In 2011 passengers contributed about £6.5bn and taxpayers £4bn a year to the running of the railways (ref).

Now I will be the first to admit I don’t like how the Rail Network is set up at current [1, and 2].

However Let us quickly compare the cost and subsidy with the UK road network:

  • Externalities: £48.7 bn
  • Road Building: £9 bn
    • sum £57.7 bn

Car Drivers pay directly the following:

  • Car Tax (VED): £5.4 bn
  • Fuel Duty: £24.9 bn
  • Other Costs: £17.8 bn (This is made up of VAT on Fuel, Cars, and Parts etc).
    • sum £48.1 bn

This shows a subsidy of £9.6 bn per year. (Numbers from I Pay Road Tax).

Recently the 8km (4.97 miles) M74 motorway extension in Scotland was finished; it cost £692 million that is about £138.5 million per mile (The M74 project was a partnership project between Transport Scotland, Glasgow City Council, South Lanarkshire Council and Renfrewshire Council).

Recently Bombardier was awarded a £187 million contract to build 135 railway carriages (£1.4 million per carriage). I am sure that 135 Railway carrages can carry more people than 8km of road, (Don’t get me started on what may/will happen to them in terms of ROSCOs) and makes for a better long term investment.

The current political Railway football being kicked around is HS2. The Department for Transport say that “HS2 will cost a total of £32.7bn” and will be completed by 2026, the current route is for Phase 1 is 140 miles, of which 79 miles will be in tunnels or cuttings and 40 miles will be on viaducts or embankments linking London to Birmingham; Phase 2 will leave Birmingham, and link Birmingham to Manchester and Leeds.

I am not too sure about the advantage of a Third corridor from London to the North; that can’t be achieved by upgrading the existing alignment; or by investing in Rolling stock designed to the british loading gauge and for our track; In the 1980s There was a project called the Advanced Passenger Train (APT) that in 1984 an APT completed the London to Glasgow journey in 3hrs 52min in 1984, remember this is before any of the west cost route modernisation and modern works; back when people complained that BR was terrible, in 1996 a Virgin Pendolino completed the Glasgow to London journey in 3hrs 55min (details).

If that could be done then; why are we not re-looking into investing in what we have, with a view to getting back to 1980s performance, for 1980s Funding?