Greengauge21

October 20, 2009 10:45 AM

In the BBC report today on our new study on transport spending one of the more prominent groups opposing our views is "Greengauge21, which promotes the development of a high-speed rail network in the UK".  That isn't a campaign we've come across before, so I took a look at their website and this is how they describe themselves:

"Greengauge21 has no vested interest and is not seeking to be part of any direct beneficiary (construction company, operating company etc.). It is a registered company, limited by guarantee, that seeks to act in what it believes is the national and the public interest, by bringing forward the necessary data and arguments so that a debate can take place, so that the many parties that should be involved in such a ground-breaking initiative are fully informed."

When they say that they have no vested interests, that is a bit specious.  Their staff are transport consultants, at least one of them is still working as a consultant, probably for a train company.  The development of their website - and we're guessing the group in general - is funded by the Railway Forum, which is a railway company trade association.  Its website says that the "Railway Forum has membership across the whole of the UK railway industry".

Their response to our report is very weak:

"But Jim Steer, from Greengauge21, which promotes the development of a high-speed rail network in the UK, said roads were rightly second in terms of spending.

"Rail use has been growing faster than car use over the last 10 years or so," he told the BBC News website.

"You might say that's precisely because we don't invest as much in roads, but the truth of the matter is that it's now clear that it's a mug's game to try to invest enough in the road network to meet rising demand. You just can't do it.

"It's perfectly possible to get a good rail system in this country - it's an achievable thing - but to keep trying to expand the road network is impractical."

Rail use may have grown faster, but the trains are still carrying far, far fewer passenger kilometres, as our report showed.  Mr. Steer just asserts that expanding the road network is impractical without any explanation of why.  At the moment, the roads are moving ten times as many people for every pound of public spending they receive, that shows they are a far more practical means of easing congestion on the transport network than rail.

"Motorists should welcome investment in Britain's railways as it is one of the best ways to reduce congestion on the roads," he added."

Given that the roads move ten times as many people per pound spent, and money is tight, investment in roads is a much better way of reducing congestion on the roads than spending on the railways.

Clearly the vested interests have lined up to attack our report, but they are a little short on evidence.

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