Roddy Graham's Blog: 18 June 2009 - Integrated transport policy
18 June 2009
Roddy Graham is chairman of the ICFM and commercial director of Leasedrive Velo
Might we be making small inroads into an integrated transport policy? If not driven by Government, at least by outside interested parties?
Heartening news this week was the announcement by the Association of Train Operating Companies that they may build up to 40 new railway stations and introduce 14 new lines at a cost of £500m. If given the go-ahead by local and regional government, Network Rail and the Department for Transport, this expansion could serve an extra one million passengers, freeing up our already clogged up roads. Indeed, seven new park and ride stations have also been identified, which would help the situation further.
Back in 1963, Beeching closed 2000 railway stations and cut out more than 4000 route miles of our much envied rail network, slashing it by a third! If ever there was a hatchet man, then it was he.
A further 2000 route miles were lost by the end of the decade. However, much of the infrastructure of the old lines remains in place. And some freight lines could also be converted for commercial use. In total, it would take some five to 10 years for the additional stations and lines to be opened.
Last year, more passengers travelled by train than at any other time since the Second World War. And, more significantly, 30% more passengers were carried than in 1963, when Beeching wielded his axe.
According to ATOC there are nine towns with populations over 15,000 who would benefit from a rail connection, with a cost/benefit ratio of 1:1.5, the Government's benchmark for considering investment.
Beeching precipitated the move from public to private transport, at the same time sounding the death knell for many parts of the rail network, which were previously profitable. The end result is all around us, with massive congestion, more motorways, more by-passes and pitiful road surfaces.
Had we maintained much of the rail network of the past, then surely we would have come much closer to a fully integrated road transport policy.
As it is, ATOC has opened the debate. For comparatively little investment our rail network could carry a further one million passengers while stimulating local economic re-generation. Green jobs would be created and even greener transport solutions. At the same time, it would encourage more people to consider switching to rail transport.
In the creation of possibly seven new park and ride stations we have a pointer to how we may more commonly travel in the future. A small city car linked to other modes of transport.