Why support rail use?

There are many reasons why railways should be at the centre of  transport for the 21st century:

  • Safety
  •  Environment
  •  Speed
  •  Social inclusion & public support
  •  Cost-effectiveness: rail investment works

Despite recent accidents, rail continues to be the safest form of land transit. Travelling by train is 15 times safer than going by car and five times safer than going by bus or coach. You are far more likely to involved in an accident whilst walking, cycling or driving to the station than when you are on the train. Sixteen times more person-miles are travelled by car than by train yet there are 100 times more accidents on our roads than on our railways. In terms of time spent on the journey, train travel is even safer than air travel.

Rail travel is between 2 and 3 times more energy efficient than going by car, and rail freight is 9 times more efficient than road transport.

This means that rail causes less air pollution. This is important because up to 24,000 vulnerable people are estimated to die prematurely because of exposure to air pollution, much of which is due to road traffic. Vehicles produce 75% of particulate and nitrogen oxide pollutants.

Rail carries 7% of traffic but only emits 0.2% of carbon monoxide generated by transport, only 2% of nitrous oxides, 1% of volatile organic compounds, and 2.5% of sulphur dioxide emissions. Sulphur dioxide can cause acid rain which damages trees and buildings and harms aquatic wildlife.

High speed inter-city services are much faster than going by car on the motorway.

During a press run from Aix-en-Provence to Valence on the new ‘Mediterranee’ line to Marseilles, a TGV (high speed French train) reached a speed of 354.6 km/hr (221 mph). This is a world record for a passenger train. (Railway Magazine, March 2001.)

The West Coast main Line (running from London Euston to Glasgow) will be able to run trains at 125mph by 2002 and 140mph by 2005. This upgrade will cost £4bn and will enable Virgin Trains, the main inter-city operator on the route, to introduce their new ‘Pendolino’ tilting trains.

Social inclusion & public support
Trains in rural areas are a lifeline to those who do not have a car. The government’s rural white paper ‘Our countryside: the future – a fair deal for rural England’, 2001, notes the benefits of rail access to rural communities by reducing traffic on local roads, making businesses more competitive, and in many cases offering a tourist attraction.

Currently 30% of households – some 13 million people – do not own a car. Women are often second in the pecking order for use of a shared car and more than 40% of women don’t have a driving licence. The proportion of the population reliant on public transport is set to go up as the UK population ages.

Cost-effectiveness: rail investment works
At 1996 prices the cost of a new motorway is about £14 a mile, and a dual carriageway £6m a mile. The cost of upgrading and electrifying the East Coast Main Line was £1m a mile.

Zurich’s high quality public transport network has increased public transport’s share of commuter journeys to an amazing 76%, and car traffic has stopped growing.

Courtesy: railfuture.org.uk