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phil-b259

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  1. Road maintenance is no different to railway maintenance if you want to be that pedantic about it. The Government (via Network Rail) 'subsidises' the repair of rail infrastructure which is 'damaged' by intensive use or requires specialist skills to renew. The big difference is the Government doesn't also have to pay to hire the lorries and cars which cause said damage (they pay the Government through road tax, plus in theory a levy which all foreign registered lorries must pay to use UK roads). Neither do the Government have to pay the wages of lorry drivers or the vehicle maintainers. Commercial road transport also runs at a profit - NO PASSENGER RAILWAY since WW2 has managed to survive without state handouts in some form, meaning that any rail re-opening will continue to cost the tax payer large sums of money on a ongoing basis where as a new piece of road infrastructure generally results in increased tax receipts in the future. It thus follows that taxpayers who don't use the railway system (which is the majority of the UK population) have to pay for those who do - and the Government has to ensure that monies they invest in rail transport are wisely spent. A positive business case is thus crucial to provide reassurance that the money invested will be produce verifiable benefits The threat of climate change and wider environmental issues do not create magic money trees for the Government to raid, nor do they change social behaviour overnight. Over over the past 80 odd years people have reverted to going back to based on road transport because it is inherently more flexible than any rigid public transport system which has to be dominated by fixed timetables. The ONLY reason the railway system took off in the way it did was the alternatives (Canal, Stagecoach, walking, horse & cart, horseback, etc) were so extremely poor by comparison. Fast forward a century with paved roads, reliable (and affordable) motor cars / lorries which can take you door to door (more quickly than the train in some cases once you factor in the transit time to / from the station at each end) whenever you please is a very different proposition. Where rail has maintained a healthy share its either because the roads are congested and parking is difficult / expensive, rail has a big time advantage, or because many of the users don't have access to a car.
  2. Please re-read my post. I specifically indicated the Crediton to Okehampton line as having a potentially better business case precisely because it exists (although needing LOTS of upgrading to make it viable for regular services (as opposed to a Summer Sunday only shoppers service).
  3. You rather ignore the fact that once built a road does not require a large subsidy to keep it going. The brutal truth is prospective passenger numbers are far too low to make a positive business case* for re-opening anything in North Devon (other than Oakhampton, which is largely due to a railway of sorts still being in resistance and thus removing land acquisition costs) Railway re-openings thus have an extremely high bar to pass before progressing - particularly in England! * That looking at not just build cost, but also the amount of revenue generated once in operation versus the train leasing and staffing costs, etc
  4. Opening windows per say are not a problem provided they are of the type you cannot put a body part through. As such you could replace the Windows on a Mk3 with a type incorporating small hopper style windows at the top. On Heritage railways the ORR have made it crystal clear the on the the railway to PROVE it has suitable mitigating measures to compensate for continuing to have large opening windows. This can include staff paroling the train to make sure people are complying and where possible slewing the track away from obstacles. Long term its entirely possible they could mandate window bars or opening restrictions, central door locking systems and retention tank toilets if passengers cannot behave.
  5. There is nothing stopping the Scottish Government / Parliament deciding they need a new build high speed line between Edinburgh / Glasgow / Aberdeen / Inverness / insert destination of choice. Transport is a devolved matter unless it specifically relates to cross border train services on the WCML / ECML If you believe Scots are hard done by with respect to High Speed Rail then you need to start complaining to your member of the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Government to make plans for one (including funding it - the railway reopening in Scotland over the past decade have been financed from Holyrood, not Westminster). On the face of it though Scotland has the same sort of problem the North of England (i.e. Liverpool - Manchester - Leeds / Sheffield - Hull) has in that the areas of biggest population are actually so close together that true high speed (200mph ish) makes very little sense and a more conventional railway is actually a better solution.
  6. The number of travellers going between London / Birmingham / Manchester far exceeds the number of Scottish residents wishing to travel to Newcastle or Carlisle! HS2 is primarily about CAPACITY not speed - it just makes sense that if you are building a new railway you do it to the latest standards. If the WCML and ECML between Scotland and England gets to the same stae as the WCML out of London (i.e. very overcrowded and no room for any more services) then a new build high speed link to England may be justified. However at present there is no sign of coming close to this threshold.
  7. Yes on both counts. The business case for it being closed was to allow the electrification and the upgrading of the WCML to Glasgow. In an era of year on year decline of passenger and freight volumes, plus a hostile Government / Paymaster (in the form of HM Treasuary) the business case for the WCML works relied on the transfer of traffic from other lines including the Waverley route. Stripped of its through services the only reason for retaining a service would thus be any intermediate traffic generated on the Waverley route itself. Given the lack of population south of Hawick, that meant Government subsidy would have been required to maintain a service on social grounds. However from a Government perspective there were no marginal political constituencies to worry about (unlike the Heart of Wales route) nor did the men from the ministry consider there were any topographical constraints to providing replacement bus services (like the Esk Valley line) so no subsidy was forthcoming. The business case for the rebuilding of the line as far as Tweedbank was based on a number of factors including economic stagnation of the borders due to poor communication links, traffic congestion on the A7 (and around Edinburgh) and poor job opportunities for borders residents ALL of which could costed and given an monetary value. Previous ideas to tackle these had been based around upgrading the A7 to dual carriageway - but the resurgence of rail travel had prompted an investigation as to whether the cost of rebuilding the rail route and the subsidy / fares received would come in at a lower cost. When the BCR calculations had been crunched the business case for the railway rebuild still wasn't great - but the BCR was just enough to push the project over the threshold providing the build costs were kept as low as possible. Thats why we got a railway tightly specified around a half hourly all station stopping service and all new build structures constructed to single track width where possible. This is why the rebuild only went as far as Tweedbank (with onward bus connections for Hawick). Going through to Hawick initially would have meant significant extra spending and the revenue / user predictions simply didn't show that as being financially viable. Its all very easy in hindsight to say that said predictions were wrong - but you must not ignore the realities which applied at the time. It was very much a case that the business case was for basic railway to Tweedbank or NO RAILWAY AT ALL! If the ex Waverley route is to be rebuilt as a cross border link then a similar process of getting a positive business case has to be gone through. However there is ZERO through freight justification as the WCML, GSW and ECML are well able to cope with current and predicted flows. Yes there might be some timber traffic to be had - but this is hardly going to earn megabucks or be that frequent while also increasing costs over a passenger only railway specification. Passenger wise - again the WCML and ECML are not exactly bursting at the seems and have room for growth, which only leaves borders residents wanting to travel to England. Given the borders is in Scotland, the region is far more aligned with Edinburgh in economic activity with the demand for travel mirroring that. Moreover due to the infrastructure of the line to Tweedbank then any 'rebuild to Carlisle' project is going to have to pay for some pretty expensive infrastructure upgrading (unless you want your Carlisle to Edinburgh service to be an all station stopper).
  8. I'm pretty sure it wouldn't. This is why I feel the UK made a fundamentally flawed decision to adopt the 'free motorway' model back in the late 1950s. Road tolls, as with the cost of fuel, are far more of 'in your face' when it comes to the perceived cost of making road journeys and can easily be factored into the cost of a single journey (unlike say insurance the cost of which per journey will vary depending on how many journeys you make over the 12 months the policy lasts). Its too late to change course now I hasten to add, not just because of voter hostility to the concept of paying for something that they perceive to have been 'free' since introduction, but also because the highway network has been developed to funnel* local traffic onto motorways rather than develop localised by-passes thus making things worse if traffic were to try and avoid paying tolls by reverting to going through built up areas. *It is very evident from looking at maps of France say that many villages, towns and indeed some cities have high quality by-passes as well as a tolled motorway by-pass. Road tolls are thus far more 'saleable' to the public because a reasonable alternative exists. Of course the side benefit of this policy is also the 'not putting all your eggs in one basket' scenario providing more resilience if things go wrong (i.e. motorway needing to be shut because of an accident or for roadworks) as well as trying to prevent motorways being overloaded at rush hours by short distance junction hoppers.
  9. So you have a time machine do you? There is NO BUSINESS CASE for re-instating the Waverley route all the way back to Carlisle (which would have to involve some serious rebuilding of the current borders railway which is very restricted capacity wise) and its foolish to pretend otherwise. The quantity of passenger and freight traffic the route itself can generate to finance such a rebuild doesn't come close to justifying it while there is still a fair bit of capacity on the ECML, WCML and GSW routes for traffic originating on the current Scottish railway network. There is a marginal business case to take the current borders railway a bit further south from the current railhead at Tweedbank as far as Hawick, helped in a large part by there being no need to do anything to the current borers railway and most of the 'big ticket' infrastructure items still being intact on this section (unlike the route south of Hawick).
  10. Pinchpoints are being addressed where a positive business case can be made - the Werrington diveunder being one example, the Bacon Factory curve in Ipswich built a few years ago being another example. Its worth remembering part of the justification of HS2 is to free up paths on the WCML for freight - HS3 across the Pennines would do the same there while also providing passenger benefits. You also need to remember that as with passenger traffic there is no way you can make the financial numbers work simply on diversionary capability (something supporters of the LSWR route round Dartmoor frequently fail to understand). Putting back March to Spalding would never have made any sort of financial sense - the Werrington diverunder does the same job at a fraction of the price. The justification for Woodhead died with the UK coal industry and no amount of artful language can change that brutal truth.
  11. Well they do in a way because its not exactly cheap to insure service or run a fleet of HGVs these days and road tax for HGVs is not insignificant either. The big problem however is that those costs are spread about so can easily get overlooked - particularly as the more use the vehicle the less those fixed costs become as a percentage of the overall cost of making the road journey. We see this at work with the private car too - I freely admit to driving to work because I feel I need a car anyway so the when comparing costs its fuel versus train ticket cost and fuel generally works out cheaper.
  12. Actually I believe they do. They certainly pay the wages of the toll collectors etc because these are only necessary by virtue of the tolls being in existence in the first place. Basically its a bit like roads built in new housing estates - they only get adopted by the highways authority when the developer has completed them to the standards the highways authority demand. In the case of Bridges like the Humber Bridge, the relevant acts of parliament are usually such that the road will only become the responsibility of the designated highways authority (most likely Highways England in this case) when the tolls have been paid off and the current management structure is dissolved. Dartford provides an example of this. The original act of parliament authorising construction of the QE2 bridge there explicitly said tolls and the associated PFI agreement would finish once the cost of the QE2 bridge (and the remaining costs of the tunnels which was added to the bridge cost) had been paid off. This was planned to be around 2008 after which the crossing would revert to the control of the DfT / the Highways Agency (as was) - but such is the volume of traffic said costs were actually paid off by 2002! (This is why the Government rushed through legislation to keep the tolls at Dartford in 2000 in the guise of a 'congestion charge' because otherwise it would be illegal to continue charging them). With the Humber Bridge the reverse is true - the original acts of parliament have had to be modified as it was clear that the timeframe when tolls could be charged was insufficient to cover the build costs as the local authorities have made it clear they were in no position to fund the shortfall and the DfT didn't want to step in either. Its worth noting that the channel tunnel was built on a similar basis - it is in fact a design, build and operate concession which specifies that all the channel tunnel assets will revert to Government ownership after XX years. Due to the project going massively over budget this agreement has been extended twice by the British and French Governments so that they do not end up with a big loan bill still left to pay at the end of the concession.
  13. I said Private Road - as opposed to regular public highway. There is nothing to stop a state body owning a 'private road'. The status of the body which owns a 'private road' is irrelevant - the point is such infrastructure sits outside the traditional highways structure (i.e. roads administered by Highways England or Local Authorities) and will have its own bespoke rules and regulations which apply to it only, usually due to a specific act of Parliament. It will also not be funded on the same basis as the rest of the public highway network, relying on bespoke arrangements (in the case of the Humber Bridge that being tolls) to generate funds.
  14. And thats the problem - I really cannot see it surviving however you try and twist history. Even if you assume nationalisation hadn't happened (or WW2 for that matter which so ran the railways into the ground that the post war Government simply couldn't aford to compensate the big 4 properly and made nationalisation pretty much a certainty), I fail to see how the motorway revolution and road transport would have not happened. In the 1930s many UK planners were very interested in the German Autobhan network and wished to replicate that while mass production plus technical advances were making cars, lorries and buses ever more affordable options. Without WW2 to curtail ambition we would have most likely seen motorway construction taking place in the 1940s. In the face of such an onslaught its highly likely that you would have seen railway companies retreat and avoid ruinous competition for what traffic remained. Would they have managed to keep going till the upsurge in rail travel we have seen over the past 3 decades took hold - I doubt it. That means the Government would have to step in with taxpayer support for socially viable services and a demand to cut out 'waste' in the system.
  15. There was at least one vent shaft - though as benefits a electric railway this was less than ideal for frequent diesel operation. As such I think there was a restriction of no more than 4 diesel hauled trains an hour (2 each way) permitted so as to allow time for the fumes to disperse.
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