken to reflect their intention to increase road occupancy as a result of abandoning 26 miles of main line, and transferring existing rail traffic in buses and lorries to the A12 and its connecting minor roads & streets.
Ø £3.46m was claimed from reducing accidents by transferring traffic from residential streets to converted railways. No analysis of existing accidents nor existing traffic was presented to prove that such transfer was feasible and such gains possible given that residential street mileage is many times the length of the railways, and would continue to be busy. No contra debit taken to reflect the accident inducing right turns and cross roads that will be a feature of converted railways, nor the effect of transferring rail traffic onto the A12 and connecting minor roads after abandoning 26 miles of main line, implicit in the scheme.
claimed for property sales on the assumption that a local shortage of jobs
would create entrepreneurs just waiting for new brownfield sites when zillions
of acres exist already. Government records over 6m acres in
Ø £0.28m was assumed for overhead electrification equipment being dismantled by unqualified contractors without realising that it could not be dismantled willy-nilly, but would require costly alterations to equipment on lines to remain in use, or the whole lot would collapse on top of trains and electrocute contractors.
Ø £1.67m benefit is claimed for time savings for passengers as a result of them not having to wait as long for a bus as they would for a train. This pre-supposed without proof, that thousands could change their work patterns to benefit from this, as many have their walk from office or home to train timed to the second. Homebound commuters would still arrive at terminals in thousands at the same time as now. They would not spread themselves out to fit into groups of 70 or so to synchronise with buses, and so there would be unavoidable waiting as people mill around looking for the next departure to suit them. The study ignored that the proposed bus station layout would extend the walking distance for many beyond the former platform end to the far end of the station and points between, having the additional hazard and delay from having to pass between buses departing every 9 seconds. It also ignored the time increases for 26% of passengers that would inevitably arise as a result of their being diverted from the abandoned section of line to the A12 and minor roads linked thereto.
Ø The road dominated DoE paid for the study. The Treasury should have been drooling in anticipation. In fact, the DoE was unimpressed, (Times 23.12.75). Clearly, they must have discovered that the study had serious weaknesses.
Fact 3 – An ignored but inevitable disbenefit from closing railways whose existence creates a ceiling for road transport pricing, is that, road transport drivers’ hours would fall like a stone, wages would soar; vehicle safety devices would be enforced, backed by effective checks on vehicles & drivers, with realistic fines or prison sentences. Many hauliers and bus operators would not remain profitable, if these conditions were applied now.
Fact 4 - Extracts from journals and the media of the views of ‘experts’ (none being transport professionals) are quoted to promote conversion. Comments unhelpful to conversion theory are replaced by ellipses! Opponents’ views in the same issues are ignored!
More information will be found in “Railway Conversion – the impractical dream”