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Monday, 15 June 2009

Investing in the Railways

Today the Association of Train Operating Companies (Atoc) published proposals to reopen some of the railway lines shut by Beeching in the 1960's. Its unfortunate that the report does not extend to Scotland or particularly to Wales since movement between the main North Wales, Mid Wales and South Wales network is not possible without travel into England. It does highlight the 'centrist one nation' thinking of Beeching at the time when a premium was placed on links with London rather than on intraregion movement. Maintaining the Aberystwyth - Carmarthen line and the Afonwen - Caernarfon link would have ensured the intraregional integrity that would serve Wales well today.
The document itself is worth a read but I am not sure what the Secretary of Sate for Transport will make of the paragraph in Chapter 2 -
"... The study does not include Scotland, which is the responsibility of Transport Scotland, nor does it include Wales, where Welsh Assembly Government has developed a strategy for transport in Wales. It focuses on major towns or settlements in England, which has no equivalent strategic national authority considering rail capacity in relation to local or regional needs.." The emphasis is mine!
I detect again a centrist urban approach in this document, take a look at the key factors considerd in the methodology in Chapter 4
  • Population growth (ONS forecasts)
  • Percentage of population living in urban areas (ONS)
  • Percentage of work trips by rail
  • Station usage (station entries per person)
  • Car use (vehicle km per person)
  • Traffic intensity (approximation for road congestion)
  • Number of congested road links (DfT data)
  • Population per station (thousands)
  • Number of settlements (>15,000 pop) not rail connected.
If at the outset the model is based on urban criteria then it is unlikely that rural areas will gain much from the proposals. The BBC report is here.
While I welcome the report, I regret the opportunity that Government has missed in dealing with the economic crisis. A Green New Deal would include development of the energy and transport infrastructure, provide work during the crisis and have a impact in years to come.
Have a look at this interesting article as well :- Railways and Rural Development in England and Wales, 1850-1914

1 comment:

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