New research reveals £10 is spent on rail for every £1 spent on roads, per passenger km

New research produced jointly by the Drivers' Alliance and the TaxPayers' Alliance reveals that despite the huge amounts of tax paid by motorists, public spending on rail outnumbers spending on roads by a factor of ten to one when actual usage is taken into account. This demonstrates that whilst the transport debate in Westminster is focused on rail, road users are in fact being massively neglected. With public spending cuts looming large in the political agenda, this demonstrates the case for prioritising cuts in rail expenditure over road spending in order to keep congestion to a minimum, instead of announcing costly new railway projects as the main political parties have.

Crucially, the calculations use the number of passenger kilometres travelled (and the number of tonne kilometres travelled in the case of freight transport), which means they take into account the number of people travelling and the distance of their journeys, to accurately reflect how they contribute to keeping Britain moving. All passenger kilometre data was sourced from the Department of Transport's reports on 2007-08, the most recent available, and financial data is taken from HM Treasury reports.

The full report can be read here (PDF).

Key Findings

•    In the year 2007-08 spending on rail was £8.2 billion and total road spending was £8.3 billion but during the same period only 59 billion passenger kilometres were travelled by rail, compared to 749 billion by road

•    This meant total spending per 1000 passenger km was £138.7 for rail and £11.1 for road. Therefore rail transport received 10 times more spending per passenger km compared to road transport

•    There was a similar pattern in freight transport, where rail received eight times more spending per tonne kilometre

•    Motorists pay £30.3 billion in Fuel Duty and Vehicle Excise Duty, £18.4 billion more than the combined total cost of road transport greenhouse gas emissions and road spending. 

Peter Roberts, Chief Executive at the Drivers’ Alliance, said: 

“We desperately need to prioritise roads before rail if congestion is to be tackled. Adding road capacity is cost effective and provides genuine savings in journey times for the majority of individuals, goods and services. Spending vast sums of drivers' taxes on extravagant rail projects will not address the immediate transport problems we have in the UK.”

Jennifer Dunn, Policy Analyst with the Drivers Alliance and the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said:

“Motorists are getting a really raw deal thanks to the Government’s misguided transport policy. Drivers suffer a double whammy – they pay huge amounts of tax, and only receive a disproportionately small share of transport spending. Continuing to neglect the road system and tax motorists to the hilt cannot be an option if we want to stand any chance of having a decent transport network.”

The full report is available here (PDF).  

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